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It would be difficult to imagine an individual who has had a more profound impact in the development of the Western world (except, of course, for the Divine Savior) than the one-time zealous Pharisee and vicious persecutor of Christians, the indomitable Saul of Tarsus. Without his courageous evangelical sojourns and his sublime collection of Epistles, preciously safeguarded by the Church that he fought so tirelessly to establish, Christianity's existence, let alone its triumphant expansion, would have been quite problematic. Father Lasance's New Roman Missal aptly summarizes the feast day's importance: "After the miracle of Christ's Resurrection, no other wonder in the history of the early Church is a stronger proof of the divine origin of Christianity than the marvelous conversion of St. Paul."
Instrumental in the future Christianization of much of the Gentile world was the Apostolic decision not to impose the Mosaic Law on non-Jewish converts. This edict may have gone by the wayside had it not been for St. Paul's courageous stand against the Prince of the Apostles, who had unfortunately waffled on the matter to the scandal and detriment of the Church. St. Paul sternly upbraided the first pope mincing few words:
But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was blameable.... But when I saw that they walked not uprightly unto the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all: If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not of the Jews, how dost thou compel the Gentiles to live as Jews? [Galatians 2:11,14/DRV]
While St. Peter was at fault for backsliding in this situation, he, nevertheless, demonstrated one of the virtues for which his Divine Master appointed him as chief Apostle, as he humbly accepted St. Paul's rebuke which soothed, no doubt, a potentially Church-splitting issue. St. Peter would later echo his great comrade's teaching in two heartfelt canonical Epistles when he exhorted the Faithful always to obey Almighty God and do His will before that of man.
Not only did St. Paul's resistance, which Sacred Scripture implies came against sizable opposition, eliminate a major impediment for the eventual transformation of much of the pagan world, but it remains a valuable lesson for all followers of Christ especially in times such as these, where nearly the entire Church has wickedly strayed from its Founder's teachings. Like St. Paul, Catholics must not remain "obedient" to error or become afraid of epithets such as "schismatic" when they oppose prelates or even popes who teach falsehoods or engage in sacrilegious activities.
Baptism imposes a noble duty on all to stand in defense of Sacred Tradition, where the eternal destination of each individual hangs in the balance with the hope that each Catholic at the end of life can honestly say, as St. Paul did: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
When a culture forgets the men, ideas, and events that shaped its past, more than likely it is doomed to become subverted and eventually taken over by its opponents, who will substitute their own history to legitimize their rule. "The Death of the West" is not necessarily the result of mass immigration, "free trade," or the misdeeds of multinational corporations, but it is the culmination of Western man's insane rejection of the One True Faith, which tragically began in the 16th century and has now diabolically spread to Christ's once Holy Church.
While the conversion of St. Paul is only commemorated on the altars of traditional chapels and forgotten nearly everywhere else, if the Western world's determined enemies are to be defeated and a Catholic Restoration begun, these holy enclaves will lead the fight.