Just under a year ago, Pope Benedict declared a ‘Year of St Paul’, to run from the Feast of St Peter and St Paul (June 29th) 2008. He declared that: ‘Meetings for study will be promoted and there will be special publications on Pauline texts, to promote the immense richness of the teaching contained in them, true patrimony of humanity redeemed by Christ.’ He also asserted that this Year of St Paul should have an important ecumenical dimension. It seems very appropriate therefore that we as a Catholic parish of the CofE take up Pope Benedict’s initiative and deepen our acquaintance with the apostle to the Gentiles.
This is perhaps all the more the case because of St Paul’s unpopularity amongst some Christians, many in the CofE and across the Anglican Communion, for whom what St Paul says about the place of women and the immorality of sexual conduct that was prevalent in Rome places him beyond the pale and they want to hear nothing of him. Thereby they risk losing the benefit of a tremendous deposit of Christian teaching that takes us back into the mind of a man who though he never met Christ in the flesh, certainly met him on the road to Damascus and met with those who had followed Jesus in his earthly ministry.
A principal element of our observance of the Year of St Paul will be that on certain Sundays throughout the year (see below) the homily at the Parish Mass will take the form of a study of one of St Paul’s writings in the New Testament. There are 13 letters by St Paul in the New Testament – the Letter to the Hebrews historically attributed to St Paul is no longer thought to be by him – and he is an important figure in the Acts of the Apostles. Slightly in anticipation of the Year of St Paul, the Letter to the Romans, from which the second reading at almost every Sunday Mass up to the beginning of Advent this year is taken, has already been the subject of a homily at the Parish Mass. The remaining books will be covered as follows. Excluding the Acts of the Apostles, which will set the scene for this series of preaching, this is not the order in which they are given in the Bible, but the order in which they are generally believed to have been written.