St. Stephen - December 26
Patron Saint of Deacons, Headache Sufferers and Stonemasons (Bricklayers)
St. Stephen Patron Saint of Deacons, Headache Sufferers and Stonemasons (Bricklayers)
Saul of Tarsus was raised by faith filled parents of Jewish descent. He studied under Gamaliel, which was the finest education available at the time, and became a member of a Jewish religious group which Followed the Old Testament laws, as well as their own religious traditions (Pharisees). The Pharisee’s hated Jesus and were jealous of his popularity, his miracles and the authority of his teachings and actions. Paul became a good Pharisee. He knew the Bible well, considered it to be the greatest of treasures, and sincerely believed the Christian movement was dangerous to Judaism. He detested the Christian faith and persecuted Christians without mercy.
On his journey to Damascus to capture Christians for persecution, God had other plans for him and stopped him in his tracks along the route. At that moment, he came face to face with Jesus, and posed the question, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” At that moment through the miracle of divine guidance, the entire course of his life was changed forever. His name changed to Paul and he began his new life of proclaiming Jesus Christ.
Paul became a man of deep faith with undying love, constant hope, tenacious conviction, profound insight and was inspired by the Holy Spirit to preach Jesus Christ and God’s Word to all he met. In his youth, he had learned to be a gifted speaker from the traveling lecturers who visited Tarsus. He was comfortable speaking to the pagans, as well as the intellectuals, and everyone in between. He traveled many miles in his lifetime to teach about Christianity, and became one of the most influential figures in the history of Christianity.
Although Paul suffered at times with self-doubt, illnesses, mortal danger, poverty, isolation and loneliness, he was unwavering hi his loyalty and commitment to serve God. He offers a lesson to be learned by us as nothing would stop him from his mission of spreading the Word of God.
The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome is built over what is believed to be Paul’s grace and where on June 29, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI announced the year dedicated to St. Paul.