Conversion of St. Paul
St. Paul himself states that he was born at Tarsus, in the province of Cilicia, of Jewish parents who maintained with great care their pharisaical traditions and pious customs. According to St Jerome, the family, hailing originally from Galilee, belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. On the occasion of his circumcision the boy was given the name Saul after the first Jewish King, and in addition a Roman name, Paulus, as was then the custom among Jews who were Roman citizens.
As he grew up, Saul learnt to prepare mohair and to make tents out of it __ a knowledge that was to make him self-supporting in later years when on his long missionary journeys. His native tongue was Aramaic, but he also spoke Greek well and was familiar with Hellenistic lore.
While still quite young, Saul was sent to Jerusalem where he received a thorough Hebrew education, probably in the school of Gamaliel, the great Doctor of the Law, who was one of the most highly respected members of the Sanhedrin. Early tradition has it that both Gamaliel and Nicodemus were later converted by Sts Peter and John, a fact they kept secret so as to be able to help their Christian brethren by their continued presence in the Jewish Supreme court.
We next hear of Saul at the time of St. Stephen's martyrdom, when he was in his early thirties and an ardent young Pharisee. He was actively persecuting the fledgeling Christian Church with a fierce fanaticism and even obtained authority from the High Priest to bring Christians in chains from other cities. Indeed, it was while he was bound for Damascus on one such undertaking that our Lord himself suddenly appeared to him and instantaneously converted this furious persecutor into the humble and docile aspirant for baptism, who was to become the Church's great "Apostle of the Gentiles".
Reflection :"I have never asked St Paul for a grace without having received it"(St. Anthony Mary Zachary).