The Year of Saint Paul

The Year of St. Paul began on June 28, 2008 and it seems right to make note of it before it recedes in the revelries of summer, beginning with Fourth of July celebrations tomorrow. Prior to St. Paul’s conversion, he persecuted the Church and "was trying to destroy it" (Gal. 1:13). Paul recognized that his former sin marked him, calling himself "the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God" (1 Cor. 15:9). But Paul also knew why he was an apostle, a saint in the Church of God: "by the grace of God, I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:9). Sometimes, I think, the burdens of past sins keep us from the sainthood to which we are called. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it is told, know something about sin. It is not mine to judge, since I have never met them and they never return calls, but we all know something about sin, and we can find our own woundedness so great it seems impossible to rise above it. In a Rolling Stones’ song, "Saint of Me", Jagger and Richards plumb the sins of a couple of saints, and their subsequent conversions, including that of Saint Paul: "Saint Paul the persecutor was a cruel and sinful man Jesus hit him with a blinding light And then his life began I said yeah I said yeah." In this verse they reference Paul’s sinful past as a persecutor of Christians before his Damascus Road conversion, but in later choruses and verses boastfully, or perhaps humanly, state that they themselves are not on the same road as Paul: "I said yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah You’ll never make a saint of me Oh yeah, oh yeah You’ll never make a saint of me." Why? The threat of suffering and martyrdom seems to be one of the reasons: "And could you stand the torture And could you stand the pain could you put your faith in Jesus When you’re burning in the flames?" The reality of martyrdom, of the suffering that St. Paul proudly states marks him as a follower of Jesus, can frighten those who fervently want to be saved: "And I do believe in miracles and I want to save my soul and I know that I’m a sinner I’m gonna die here in the cold I said yes, I said yeah." "Saint of Me" brings to bear a powerful force in human life: the sense of Augustine’s "I want to be healed, but not yet". Anyone who reads St. Paul’s story, scattered throughout his letters, sees a frail human being transformed by Jesus Christ into one able to persevere and accept all things that afflict him due to the power of his encounter with Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Jagger and Richards give us a sense of the human being faced with giving oneself over to the power of Jesus Christ, but drawing back from the possibility either due to fear or the sense that one’s sinfulness is too deep to be healed. There is, indeed, a fear that to be a saint is possible, but it means giving up too much and, perhaps even more, accepting too much. As we enter the year of St. Paul, let us remember the model of the one who gave himself fully to Jesus Christ and who did not let his manifest sinfulness stand in the way of saying, "make a saint of me." In fact the term that Paul uses more than any other in his letters to describe his fellow Christians is the Greek hagioi, "holy ones," or saints. You’ll never make a saint of me? Paul argues that this is our very call and it is to this that we need to answer "yes, I said yeah." John W. Martens
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
9 years 9 months ago
I am not a fan of Rolling Stones but I am glad that you look to music in considering St. Paul and others. My observation is that the Pauline Year is pretty much a dead letter. I have seen nothing beyond a cursory mention in Parish bulletins. I have looked online and the only mention I have found has been from the Diocese of Wilmington where there was a letter by the Bishop. My searches have come about because I have in hand a musical Life of St. Paul which, it would seem to me, would be perfect for this year. It is not mine but was created for a National Arts Festival overseas. I have written to many Catholic institutions and Offices and sent a link to a webpage where they can listen to a snip of the music: I have tracking on my site and so I know that not one has bothered to even listen. I too have to wonder if we are on the same Road as St. Paul...
9 years 9 months ago
Mary, I hope you are not correct about the year of St. Paul being a dead letter. I know I am excited about this year and have heard from two parishes in the Twin Cities who are interested in celebrating the year with a study of Paul. I did listen to the music available on your website and frankly I like the music and the idea of a musical about the life of St. Paul. I do recognize that not everyone loves the Stones, but I have a soft spot for them which remains from my youth.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The appointments are part of an ongoing effort to give a greater role to women in the work of the Roman Curia offices, the central administration of the Catholic church.
Gerard O’ConnellApril 21, 2018
Ivette Escobar, a student at Central American University in San Salvador, helps finish a rug in honor of the victims in the 1989 murder of six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter on the UCA campus, part of the 25th anniversary commemoration of the Jesuit martyrs in 2014. (CNS photo/Edgardo Ayala) 
A human rights attorney in the United States believes that the upcoming canonization of Blessed Oscar Romero in October has been a factor in a decision to revisit the 1989 Jesuit massacre at the University of Central America.
Kevin ClarkeApril 20, 2018
Journalists photograph the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in California in 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
In California, Catholic opponents of the death penalty are trying to protect the largest population of inmates awaiting execution in the Western Hemisphere.
Jim McDermottApril 20, 2018
Photo: the Hank Center at Loyola University Chicago
Bishop McElroy said that Catholics must embrace “the virtues of solidarity, compassion, integrity, hope and peace-building.”