Feast of the
Conversion of Saint Paul
Ananias of Damascus M (RM)
1st century. Ananias was the follower of The Way who was commanded by the Lord to seek out Saul. By laying his hands upon the Pharisee, Ananias restored Saul's eyesight and then he baptized him (Acts 9:10-19). Thus, one act of trust in God brought to Christianity one of its greatest missionaries, Paul. According to tradition, Ananias worked as a missionary in Damascus and Eleutheropolis, and ultimately suffered martyrdom (Benedictines, Delaney).
Apollo of Heliopolis, Abbot (AC)
Died c. 395. Saint Apollo was an Egyptian hermit for 40 years until his 80th year, when he left the desert to fight Julian the Apostate and became abbot of over 500 monks near Hermopolis (or Heliopolis). Members of his community wore a coarse white habit and received daily communion. Daily Saint Apollo urged his sons to spiritual joy and cheerfulness because they are the fruit of charity and requisite to support the fervor of the soul amid tears of penance. His own unquenchable joy shone on his countenance, yet in his humility he counted himself among the goats, rather than the sheep. As is the case with many other saints, Apollo constantly petitioned God that he might know himself in order to avoid the subtle snares and the illusions of pride. Among the many astonishing miracles recorded about Saint Apollo was his exorcising of the devil, who cried out that he was not able to withstand the saint's humility. He is also said to have kept his monks alive for four months during a famine by miraculously multiplying bread. In 393, Saint Petronius, who later became bishop of Bologna, visited Apollo (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Artemas of Pozzuoli M (AC)
Date unknown. Artemas is a presumed martyr celebrated in the Basilica of San Prisco near Capua, where he was named and depicted in mosaics that have since vanished. He is said to have been a boy of Pozzuoli (Puteoli near Capua) who was stabbed to death with iron pens by his pagan schoolmates. It seems, however, that the entire story is a pious fiction (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Encyclopedia).
Bretannion of Tomi B (RM)
Died c. 380. When Saint Bretannion bravely defended the divinity of Christ, the Arian Emperor Valens exiled him from his see of Tomi in Scythia on the Black Sea (near the mouth of the Danube). But Bretannion was so beloved by his flock that Valens was compelled by popular discontent to recall Bretannion (Benedictines).
Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
What an unfortunate word 'conversion' is, in pious utterances, to express one of the most important interventions of God in history! For the conversion of Saint Paul was, indeed, one of the most important events in the history of the Christian Church. Neither the Indian religions nor Islam include in their most beautiful lives of the saints or prophets or teachers the concept of such a sudden burst of grace (with perhaps a shadow seen in the story of Siddhartha).
The Conversion on the Way to Damascus
By Caravaggio, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome
When Peguy spoke about the terrible bite of God that tears like a tiger on its prey, doubtless he was thinking of Saint Paul: "When God wants to have a soul, he has it." And he does not let loose of it. He throws it upon the ground, blinds it with light, and defies it to resist his spur. But he does that only with beings whose passions burn because of rage or hatred, overwhelming that passion with its complement. Perhaps this is why Christ says, "So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,' and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:16-17). Only the passionate can recognize their need for God; He cannot touch the self-satisfied. And that, my friends, is why spiritual ennui is so dangerous.
Saul of Tarsus is passionate: first for the Law, and later for Jesus Christ. He was about 25, a disciple of the Pharisees who arranged for Jesus' death. Like them he hated the impostor who insulted the synagogue, cursed God in proclaiming himself the Messiah, seduced the common people, and preached the scorn of ancestors.
But Saul was not satisfied with bitter polemics. For him it is a battle to the death; prison and torture are the only means of exterminating the hateful race of followers of The Way. He relished the murder of Stephen (Acts 6:8-8:1). He is given complete authority; not satisfied with complaints and delays, he personally pursues all those already labeled with the infamous name of Jesus. One would say he was burning up with the curse of God. He went farther even than the wickedness of those who delivered Jesus to the Romans.
But the inconceivable triumph of God, seeking the man who would be capable of confronting at the same time the synagogue, Greek wisdom, and the power of Rome, tears him from the heart of the enemy and places His own heart within him.
The accounts by Luke (Acts 9 and 26) and Paul himself (Acts 22) bear witness that it is in thunder and lightning that God takes possession of Saul on his hatred-march to Damascus. He knocks him over, blinds him, and in a heart-rending voice says: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" The reply: "But who are you?" And the mysterious voice which instills both fear and love: "It is I, Jesus, whom you pursue. And you cannot resist my spurs."
Saul is hurt. In fact, he cannot resist. Saul says: "Lord, what do you want me to do?" And Jesus replies: "Arise, go into the city and there you will be told what to do."
