Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

August 6, 2008

Share Lesson Plans on the Year of St. Paul!


As you begin a new semester, the Church is celebrating a special jubilee year dedicated to St. Paul. It began on June 28 and will run until June 29, 2009. Pope Benedict XVI hopes the Church will draw inspiration from St. Paul on the two thousand year anniversary of his birth.

St. Paul was the Church’s greatest missionary. Though he experienced fear at his momentous task, he persevered and eventually suffered martyrdom. Pope Benedict hopes that all will be inspired by St. Paul during this year and be able to overcome all kinds of fears.

We encourage you as you plan lessons on the Year of St. Paul to share them in the comments section of this post as a service to all who share your ministry.

Here is some information to help to get you started:

The Catholic News Agency offers a two-minute video on the Life of St. Paul:


The Life of St. Paul
(excerpted from Encountering Jesus in the New Testament by Michael Pennock)

Saul of Tarsus—the future St. Paul—was an extraordinary disciple of Jesus Christ. Thirteen out of twenty-seven New Testament books are attributed to him, though scholars today agree that St. Paul probably only wrote seven of them—Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon.

Six other letters—2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians, and the so-called “pastoral letters” 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus—were likely penned by close disciples of Paul or by his admirers who wanted to keep his apostolic legacy alive. Collectively, these six letters are called Deuteropauline, or secondary, Pauline letters. The teaching in these letters, however, represents the kind of thinking Paul would have used to address later problems that crept up in the various first-century local Churches. The practice of using the master’s name to gain support for one’s own teaching was an accepted practice for disciples in the ancient world.

Who was St. Paul? Paul’s own letters, and the Acts of the Apostles, give us a fairly detailed portrait of the man.

Saul of Tarsus of the Jewish tribe of Benjamin was born approximately AD 10 during the reign of the Emperor Augustus. Tarsus was a city in Cilicia. Like many Jews of his time living outside of Palestine, he had both a Jewish name and a Roman name. The Jewish name was that of the first king of Israel, Saul, who was also from the tribe of Benjamin; the Roman name Paul (Paulus) was a well-known family name.

Paul received an excellent Greek education in Tarsus. He also learned the trade of tent making there, an occupation he often used to support himself during his later missionary activity. As reported in Acts, Paul was also a Roman citizen, an important fact that spared him a beating in Jerusalem and ultimately led him to Rome for a trial. His upbringing in Tarsus made him familiar with Gentile religions, philosophies, and customs. This knowledge would help him in later life to preach the Gospel of Christ to Gentiles.

In Acts, Luke tells us that, as a young man, Paul studied to be a rabbi in Jerusalem under the famous teacher Gamaliel. Paul was a strict Pharisee, trained in the Law, and willing to persecute anyone he thought was deviating from true Jewish practice. Thus, Paul was among the leaders who persecuted the early Christians.

After a time of persecution of Christians, around AD 36, Paul received a dramatic revelation from Christ on the road to Damascus. The glorified Lord spoke to Paul in a blinding light, identifying himself with the Christians Paul was persecuting. Paul was subsequently baptized by Ananias and then spent some time in the Arabian desert before returning to Damascus.

In 39, Paul took a brief trip to Jerusalem to meet Peter and James. He then returned to a city in Cilicia—possibly Tarsus—and remained there for nearly four years. In approximately AD 44 Barnabas invited Paul to help minister in Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire (after Rome and Alexandria) and the future base of his missionary activity. After he had worked there for a year, the Antioch church sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to help the Christians of Judea during the time of famine.

Between 46 and 58 Paul engaged in three extensive missionary journeys, depicted on the map, and described below:

Journey 1 (46-49). On the first journey, Paul and Barnabas visited the island of Cypress and the Asia Minor locales of Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia. They established churches in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. At the end of this journey, in 49, Paul attended the famous Council of Jerusalem. There he argued for the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Church without their first converting to Judaism.

Journey 2 (50-52). Antioch was the starting point of the second journey. Accompanied by Silas, and later by Timothy and Luke, Paul revisited the churches from the first journey, then passed through Galatia, went to Macedonia, and made his way to Europe preaching in the following cities: Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, Athens, and Corinth. He wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians from Corinth. He returned to Antioch by way of Ephesus and a side trip to Jerusalem.

Journey 3 (54-58). Again, this journey began in Antioch. Paul revisited the same areas as the second trip, but remained in Ephesus for three years, perhaps where he was imprisoned for a time. There he probably wrote his letters to the Philippians, Philemon, Galatians, and the first letter to the Corinthians. In early 57, Paul left Ephesus for Troas and then went to Macedonia where he likely wrote the second letter to the Corinthians. He eventually made his way to Corinth where he stayed for three months and from there wrote the Romans.

On a return trip to Jerusalem in 58, Paul’s enemies had him arrested. After two years detainment in Caesarea, he finally made it to Rome around 61 where he was under house arrest for two more years.

The Acts of the Apostles concludes in AD 63 with Paul in Rome happily preaching the Gospel, though under house arrest. One tradition has Paul martyred under Nero in 64 about the same time Peter was killed. Another tradition claims he was released from prison, traveled to Spain where he preached the Gospel, and returned to Rome where he was again arrested and then beheaded by Nero in the year 67.

Paul’s life is an unparalleled adventure story of commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. He eloquently describes his motivation, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Gal 2:20). Paul felt this divine love so deeply that he felt compelled to preach this good news to everyone. Because of his call to spread the Gospel, he founded countless churches, opened the Gospel to Gentiles, wrote faith-rousing letters that teach us yet today, and inspired loyal disciples to continue his work of instruction and encouragement by writing letters in his name. Paul was a model disciple of Christ, worthy of emulation for his courage alone. He wrote:

Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure. And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant? (2 Cor 11:24-29).


More Resources:

The Vatican link on the Year of St. Paul

The Catholic Culture website offers many valuable resources

Several introductory articles are linked at the St. Anthony Messenger American Catholic website.

Don't forget to attach lesson plan ideas for the Year of St. Paul as you develop them. Your colleagues will certainly appreciate your efforts.

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