The Conversion of St Paul – 25th January. In the New Testament the conversion of Saint Paul is discussed both in his own letters and in the Acts of the Apostles. The most detailed description of what took place is recorded in the book of Acts Chap 9. Paul´s conversion occurred after the crucifixion of Christ sometime between AD 33 and 36. The great apostle formerly known as Saul of Tarsus was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, a zealous Pharisee who persecuted the early Christian church relentlessly. His main concern was for the strict application of the Jewish law and he was a complicit spectator at the stoning of St Stephen. Paul´s conversion took place as he travelled on the road from Damascus to Jerusalem intent on persecution of the nascent church. Paul experienced a vision of the risen Christ speaking the famous words “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me” He fell to his knees and was blinded for three days until Ananias a disciple of Jesus lay his hands upon him. Immediately the scales fell from his eyes, now he could see not only physically but spiritually the vision had opened his heart to Christ and the truth. Paul was a man who had experienced Divine Grace ,filled with the Holy Spirit he was endowed with an incredible Mission. Our Lord says of him ” This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to Gentiles and their Kings and to the people of Israel.” After his revelation Paul was baptized and travelled the globe proclaiming the good news of the Gospel.
St Thomas Aquinas – 28th January. Thomas was born in the family castle in Lombardy in 1225. Formally educated by Benedictine monks he attended the university of Naples where he studied theology and philosophy. Here greatly influenced by Dominican monks and much to his parents displeasure he joined the order in 1244 and travelled to Paris where he furthered his studies. In 1250 he was ordained in Cologne under the guidance of his mentor and superior Albertus Magnus. Thomas then returned to Paris where he taught and wrote various biblical works. Leaving Paris he travelled around Italy teaching and obtained his doctorate. In 1269 he returned to Paris for three years but in 1272 Naples demanded him back appointing him regent of studies. It was in Naples in 1273 that he experienced a divine revelation so great that he left his “Summa Theologica incomplete, saying that his writings were like straw compared to the Glory of God. He died on the 7th of March of that year probably from exhaustion travelling to the council of Lyons, leaving as his legacy many great theological works behind, including his “Summa contra Gentiles”, a treatise on God and the creation. He was canonized in 1323 and declared a Doctor of the church by Pope Pius V in 1567.
St John Bosco – 31st January. John was an Italian priest of the Latin church, educator and writer of the 19th century. He was brought up in the hillside hamlets of Becchi and was the son of a farmer. As a young man he worked as a shepherd and his impoverished lifestyle prevented him form gaining a proper education At the age of only 12 years he left home, struggling to make ends meet he fortunately met a young priest who took him under his wing supporting his schooling whilst recognizing his capabilities. From a young child John felt a special calling from God to help children in need, naturally he was drawn towards the priesthood and in 1835 entered a seminary at Chieri. After six years he was ordained. His main posting was at Turin where he dedicated his life to the education of impoverished children and orphans. He established the Salesian Community of Don Bosco, a group of religious men and women concerned mainly with the education and improved living conditions of disadvantaged children. While the friars worked with the boys a group of nuns known as “The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians” set up an Institute for the girls under his guidance. John died in 1888 leaving behind a net work of organizations, written works and centres to carry on his work. Canonized in 1934 by Pope Pius XI, he was given the title “Father and teacher of the youth”.