Conversion of St. Paul

by Sister Julie Ann on January 1, 2008

Conversion of St. PaulCaravaggio (1573-1610), born Michelangelo Merisi in Caravaggio, Italy, was known for his realistic and dramatic paintings. Receiving papal praise during his life time, Cravaggio  also suffered public brutal criticism at age 24 for his artistic works on the life of Matthew in the church of San Luigi Dei Francesi. Today these portrayals are acclaimed for their magnificence. There is a dark, fearful nature in this representation of the Conversion of St. Paul,  and yet an urgent call to action.

12 thoughts on “Conversion of St. Paul”

  1. Sister Marie Kolbe Zamora says:

    I have just returned from Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome where this painting hangs and is appreciated by both tourists and pilgrims. The attitude of conversion (and abandon) that is dramatically represented in this painting depicts an attitude that beautifully captures the Christian spirit at the begin a new year . . . arms open to the light of Jesus who is our only way from one day to the next. Prayers and best wishes for a blessed new year in the Lord.

  2. I appreciate your insights Sister Marie Kolbe! Seeing St.Paul, on his back with his arms open is such a vulnerable position to be in; while at the same time, a very real depiction of each of us in our deep desire to receive Jesus’ grace. I would love to hear from all of you…how do you find yourself reaching out toward the light?

  3. How right it is to focus on this image during this special Pauline year convoked by Pope Benedict XVI! A clever, challenging evangelist in his own right, St. Paul was very aware of the need to bring the good news of Jesus to all peoples. I find it interesting that Cravaggio paints Paul as a fallen Roman equestrian? This nuance allows anyone the creative spirit to adapt Paul’s conversion to modern day and to imitate his humble and sincere search for God in a variety of settings (joined with a few other great characters.) I look forward to someone else shedding a little more light on this subject.

  4. Charles J. Urdzik Ph.D says:

    I wish to take this opportunity to wish all the sisters of your order a very healthy and happy coming year. (Somehow it’s aptly fitting that I am posting under the picture of St. Paul). I am a “boomer” from the 1950’s who receved a wonderful Catholic education at St. Agnes School in Mingo Junction Ohio under the tutelage of the Franciscan Sisters of Charity. Up until recently, your order had been at St. Agnes for over one hundred years. The primary education that I received from these women was invaluable to me in eventually receiving my doctorate in psychology and practicing for now over 30 years. I thank God and the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity for affording me the opportunity to have acomplished this…for this I will be ever grateful. Happy New Year to you…and peace to all.

  5. Charles, the Lord bless you during this 2008 year! Please know we the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity are blessed to know you and the wonderful people born and raised in St. Agnes Parish, Mingo. The memories continue to be refreshed around our dinner tables, and we enjoy the young women that have joined us immensely from this warm-hearted faith community.

  6. James says:

    Looking for an article on St Paul’s conversion and Psychology

  7. James, I have alerted a few people to your request. Meanwhile, I’ll see what I can find as well. Interesting topic…

  8. Pam says:

    The painting of the Conversion of St. Paul depicts in a true sense the release of one’s defenses. If I am correct, St. Paul had once persecuted the Christians and now we see him, broken before the Lord, his sword and helmet lay on either side, his arms are held open, reaching out to the Goodness that is before him.
    Any barriers that we may hold up to the Lord will be quickly struck down when and if we allow ourselves to be guided by what is true in our hearts and not by what our past life may have dictated us to be. This painting shows an openness and willingness to fall in complete submission for the greater glory of God, to allow Him to be our guiding light. May we let ourselves go and wholly submit our lives to the Lord so that we too may say along with St. Paul, “…and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” Galatians 2:20

  9. Oh, there are so many great scripture texts quoted in the Liturgy of the Hours for today’s feast of the Conversion of St. Paul…

    “Paul, my grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness”

    “God’s grace in me has not been without fruit; it is always at work in me.”

    As a Franciscan Sister I am keenly aware of Francis’ call to witness to God’s great love at his time in history. St. Paul is another one of those men filled with Jesus’ transforming love that bolted him to action. Pam, it was comforting to read your comment and to know we both are not alone in our desire to witness the Gospel call of love and forgiveness today. St. Paul pray for us.

  10. Pam, your words: “…if we allow ourselves to be guided by what is true in our hearts and not by what our past life may have dictated us to be.” have meaning for all who follow Jesus. It is he who is in the depth of our hearts.

    I had a wonderful encounter with a young women in Peru whom I got to know while there years ago. She came to see me with her husband and three children. With much gratitude she related to me how I helped her some eight years ago when she was struggling with where to go with her relationships. The Holy Spirit inspired me to tell her to “listen to her heart” not necessarily what everyone else was telling her. She credits that advice as being a great help for her. It was beautiful to see her so happy in her marriage with her family! It touched my heart to realize how God works through each of us as he did through St. Paul.

  11. James, I received this message from Father Benjamin regarding your question on an article on the topic of the Conversion of St. Paul and psychology. Father Joel was also very helpful in forwarding your request. Father Joel and Father Benjamin host a blog together.
    http://holypriesthood.blogspot.com

    Dear Sister,
    I am not aware of anyone who has talked about the conversion of St. Paul in terms of psychology. I also forwarded your message to the priest on our staff (North American College, Rome) who is a licensed psychotherapist, and he was not able to direct me toward any resources. It would be an interesting question, and St. Paul talks in several places about his conversion, but I am sorry that I cannot help you out there.

    In Christ,
    Fr. Benjamin

  12. Peter Kinghorn says:

    It is noteworthy that Caravaggio represented the image of God on this painting by the use of Alpha, as the shape of the leather lace appearing near St Paul's left shoulder, and Omega by the horseshoe on the horse's hoof.

    Submitted by Peter K.

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