The grace of God - Page 2


Of course, when we think about the lives of any particular saints and of their heroic sanctity and devotion to God, we tend to forget about their early and sometimes disreputable past, but this is something the saints themselves never did.

Take, for example, St Paul, or Saul as he was first known.  He emerges in history as one who enthusiastically aided and abetted a gang of murderers, and the sight of Stephen’s poor torn and broken body had the effect, not of stirring him to pity, but of rousing him to a new height of frenzy.  With venom in his heart he at once began to commit atrocities in Jerusalem, dragging from their homes all the Christians, men and women alike, on whom he could lay his now crime-stained hands, and flinging them into prison.  St Luke tells us that “…Saul was ravaging the church…” (NRSV, Acts 8:3) and Luke uses the same word as we find in the psalms to describe the actions of a wild animal: “The boar from the forest ravages it…” (NRSV, 80:13).

When the persecution flagged for lack of victims, Saul’s enthusiasm was unabated and “…breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…” (NRSV, Acts 9:1) he set out for Damascus to continue there his evil work.