Paul's conversion was remarkable considering he had been Christianity's bitterest critic and most formidable opponent.
"You have heard of my manner of life," he says, "how that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God, and made havoc of it." Through all his life he must have been haunted by the look in the eyes of the dying Stephen for whose death he had been primarily responsible.
Paul gave the infant Church leadership and direction, planned its strategy, dispatched its missionaries across the frontiers, and consolidated the work of our Lord. Confronted with growing numbers and widely scattered and unorganized groups, he gave it shape and coherence, without which its work and witness might never have survived.
In the Acts of the Apostles we have the story of the expansion of Christianity under his vigorous and brilliant leadership. It is the story of the march of the early Church on Rome, the heart of the Empire, and from Rome to the ends of the earth. And though Saint Paul entered Rome in chains, it was a triumphal march, for from that hour Christianity never looked back, and became the faith of the Western world.
An aristocrat by nature, with a trained and powerful intellect, claiming the birthright of a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28) yet brought up in the strictest tradition of Judaism (Acts 26:5; 22:3), Paul, with his composite background and character, brought to his new life a rich and versatile contribution. He had tremendous moral passion, spiritual drive, and earnestness, and was a man of profound conviction and with a strong sense of destiny. Christianity could not have found a more devoted or gifted advocate than this converted Jew, but his power and personality were far too formidable for the authorities and he was brought to Rome like a lion in chains.
So we come to his last letter, written to Timothy, his younger lieutenant, with its appeal to stand fast in the faith, and its grim reminder of his approaching fate. He knew that Nero, that soulless monster, would have no mercy. And he was right; for the Emperor, to divert attention from his own corrupt and unpopular follies, later fell upon the Christians who became the victims of his fury, smearing them with pitch, burning them as torches, feeding them to the lions.
"For I am already being offered and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom, to whom be the glory for ever and ever."
In his loneliness he longed for the company of Timothy. "Do your best to come quickly." But it is doubtful if Timothy ever reached him, for the end came all too quickly, and there was no reprieve. In the early morning he was led out of the city, an ambassador still in chains, and by the roadside, hemmed in by Roman soldiers, he paid the penalty of his faith, the greatest Roman of them all (Attwater, Bentley, Butler, Encyclopedia, Gill).
Donatus, Sabinus & Agape MM (RM)
Date unknown. Nothing but the names are known of these martyrs (Benedictines).
Dwynwen V (AC)
(also known as Donwen, Donwenna, Dunwen, Dwyn)
Died c. 460. A Welsh saint of the family of Saint Brychan of Brecknock, Dwynwen coined the maxim, "nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness." She settled in Anglesey, where the places names Llanddwyn and Porthdwyn recall her memory.
Her church there was the destination of the sick and especially young men and women because she is the patron of Welsh lovers. Baring-Gould explains the reason for her patronage in The Golden Legend. Maelon wished to marry Dwynwen but she rejected him and prayed to be delivered. She dreamed that she was given a drink that cured her, but the drink turned Maelon to ice. Then she made three requests: that Maelon be defrosted, that all true-hearted lovers should either succeed in their quest or else be cured of their passion, and that she should never wish to be married. Accordingly, she became a nun.
In the Middle Ages Llanddwyn was a rich church due to the offerings left at the shrine and holy well by pilgrims. The movement of the fish in the holy well were believed to indicate the destiny of those who consulted it. This superstitious practice and the invocation of Dwynwen to cure sick animals survived the Reformation, probably because of its relative isolation. Churches dedicated to her are to be found in Wales and Cornwall (Benedictines, Farmer).
Died 597. One of Saint Columba's twelve companions, Saint Eochod was chosen by Columba to evangelize northern Britain. He is called the Apostle of the Picts of Galloway (Benedictines).
Joel of Pulsano, OSB, Abbot (AC)
Died 1185. Saint Joel was a disciple of Saint John of Matera, founder of the Benedictine Congregation of Pulsano. Saint Joel was its third general (Benedictines).
Juventinus and Maximinus MM (RM)
Died at Antioch, Syria, January 25, 363. Saint Juventius and Maximinus were footguards in the army of Julian the Apostate, who were martyred because they were overheard decrying the emperor's edicts against the veneration of relics during a campaign against the Persians. Called before Julian, they were stripped of their estates, scourged, and beheaded when they refused to recant and sacrifice to the gods. At risk to their own lives, other Christians stole away the bodies of the martyrs and, after Julian's death in Persia the following June, erected a magnificent tomb for the relics.
