July 2008


Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., of EWTN fame has been busy promoting the Pauline year (and his new St. Paul Bible study) in recent weeks. This morning he was featured on Cincinnati’s Son Rise Morning Show on Sacred Heart Radio, and earlier this month he visited my home diocese of Rochester (New York). Here’s a snippet from the local Catholic Courier:

Father Pacwa, who spoke at St. Theodore Parish July 18, suggested that parishes could continue St. Paul’s work by concentrating on evangelization. The priest acknowledged that the saint’s drive to evangelize had its own perils, including getting him beaten up, thrown in prison and ultimately beheaded.

“For the sake of Christ, he did it,” Father Pacwa said. “For the sake of Christ, we need to do the same.”

Father Pacwa’s talk in Gates was one of several local appearances. He also spoke July 19 at Holy Spirit Church in Webster and July 20 to the Upper New York Association of Diocesan Leaders at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford.

Father Pacwa, a Biblical scholar who hosts “Threshold of Hope” and “EWTN Live” on the EWTN Global Catholic Network, recently wrote a Bible-study guide for the Pauline Year, which runs through June 29, 2009.

During his Gates presentation, Father Pacwa gave an overview of St. Paul’s background and how that information helps clarify the saint’s point of view in his many writings. St. Paul was an impassioned evangelizer, the priest noted, especially to the Gentiles, who he successfully argued did not need to convert to Judaism to become baptized Christians.

Although the saint’s many letters have shaped Catholic thought and are regularly read during Sunday Masses, the priest noted that 16th-century disagreements over the letters’ meanings have led Catholics to neglect study of St. Paul.

Nevertheless, “he is and has been key to Catholic theology as well as all Christian theology,” Father Pacwa said.

Known during his early life by the Hebrew name Saul, St. Paul was born an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin. Additionally, Saul was born a Roman citizen in Greek-speaking Tarsus, which was then part of Asia Minor and which is now part of Turkey. Though history is unclear why he was born a Roman citizen, Father Pacwa said historical records indicate that his family members, who were tentmakers, may have been given citizenship for doing work for the Roman Empire.

Saul studied with Gamaliel, a prominent rabbi in Jerusalem, to learn the pharisaic tradition, which Father Pacwa described as a conservative political party or sect within the Jewish laity that strictly adhered to both written Mosaic law and oral tradition about the law.

Acts 8:1 places Saul at the trial of St. Stephen and notes that he gave consent to St. Stephen’s stoning. After the trial, Saul zealously went from house to house arresting Christians, and a high priest directed him to go to Damascus to arrest more converts to Christianity.

My review of Magnificat’s new book appears below:

A couple of weeks ago I received a copy of Magnificat’s daily devotional Praying with Saint Paul. It’s a great little resource, and it first came to my attention when Archbishop Burke of St. Louis recommended it in his pastoral letter launching the Year of St. Paul. The book is a response to Pope Benedict’s call for “special publications of Pauline texts” to mark the year. Each day’s entry features a short passage from a Pauline epistle, a brief catechesis, and a concluding prayer. The catecheses are theologically rich and very practical — pastoral is the word that best describes them. Today’s entry, for instance, explains how to live the theological virtues, especially love and hope. According to the book’s forward, it is “not an academic study guide,” but a handbook to help readers engage in the ancient practice of lectio divina, or “sacred reading.” By the end of one year, readers “will have reflected systematically on some of the most significant passages from the corpus of Saint Paul, from the Letter to the Romans to the Letter to Philemon.” Highly recommended.

Blogging apologist Carl Olson of Ignatius Scoop interviews traveling apologist Steve Ray about the Pauline Year:

The editor of Ignatius Insight talks to author, apologist, and world traveler Steve Ray about the Year of Saint Paul, including why Pope Benedict XVI chose this year to focus on the Apostle to the Gentiles, the life and thought of Saint Paul, and why he remains so important today. 41 minutes.

At 41 minutes, this one just might force me to spend extra minutes on the treadmill.

Outgoing St. Louis archbishop Raymond Burke recommends a book I came across yesterday during a visit to Sacred Heart Radio’s studio at the Holy Spirit Center in Cincinnati — Norwood to be precise. (I am a regular guest on SHR’s Son Rise Morning Show with Brian Patrick.)

For your own observance of the Year of Saint Paul, I commend the book, Praying with Saint Paul: Daily Reflections on the Letters of the Apostle Paul, edited by Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., and published by Magnificat (86 Main Street, Suite 303, Yonkers, NY 10701; Tel. 914-502-1846; E-mail: Paul.Snatchko@magnificat.com).

A distinct reflection on the writings of Saint Paul is proposed for each day of the year by a wide variety of spiritual writers.

The book is available at a slight discount on Amazon.com.

The Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has assembled a Pauline year web page.  You’ll note that it is mostly derivative of efforts already made by other dioceses and organizations.  Perhaps the office will add ideas of its own in the coming weeks.

Our Sunday Visitor has produced a full color, high quality poster for the Pauline year that is jam-packed with useful information and suggestions. Sections include a brief biography, ideas for celebrating the year in our home, St. Paul’s feast days, and a summary of the plenary indulgence the Holy Father has made available. You can have copies printed by your local FedEx/Kinko’s for around $2 to hang in your parish vestibule or community center. Print one on your home computer for the fridge.

Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham has assembled a Year of St. Paul reading list. It begins with the Letter to the Romans. (The list is reproduced in the back of Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s new Bible study, which began as a project of the diocese.)

1. Romans 1

2. Romans 2:1-3:8

3. Romans 3:9-31

4. Romans 4

5. Romans 5

6. Romans 6

7. Romans 7

8. Romans 8:1-17

9. Romans 8:18-39

10. Romans 9:1-29

You can find Bishop Baker’s pastoral letter on the Pauline year here.

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