Conversion of Saint Paul
The conversion of Saint Paul, also known as the Apostle Paul, on the road to Damascus is a significant event in Christian history. The story is documented in the New Testament in the Book of Acts, specifically in Acts 9:1-19.
Before his conversion, Paul, then known as Saul, was a zealous persecutor of early Christians. Born to a wealthy Jewish family in Tarsus, Saul was well educated and took up the trade of tent-making. He is portrayed as a zealous Pharisee, intent on eradicating the new sect of Christians.
As depicted in Acts, while traveling to Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus, Saul had a profound encounter with the risen Christ. As Saul journeyed, a bright light from heaven suddenly shone around him, and he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4). Saul fell to the ground and asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The voice responded, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:5).
This encounter left Saul blinded, and his companions had to lead him into Damascus. Saul remained without sight for three days, during which time he fasted and prayed. Afterward, a disciple named Ananias received a vision from the Lord, instructing him to go to Saul and restore his sight. Ananias obeyed, laid his hands on Saul, and “something like scales” fell from Saul’s eyes (Acts 9:18). Saul regained his sight, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and was baptized, taking the name of Paul.
Following his conversion, Saul, now known as Paul, became one of the most influential figures in the early Church. He dedicated his life to spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ and played a crucial role in the establishment and growth of numerous Christian communities. He traveled and wrote extensively, preaching, baptizing new Christians, and corresponding with other believers. Many of the well-known books of the New Testament are letters that Paul wrote to the Church in various regions, known as the Pauline Epistles. For example, the Book of Galatians is more properly known as the Letter (or Epistle) of Saint Paul to the Galatians, and it is exactly that – a letter that Paul wrote to followers of Christ in Galatia. He was imprisoned at least twice for his missionary work, and he was eventually martyred for his faith in AD 67 by Emperor Nero.
The feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul is celebrated on January 25. He is also celebrated on June 29 on his shared feast day, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.