St. Paul and
the Parish Census
Last year, Pope Benedict XVI announced a Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul, from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009. As part of our local activities for the celebration of the Pauline Year, our Ville Platte Catholic Churches have decided to conduct a census of the city.
Last night, those of us who have volunteered our time and talents to work on the census received training. There will be one more training opportunity before we hit the streets, on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 6 pm at the Family Life Center.
This census is a way for us to reach out to fallen-away Catholics; to re-evangelize to them, and bring them back into full communion with the Body of Christ. Along the way, we might have an opportunity to witness to many who have never considered the Truth of the Catholic Church. This is indeed a mission worthy of St. Paul.
In order to better understand how this all fits together, let us BRIEFLY examine both the life of St. Paul and the role of the laity in the mission of the Church.
The Life and Writings of St. Paul
- St. Paul began life as Saul, the son of a Jewish family living in Tarsus. His father was a Roman citizen, and Saul’s Latin name was Paul. Saul learned from tent-making from his father.
- As a youth, Saul was sent to Jerusalem, where he was tutored by the great rabbi Gamaliel. Saul became a zealous Pharisee. Phariees, who are often denounced by Jesus, had a proud orthodoxy, insisting upon cermonial detail rather than the Spirit of the Law. (Interestingly, Gamaliel himself was responsible for convincing the Sanhedrin not to put St. Peter to death. It is conjectured that Gamaliel was a secret Christian.)
- Saul, along with other Pharisees, zealously searched out Christians to bring them to justice. Saul even participated in the stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Afterward, Saul made his way to Damascus to arrest more disciples of Jesus.
- On the road to Damascus, Saul had an encounter with Jesus Christ, who asked him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul was blinded in the encounter, but when “the scales” of his blindness were lifted, he immediately began to preach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
- The Jews were shocked at Paul’s conversion, and they plotted to kill him; however, Saul escapes.
- Saul goes on three missionary journeys, speading the Gospel far and wide across the Roman Empire and establishing local churches, through Israel Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and the surrounding area. During his first journey, he is able to convert the Roman Proconsul in Cyprus. At this moment, he becomes known as Paul.
- Paul’s message is a salvation of grace, faith, and obedience to Christ. During his first mission, Paul traveled to Jerusalem to submit his message (to make sure it is the right message, and he hasn’t “run in vain) for the approval of Peter and the Apostles.
- Eventually Paul was arrested and imprisoned for two years in Caesarea on trumped up charges. He escaped scourging because he was a Roman citizen. Paul appeals his case to Rome, where he is sent and spends two years under house arrest. This is were the Book of the Acts of the Apostles ends.
- Presumably, Paul was released, and tradition tells us that he may have traveled to Spain to preach the Gospels. Ancient tradition also tells us that Paul was martyred by the Emperor Nero in 64 AD, the same time that Peter was crucified. Paul was beheaded on the Via Ostiensis outside the city walls of Rome. Today, pilgrims can visit the Church of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome, which stands on the site of his remains.
- During Paul’s many journeys, he wrote letters to friends, disciples, and the various local churches he helped found. In all, the Bible contains 14 Pauline Letters.
- Visit the Our Sunday Visitor website for great Pauline resources, including an interactive quiz and map of the Pauline missions.
- Also, Steve Ray has a GREAT DVD series, The Footprints of God. This series, which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND, includes an episode dedicated to St. Paul. I used the study guide for the DVD to produce most of my short notes above.
- I also relied on the article about St. Paul in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
The Pauline Year and the Parish Census
The connection between the Pauline Year and the Parish Census centers around the missionary nature of the Church, and our role in participating in that mission. St. Paul traveled thousands of miles under hostile circumstances to preach the Gospel. He was specifically called by God to do so.
We are not called to do exactly what St. Paul did; however WE ARE CALLED to evangelize when and were we can. We can, like St. Paul, be co-operators with Christ in the conversion of the world.
Let me quote the appropriate paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to underscore this point:
On the mission of the Catholic Church:
- Jesus breathed on the Apostles, giving them the Holy Spirit. “From this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.'” (CCC Paragraph 730)
- The Church is catholic (universal) because she has been sent by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race. “…teach ye all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all the things that I have commanded you…” (CCC Paragraph 831)
- The Church is not just the hierarchy of bishops and priests. The Church is the Body of Christ made up of ALL THE FAITHFUL, including the laity, who have been baptized. Each member of the Body must, “according to his own richness and needs of the ministries, [give] his different gifts for the welfare of the Church.” (CCC Paragraph 791)
On the role of the Laity within the Church:
- “The Christian faithful are …called to exercise the mission which God has entrusted to the Church to fulfill in the world, in accord with the condition proper to each one.” (CCC Paragraph 871)
- The laity “have their own part to play in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.” (CCC Paragraph 897)
- “Since, like all faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism…, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known…This duty is the more pressing when it is only through them that men can hear the Gospel and know Christ. Their activity is ecclesial communities is so necessary that, for the most part, the apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without it.” (CCC Paragraph 900)
The Parish Census is not the only way for the lay faithful to be involved in the mission of the Church. You may choose to become an active witness in other ways. But, let us use St. Paul as our model. May God grant us the courage to visibly be active in our own communities to help re-incorporate lapsed Catholics and Christians back into the Body of Christ.
St. Paul, pray for us. St. Peter, pray for us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.