Saint Paul of Tarso can be considered the first great missionary of the Christian Church. His work as proselyte and contribution to spreading the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean find no equal. His excellence is even more remarkable because of his conversion, from the fierce persecutor of Christians to their pastor and defender. Though he had not personally known Jesus, he was among the most fervent and passionate of his disciples. His own life is a testimony to divine greatness and saving power of Grace.
Saint Paul was born in Tarso, Cilicia, around 5-10 AD. His family was of Jewish origin, but had Roman citizenship. Paul, or Saul as he was called then, grew up in a Jewish culture, and his studies followed the rules of the rabbinical school.
Sent to Jerusalem to study, he had the first contact with Christians, which seemed to him a sect of dangerous subversives that must be extirpated by any means, in the name of the Jewish law.
Growing up, his anti-Christian fervor turned into a real mission. Saint Paul, before becoming the one the important figure we know today, contributed to the arrest and condemnation of countless Christians.
It was while chasing a group of Christians fleeing to Damascus that Paul was caught up by a sudden vision. A light from heaven struck him, making him blind, and a voice asked him, “Saul, Saul, why do you pursue me?” And he: “Who are you, Lord?”; and the voice said: “I am Jesus, the one you pursue. Now rise up and enter the city, where you will be told what you must do “(Acts 9: 3-7).
It was not easy for Saul to understand that call, nor to adapt to his new life. Riddled by his own people, looked suspiciously by those who were accustomed to seeing him as an enemy, he began his preaching armed only with his enthusiasm. The meetings with Peter and the other Apostles made him aware of the life and the Word of Jesus. From then on he began a series of apostolic journeys, often accompanied by the apostle Barnabe and other disciples and friends. He knew persecution and imprisonment by the hand of Jews and Romans, but never stopped, animated by an inexhaustible zeal, and desire for the truth. His mission led him to the martyrdom, in Rome.
The Letters and the texts he left are the foundations of the Doctrine of the Church as we know it.
In his studies and preaching, he analyzed all the arguments related to the earthly life of men and the way to salvation.
In Saint Paul, the Church sees one of his greatest, wisest men, and the first of his preachers.