Saint John Chrysostom wrote their eulogy saying, "They support the church as pillars, defend it as towers, and repel all assaults as rocks. Let us visit them frequently, let us touch their shrine, and embrace their relics with confidence, that we may obtain from them some benediction. For as soldiers, showing to the king the wounds which they have received in his battles, speak with confidence, so they, by an humble representation of their past sufferings for Christ, obtain whatever they ask of the King of heaven" (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Poppo of Stavelot, OSB, Abbot (AC)
Born in Flanders, 978; died at Marchiennes on January 25, 1048; his named was added to the Roman Martyrology by Baronius about 1624. Saint Poppo received a pious education at the side of his mother, who died as a nun in Verdun. He began a military career in his youth and led an unbridled life. Finding such a life less satisfactory than that of prayer, Poppo made a penitential pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Rome. On his return in 1006 with many precious relics (which he endowed to the church at Deisne near Ghent), he became a Benedictine at Saint-Thierry, Rheims.
Two years later his reputation for holiness gained the attention of the reformer, Blessed Richard of Saint-Vannes, who petitioned Saint-Thierry's abbot for Poppo. Today's saint was given permission to migrate to Saint-Vannes to assist Blessed Richard in the revival of monastic discipline.
Shortly thereafter he was appointed provost of Saint-Vaast, Arras. During a requisite journey to court, Poppo became known to the emperor Saint Henry II, who chose him as one of his most trusted advisers. He prevailed upon the emperor to abolish the combat between men and bears. Thereafter, Poppo served the church in many positions: prior of Saint-Vaast, provost of Saint-Vannes, and abbot of Beaulieu (which he rebuilt).
In 1021, the emperor made Poppo abbot of Stavelot-Malmédy near Liège and soon the revival spread to several of the most ancient abbeys of Lotharingia and neighboring territories: Hautmont, Marchiennes, Saint Maximinus of Trèves, Saint- Vaast at Arras, etc. Poppo ruled all these houses as a sort of superior general. He is one of the greatest monastic figures of the 11th century. On his deathbed at age 70, Poppo received extreme unction at the hands of Abbot Everhelm of Hautmont, who wrote his vita. Saint Poppo was buried at Stavelot, where his relics were enshrined in 1624 (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Husenbeth).
Saint Poppo is pictured as a Benedictine abbot restoring life to a man killed by a wolf (Roeder). His feast is commemorated at Stavelot (Husenbeth).
Praejectus of Clermont BM
(also known as Prix, Priest, Prest, Preils, Projectus)
& Amarinus, OSB Abbot M (RM)
Died at Clermont, on January 25, 676. Saint Praejectus was born in the Auvergne, France. He was ordained a priest and then became bishop of Clermont in Auvergne with the approval of Childeric II in 666. Not only was Praejectus a great administrator and a fosterer of monasticism, he was also a man of wisdom, learning and generosity, and a great preacher. He founded monasteries, hospitals, and churches. Under his guidance, religious fervor became general.
He was slain by evil-doers at Volvic in the Vosges together with Saint Amarinus, an abbot of a monastery there (the valley of Saint- Amarian in Alsace is named after the latter). This tragic event was the result of machinations. Hector, ruler of Marseilles, was accused of various outrages and misdemeanors. At the order of Emperor Childeric, he was arrested and executed. Agritius, believing that Hector's fate was the work of Praejectus, planned revenge. Praejectus was stabbed to death with a sword--his brains splattered on the ground.
A contemporary account was written of his life and achievements and within a short time Praejectus was venerated as a martyr and his cultus spread to English monastic calendars and the sacramentary of Saint Gregory. In France, churches were dedicated to Saint-Prix in almost every province. In 760, his body was enshrined at Flavigny, where most of them remain. Some were given to the Cluniac abbeys of Saint-Prix at Saint-Quentin's and that in Bethune, as well as other places (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Farmer, Husenbeth).
Publius of Zeugma, Abbot (AC)
Died c. 380. Saint Publius, son of a senator, sold his entire estate, including household goods in order to provide for the poor and then became a hermit at Zeugma on the Euphrates in Syria. He later gathered his disciples into a large community, which he housed in two separate buildings, one for Greeks and the other for Syrians. Each celebrated the liturgies and divine office in his native tongue. He led them in severe asceticism and intense devotion. For food they were permitted only herbs, pulse, dry bread, and water, except during the Octave of Easter. Each day he added something new to his exercises of perance and devotion in order to use his time well. He considered the longing of the souls in purgatory to relive in devotion some of the time they frittered away. His cultus is chiefly in Greece (Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Husenbeth).
Racho of Autun B (AC)
(also known as Ragnobert)
Died c. 660. Saint Racho was the first Frankish bishop of Autun (Benedictines).
About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.