TWO MILLENNIA have passed since St. Paul was born and yet his works continue to strongly influence the world today.

As such, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated 2008 as the “Pauline Year,” a year meant to emphasize the significance of St. Paul’s teachings in the present time.

This June 29, the Pauline Year comes to an end with the Pope delegating seven cardinals as his special envoys for its closing ceremonies in different Pauline sites around the world—Spain, Jerusalem, Malta, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, and Lebanon. This day also celebrates the feast of St. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome.

The celebration was proclaimed by the Holy Father “in order to listen to St. Paul and learn today from him, as our teacher” as stated in his homily for the opening of the Pauline Year last June 2008.

As part of the commemoration for Paul the Apostle, a series of liturgical, cultural, and ecumenical events, as well as various pastoral and social initiatives, have been organized in different parts of the world throughout the year.

In the Philippines, an ecumenical prayer service held at the Araneta Coliseum last January 25 became the highlight of the celebration of the Pauline Year in the country, in line with the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. It was attended by the three main Christian groups in the country, namely the Roman Catholics, the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches. A mass was also held with the participation of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

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Main Pauline groups in the Philippines were active in the celebration of the patron saint’s year. The Society of St. Paul and the Daughters of St. Paul can both utilize the media to spread their patron’s message, while St. Paul de Chartres has schools here in the country.

In UST, the “Apostle to the Gentiles” was also the inspiration for this year’s Theology Week last April with the theme “Journeying with St. Paul Today.”

The Manila Cathedral will hold a Eucharistic celebration in honor of the Pope’s Day with the Feast of St. Peter and the closing of the Pauline Year in June 29 with Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, D.D., as main presider, and Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams, D.D., as homilist.

Still significant

“The devotion of a year for St. Paul raises questions such as his year of birth, a possible encounter with Christ, and foremost, the importance of St. Paul in the Church,” said Fr. Efren Rivera, O.P., associate professor of Scriptures in the Faculty of Sacred Theology. He stated that it is the first time in Church history that such a year is celebrated.

According to Rivera, St. Paul’s great contribution to Christianity was providing the religion its “watermarks” or distinctive features that separate it from Judaism. He described the saint as a great theologian of the early Church, together with St. John the Evangelist. He added that the issues St. Paul tackled many years ago remain relevant in the present time, principally the issues on evangelization. In evangelizing people, he first integrated himself into their culture such as the Romans and the Galatians, thus his title as “Apostle to the Gentiles.”

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“St. Paul would preach in the synagogue to Jews, but only a few would believe him. He would then turn to Gentiles who were interested,” Rivera said. Poverty and charity, women’s dignity, the charismatic movement, the meaning of suffering, and youth issues were also other important topics St. Paul tackled, which all remain significant today.

Pauline spirit in UST

With his undying devotion to the building of the Church and in bringing people closer to God, St. Paul’s contributions have reached the heart of the youth. Rivera cited Timothy as a known example of this.

Timothy was a young disciple from Lystra, now known as Turkey. In St. Paul’s second visit to Lystra as part of his missionary tour, he was impressed with the young man’s faith that he decided to make him his companion in his missionary work.

His works and teachings remain important, even to the youth of this generation. In UST, overseeing Thomasians and visitors alike is a group of three statues known as the Tria Haec located on top of the Main Building. Tria Haec, meaning “these three,” represents the three virtues of St. Paul—faith, hope, and charity. This is also a shortcut to the popular 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

“Being the motto of the University, these three are the core values that guide Thomasian education,” Rivera said.

Besides the virtues in Thomasian education, the Tria Haec reflects the University’s tradition of following St. Paul’s theology. According to Rivera, this tradition traces back to St. Dominic de Guzman, the founder of the Order of Preachers (O.P.). The Dominicans run UST since its establishment almost 400 years ago.

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It was said that St. Dominic de Guzman, the founder of the O.P. had a vision where St. Paul handed him a book of his letters while St. Peter gave him a preacher’s staff. Also, his two favorite scriptures were the Letters of St. Paul and the Gospel according to Matthew.

Miguel de Benavides, the founder of the University, was also influenced by St. Paul. He was a disciple of Bartolome de las Casas who was a champion of the rights of indigenous people, especially of Native Americans. He fought against slavery and for the rights of the natives. Rivera said that De las Casas’ work was inspired by the teachings of St. Paul especially the apostle’s stand on equality wherein he preaches that we are all one in Christ.

Missionaries of today can also derive their inspiration from St. Paul by being charismatic as he was. Rivera emphasized that they can create charismatic communities by setting good examples and by practicing the faith.

Finally, Rivera said that the Tria Haec serves as a reminder to Thomasians about St. Paul’s teaching of “primacy of charity.”

“They should try to put the message of the Tria Haec (1 Corinthians 13:1-13) into practice,” he said.

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