Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Year of St. Paul

Hello everyone. I spent the last three days doing the Maryland river tour. I started inner tubing on the Patapsco River near Baltimore on Sunday afternoon. On Monday I visited St. Mary's County, where I saw the Patuxent River, as well as the very southern tip of the county which overlooks a very big Chesapeake River. On Tuesday I saw the splendor of historic St. Mary's City overlooking St. Mary's River. After that I went to Solomon's Island and saw the Patuxent again. It was a wonderful three days. I love Chesapeake and river life.

It was a great way to start what the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed as the year of St. Paul, as a way to mark the 2,000 anniversary of his birth. St. Paul was from Tarsus, which is in modern day Turkey, if I am not mistaken. Everybody knows the famous story from the Acts of the Apostles about his conversion in Acts 9. Saul was his name before this, and he persecuted the early Christians, and he consented to the death of Steven, the protomartyr of the Christian faith. He went on to become one of the greatest Christian evangelists. He preached to the Greek speaking people, really evangelizing what would later become the Christian Church in Rome, which would be heavily persecuted.

There were many theological contributions Paul brought to the early Church. One of the biggest ones is the circumcision of non-Jews. He held that for non-Jews, circumcision was not necessary because of the freedom given to us by Christ; Christ fulfills the Law. This was brought to a head in the Council of Jerusalem, which one can read about in Acts 15. This was considered the first ecumenical council because it involved the whole early Church in an important theological matter, something which distinguished councils in the Church (councils are called to address a sort of heresy or theological problem, for the most part).

Paul's letter to the different churches were so important that his letters were put into the New Testament Canon of the Bible. These letters are to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Galatians, The Philippians, the Ephesians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians. He also wrote pastoral letters to various people, and it is debated whether he is the author of the letter to the Hebrews. As you can see, Pauline letters make up a large section of the New Testament, so they tell us a great many things about Revelation as given to us through the Bible, interpreted by the Tradition we hold. Second Thessalonians, written at least in the school of Paul, says

"Therefore brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours" (2 Thes 2:15).

There are many resources of Paul on the internet. The one I recommend for further study is the website for St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica in Rome. It has many things on there for further study of Paul. Here is the link for that. The Catholic News Agency also has a website that has the documents that announced the year, and other sources of information, including Pauline catechesis. Click here for that site. There is also a website for the general program as put forth by the Holy See. This is the link for that one.

I do help that these above links help one to learn about St. Paul during this Pauline Year marking the 2,000 anniversary of his birth. May we also be heralds of the Gospel to those who have not yet heard it. Let this year be our excuse to learn more about this saint. St. Paul, pray for us.

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