9 ways to celebrate Saint Paul's birthday

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAApparently, Pope Benedict XVI was looking for ways to celebrate Saint Paul’s 2,000th birthday. After the Vatican Fire Marshal nixed the idea of a giant cake with 2,000 candles (the pope may be infallible, but not inflammable), the pontiff decided to declare this “The Pauline Year.” The festivities begin on June 29, 2008 and run through June 29, 2009. What festivities, you ask? Well, the Vatican is just a little tight-lipped about that. Never fear. TeamRCIA is stepping into the breach with nine ways to celebrate. (All of these suggestions have been safety-rated for catechumens.)

  • Focus on the Easter Vigil epistle for the year (Romans 6:3-11). Have the catechumens memorize it. Make it the reading for your lector training. Have the lectors memorize it too. Ask the school children and the kids in the catechetical program to write an essay or poem or song about it.
  • Preach on the second reading (when it is from Paul) more often this year. Focus the breaking open of the word sessions on the second reading more often. Write a weekly reflection question for the parish bulletin based on the second reading.
  • Sing the Pauline canticles more often. Ask choir members, cantors, and the worshiping assembly to memorize one or two of them.
  • Do you have stained glass windows in your parish? Or does a nearby parish? Is one of the images of Saint Paul? Take a field trip with the catechumens (and anyone else who wants to join in), and do a “breaking open of the glass” with them. (Don’t forget “breaking” is a metaphor!)
  • Make pilgrimages to the parishes in your diocese named after Paul. You might want to call ahead. What’s a pilgrimage without some coffee and cookies waiting for you?
  • Since the Feast of the Conversion of Paul is not only a Sunday this year but is also the event around which the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is planned every year, make a greater effort at building ecumenical relationships this year.
  • Paul was all about conversion-his own and others’. Find a place on your parish Web site, Facebook group, or during coffee and doughnuts to share how you got knocked off your horse. (Which, as every good catechist knows, didn’t actually happen to Saint Paul. But it is a good image of conversion.)
  • Throw a Paul party. Everybody named Paul, Pauline, or Pablo gets to be the guests of honor. However, they all have to tell the story of how they got their name.
  • Create a parish book where people can write out their favorite verse from one of Saint Paul’s letters. In fact, let’s do that here. Click on the comments link and tell us the line from Paul that inspires you. Or share your own ideas for celebrating The Pauline Year.
Share Button


  1. On of my favorite verses is:

    Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David — that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him. (2 Tim 2:8-11)

    The word of God is not chained. Hard to remember sometimes.

  2. I am retired after forty years of ministry, primarily as a music director in a parish. Since 1970, I do not know how many times I sang the words to this gospel verse: “God was in Christ, to reconcile the world to himself; and the Good News of reconciliation he has entrusted to us.” [2nd Corinthians 5: 19] At long last the impact of that text penetrated to the core of my being, and it resonated “in my bones,” as my Liturgy professor constantly urged, until it has become a touchstone of my life and spirituality. In sum, it says it all, perhaps even better than John 3:16!

  3. I just got my copy of NPM’s Pastoral Music which focuses on Gregorian chant. The NPM staff have an article in there called “Paul’s Borrowed Hymns.” It compiles many of Paul’s canticles and shows when we proclaim them this coming liturgical year. Worth a read.

    One of my favorites: Ephesians 2: 13-22

    But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

  4. Romans 8: 26-28
    In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself interceds with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

  5. Thanks Elizabeth. I remember relying on that passage a lot when I was in college. There were a lot of “inexpressible groanings” going on. Especially around finals week.

  6. These are great ideas and comments. The passages of St. Paul that I’ve found inspiration in are too many to recount here, but I’d like to share an experience. I remember visiting the tomb of St. Paul in Rome, and being inexpressibly moved by the experience of being there–because of who Paul is and what he has done for all of us. One person, flawed and weak, yet able to do so much because he trusted in God’s grace.

    In that basilica, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, around the apse is the inscription “vas electionis,” chosen vessel, or, literally “vessel of election.” It was an RCIA aha moment! (They also have an awesome paschal candle.)

    I’d also like to contribute another Year of Paul suggestion: take a fresh look at what your parish does for evangelization. There is more good thinking available on this topic today than ever, and it can really turn a parish around.

  7. I have two verses that I call to mind often to help me as I minister to others. The first is
    2 Corinthians 12: 8-9 Paul’s famous “thorn in the flesh”
    “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
    It reminds me that God is there to help me, in my weakness. I am still challenged by the second part of the verse though,
    “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” Always growing.

    And to go along with it from Philippians 4:13
    “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.”

    It is Christ who gets me through!

  8. Paul was a genius, so it’s hard to narrow this down to one favorite, but the one that makes my knees weak and heart pound is the verse from the second reading on Passion Sunday (Phil 2:6-11):

    Because of this,
    God greatly exalted [Christ Jesus]
    and bestowed on him the name
    which is above every name,
    that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    of those in heaven and on earth
    and under the earth,
    and every tongue confess that
    Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.


  9. Hi Terry. That “thorn in the flesh” text has been a thorn in my flesh ever since I can remember. I get stuck on the part where God doesn’t remove the affliction. I guess I’ll have to get better at accepting that “grace is sufficient” part.

  10. It’s amazing to know about the new way of evangelizing through internet. Apostle Paul would be doing the same if he were to live in our times

  11. It’s amazing indeed Joe! Can you imagine what it would have been like if St. Paul had a blog? Thanks for sharing.

  12. I agree with Liz but I have to add a couple of verses to the beginning(3-8 NAB):

    Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,

    Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

    What a beautifully written example of how we should all humble ourselves. So much so that we can accept dying to ourselves on the day-to-day crosses.

  13. From Matthew 23:26-…”cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”
    I am a PE teacher and that ties in the purpose of our classes with the word. Get healthy inside-mind,body,soul-to do God’s will throughout your life!

    Also, from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20-.”Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.”

    Every class we “build the temple”-strong muscles, good health practices,sportsmanship(virtues) through our activities.

    It is amazing how God works even in PE class! Thanks be to God!

  14. One of my Pauline favorites which I use in prayer a lot: Galatians 2:20 ~ “I live by my faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave himself for me.” Thanks for asking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *