Paul was born at Tarsus in Cilicia (Turkey) lived around the time of Jesus but never met Him. Paul was first called Saul. As a young man, he was a very bright student of the Hebrew religion. He was a Pharisee and a tent-maker by trade.
He hated the Christians. When he grew older he tortured and harassed the followers of Jesus. He even helped at the stoning of St. Stephen the martyr.
In the Bible's Acts of the Apostles, we read about Saul's amazing conversion (chapters 9, 22, 26). What happened?
One day, Paul was on his way to the city of Damascus to hunt down more Christians. Suddenly, a great light shone all around him and he was knocked to the ground. He was struck blind; and he heard a voice say, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
Saul answered, "Who are you, Sir?" And the voice said, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting." Saul was shocked and confused. After a few seconds, he asked, "What do you want me to do?" Jesus told him to continue on to Damascus and there he would be told what to do.
At that moment, through the power of God, Saul received the gift to believe in Jesus. Weak and trembling, he reached out for help and his companions led him into Damascus. The light had blinded him temporarily. Now that he was blind he could really "see" the truth.
And Jesus had come personally to meet him, to invite him to conversion. Saul became a great lover of Jesus. He was baptized and changed his name to Paul to show that he was a changed person. Now he thought only of helping everyone know and love Jesus, the Savior.
We know Saul by his Roman name of Paul. He is called "the apostle." He traveled all over the world, preaching the Good News and led so many people to Jesus. He worked and suffered.
His enemies tried to kill him several times but nothing could stop him. When he was old and tired, he was once again put in prison and sentenced to die. Still St. Paul was happy to suffer and even die for Christ.
This great apostle wrote wonderful letters to the Christians. They are in the Bible. These letters, called epistles, are read often during the Liturgy of the Word at Mass.