Today we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul, one of those larger-than-life figures in the Church, someone who seemed to have inexhaustible zeal for Christ. He always reminded me of one of those wind-up toys—put him down and zoom! off he goes to another land, another church, another mission. Without St. Paul, the Church wouldn’t be what it is today, and we wouldn’t have half of the New Testament scriptures!
Conversion—metanoia—is a profound thing, requiring a change of mind, a change of heart, a change of direction. It seems that each person’s conversion has a different nuance: one might need to move from sloth to zeal, another from bitterness to goodwill, someone else from ignorance to faith and knowledge of God. In St. Paul’s case, he possessed zeal from the start, but needed a new understanding of the truth, a correction of perspective. It’s as though God picked up the wind-up toy and turned it around 180 degrees, without interrupting the turn of the wheels. He knew the urgent need for conversion, and God commissioned him to turn the hearts of the Gentiles to Christ…in record time. Even today, we can hear him saying to the unconverted Gentile in each of us: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thes 4:3). Whatever our particular need for conversion might be, we know we have a powerhouse patron in the saint the Church honors today.