Saint Paul was born in Tarsus, Cilicia in Asia Minor, or modern day Turkey, under the name Saul, "an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin" (Philippians 3:5). According to the Acts of the Apostles 18:3 he worked as a tentmaker. The Acts of the Apostles also records that Paul was a Roman citizen.
As the son of a family which strictly observed the Jewish Law, he was sent to Jerusalem where he learned not only the Law but also all the rules which interpreted it. At the end of his schooling, he became a Pahisee, a term that means "separated one," and stricktly interpreted how he was to live Judaism. One day while going to Damascus, Paul experienced a profound spiritual moment which led to his conversion to Christianity. He was baptized, changed his name from Saul to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began travelling and preaching. He became known as "the Apostle of the Gentiles".
St. Paul's untiring interest in and paternal affection for the churches established by him have given us fourteen canonical Epistles. In his Epistles, St. Paul shows himself to be a profoud religious thinking and he has had an enduring formative influence in the development of Christianity.
In the Acts of Paul and Thecla, a later first century document, a man by the name of Onesiphorus, describes St. Paul as "a man of small stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, having large eyes with eyebrows meeting, and a long nose somewhat hooked; full of friendliness; sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel."
St. Paul died a martyr by being beheaded c.65 at Rome, Italy. His feast day is June 29. The feast day of his conversion is celebrated on January 25. St. Paul is the patron saint of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
Pope Benedict XVI declared from June 28, 2008, to June 29, 2009 a Jubilee Year of St. Paul, to mark the approximately 2,000th anniversary of the saint's birth. In making this announcement Pope Benedict XVI said "the church today needs modern Christians who will imitate the apostle's missionary energy and spirit of sacrifice".
[Source: Sunday Bulletin, June 29, 2008; St. Paul's Cathedral Parish, 720 Spadina Crescent East, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7K 3H2, Canada.]