Bottom line: Today we inaugurate the Year of St. Paul.
This weekend we inaugurate the Year of St. Paul. We are doing it to commemorate the 2000th birthday of the great apostle. It is a birthday worth celebrating because few people have had more impact on our world than Paul of Tarsus. When he announced this Year of St. Paul, Pope Benedict noted that "historians have placed (the birth of St. Paul) between the years 7 and 10 A.D." I love St. Paul and wanted to do my small part to honor him. I have put together a Novena in his honor and ask you to pray for a different intention on each day. Here are the intentions for the nine days of the Novena:
Day 1: For Non-Believers in God Day 2: For Our Jewish Brothers and Sisters Day 3: For Unity of Christians Day 4: For Those Who Have Left the Practice of the Faith Day 5: For Greater Love of the Eucharist Day 6: For Freedom from Addictions Day 7: For a Spirit of Stewardship Day 8: For Perseverance in Time of Trouble Day 9: For Faithful Departed Loved Ones
Each day of the Novena has different readings from Pauline writings to help focus on the day's intention. The Novena also has a short opening prayer and concluding prayers for each day. I invite you to pick up a copy of the Novena on the way out of Mass so you can use it individually or in your family. During these first nine days of the Year of St. Paul, we will use the Closing Prayer as the conclusion of our General Intercessions at each Mass. I know you find this Novena helpful as a way of entering into this special year of grace. Here is what Pope Benedict said when he announced the Year of St. Paul:
"As in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul. Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, when he fell to the ground dazzled by the divine light on the road to Damascus, did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely his example is today!"
Almost every Sunday we read a selection from one of St. Paul's letters. The year provides a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Apostle to the Nations. There are a lot of good books, but one I would particularly recommend is Alain Decaux' bestseller: Paul, Least of the Apostles (The Story of the Most Unlikely Witness to Christ). Decaux sketches Paul's life, beginning in the great city of Tarsus, then to Jerusalem where he pursues rabinnical studies and got caught up in the persecution of the followers of Jesus. He pieces together the elements which lead to his dramatic conversion and his three year retreat in Arabia before embarking on his remarkable career. Decaux takes up questions such as: What was Paul's "thorn in the flesh"? Was he a widower? What was it like to travel by sea and experience a shipwreck?
Decaux has good chapter on St. Paul's final days in Rome. That is the focus of today's readings: Peter's imprisonment by King Herod is part of a gathering cloud of persecution. St. Paul tells Timothy, "my life is being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand." Decaux presents the evidence for their martyrdom under the Emperor Nero. Although their lives and missions were very different, they came together in Rome to give the ultimate witness to Christ. Speaking at the Basilica of St. Paul, near the saint's tomb, Pope Benedict spoke about the unity of Peter and Paul:
"A very ancient tradition which dates back to apostolic times claims that their last meeting before their martyrdom actually took place not far from here: the two are supposed to have embraced and blessed each other. And on the main portal of this Basilica they are depicted together, with scenes of both martyrdoms. Thus, from the outset, Christian tradition has considered Peter and Paul to have been inseparable, even if each had a different mission to accomplish."
I have given a number of quotes in this homily. This is appropriate, because of our theme - the beginning of a Year in Honor of St. Paul. I would like to conclude with Decaux' summary of St. Paul:
"He was so anxious to convince, and he felt so much certainty that he was right, that one of his best commentators sees him not taking the time to articulate his reasoning: 'He vibrates, becomes heated, thinks of a thousand things at the same time, expands on the meanings of words.' Wanting to go directly to the essential, he sometimes lost his way, 'leaving the adversary disarmed if not convinced.' Yet he opened the way, nevertheless, to endless perspectives. His personality was overwhelming. His letters remain as unique documents that demonstrate at once 'an inner will, an impressive mysticism, a genius for synthesis.'...To become a religion (an established way of life), the message of Jesus needed him. Paul was the apostle of his universalism. He said, 'I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.'"
General Intercessions for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (from Priests for Life)
From Archives (Homilies on St. Peter and St. Paul):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Farewells, Independence Day Mass, Pursuing the American Dream - Gladys Opens Beauty Salon)
Offertory of Mass: Children Bringing their Offerings (75 seconds)
Preaching Schedule (June 15 - Sept 7)
Novena in Honor of St. Paul (for Year of St. Paul: June 28, 2008 - July 29, 2009)
Litany of Saint Paul the Apostle
Amy Welborn brings together Internet resources for Year of St. Paul