The main thing I've learned this year is that St. Paul's thinking pervades the Church's teaching and tradition and should pervade our thinking as well.
Here are a few samplings, from Pope Benedict's book, on what was so special about St. Paul:
Paul thus appears to be at the intersection between three different cultures - Roman, Greek and Jewish - and perhaps partly because of this was disposed for fruitful universalistic openness, for a mediation between cultures, for true universality.
Wow - he certainly seems like a saint for our times! I love the phrase "fruitful universalistic openness"!
And the discourse of the Areopagus, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, is the model of how to translate the Gospel into Greek culture, of how to make Greeks understand that this God of the Christians and Jews was not a God foreign to their culture but the unknown God they were awaiting, the true answer to the deepest questions of their culture.It's neat to see that the Church's tradition of taking something pagan and remaking it for her own purposes, has been with us from the earliest days of the Church.
Here's a beautiful description of what St. Paul's conversion did for him:
This expanded his heart and made it open to all. At this moment he did not lose all that was good and true in his life, in his heritage, but he understood wisdom, truth, the depth of the Law and of the prophets in a new way and in a new way made them his own. At the same time, his reasoning was open to pagan wisdom. Being open to Christ with all his heart, he had become capable of an ample dialogue with everyone, he had become capable of making himself everything to everyone. Thus he could truly be the Apostle to the Gentiles.And a follow-up of how this applies to our own lives:
Turning now to ourselves, let us ask what this means for us. It means that fo rus too Christianity is not a new philosophy or a new morality. We are only Christians if we encounter Christ. Of course, he does not show himself to us in this overwhelming, luminous way, as he did to Paul to make him the Apostle to all peoples. But we too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's Heart and feel him touching ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we truly become Christians. And in this way our reason opens, all Christ's wisdom opens, as do all the riches of truth.