Mass at Cathedral June 29 to Launch a Yearlong Focus
Church scholars believe St. Paul, a central figure in the New Testament, was born 2,000 years ago in Tarsus, in what is now Turkey, between the years A.D. 7 and 10. After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he turned from persecuting Christians and became one of the early Church's leading evangelizers before his martyrdom in Rome.
Pope Benedict announced the Church's Pauline year marking the 2,000th anniversary of the saint's birth last June on the eve of the feast of saints Peter and Paul. The pontiff said the celebration year, to be marked by liturgies and events in Rome, should also be celebrated in dioceses around the world.
A pastoral letter issued last January by Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli of Wilmington, DE-who served as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Newark and was a priest at Holy Family Parish in Nutley-calls upon the faithful to discern how best to study, pray and celebrate the life, inspired writing, spirituality and missionary spirit of St. Paul.
"St. Paul understood how sin works in human nature and how the Holy Spirit can completely transform habits of corruption," Bishop Saltarelli wrote. "St. Paul also understood how to influence non-Christian and anti-Christian mindsets with charity so as to be able to be an instrument of another mind's enlightenment. The best way that we can celebrate the Year of St. Paul is to go to the risen Lord and ask Him about what deep and intimate conversion of life He is calling us to."
The Year of St. Paul offers a chance for Catholics to focus more attention on the Bible, Bishop Saltarelli declared. "Any investment in understanding and praying the Scriptures more deeply is at the same time an investment in a fuller, more active and conscious participation in our Catholic Mass and sacramental liturgies," he said.
"The cross of Jesus Christ is at the center of all that Paul does," Bishop Saltarelli continued, saying Paul's ability to put the cross of Christ above temptations to egoism and pride is the "true source of his effectiveness."
St. Paul's proclamation in his First Letter to the Corinthians ("Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel") reflects what Bishop Saltarelli said is one of Pope Benedict's main goals for the Year of St. Paul: "to have every Roman Catholic hold up a mirror to their life and to ask: Am I as determined and as energetic about spreading the Catholic faith as St. Paul was?"
Most Rev. Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, in an address last October, noted that St. Paul's writings form a major portion of the New Testament and through them God reveals to us how to live as individual disciples and a Christian community, as well as how to engage the world around us with a confident faith.
St. Paul stands out as a great individual, as a disciple who has had a profound personal experience of Christ, Archbishop Collins pointed out, "but it is clear from his life, as indeed from all of the Gospels and from the experience of the Church through the centuries, that the life of Christian discipleship is meant to be lived in community."
Jesus established a community, chose the 12 apostles from them and gathered them in a communal meal the night before He suffered, Archbishop Collins explained. "Jesus appeared to the community of disciples after His resurrection, and sent the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost. The Acts of the Apostles, which tells us of the apostolic adventures of Paul, also shows us the life of the early Christian communities.
"In Paul's letters we see the affection he had for the various communities he established and visited; after all, most of his letters are to communities," he continued. "When Christians act in the spirit of St. Paul, they share generously with others, especially the most needy, the time, talent, and treasure, which are gifts of God. They are actively engaged in the life of the parish and of the wider Church. This is what is meant by Christian stewardship."
(Father Thomas A. Dente, the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Divine Worship, and Catholic News Service provided information for this article.)