Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.




The contrast between the Epiphany and the Conversion of Saint Paul is a vivid one.

The Magi were on their way to worship.

Saul was on his way to persecute.

The star led the Wise Men.

A light blinded Saul.

The Wise Men departed into their own country.

Saul arose and was baptized.

We never hear of the Magi again.

We never cease to hear of Saul (who also is called Paul).

We do much more than hear of Saint Paul. We hear him, through his Epistles, so much and so constantly, that I wonder if we, all of us, always remember how much we owe to him. He is our Apostle. We look to him as our very own. His conversion is of absorbing interest to us, because our conversion was and is his absorbing interest. He gave his life to convert the Gentiles. The Holy Spirit inspired him to write the letters which have taught us the science and instructed us in the art of the spiritual life. Each epistle is a manual of Catholic practise. Saint Paul says in a single sentence enough to furnish a pupil with sufficient material to fill a book. Dogmatic Theology, Ascetic Theology, Mystical Theology, Moral Theology, he is a master of each. He is a typical Catholic Theologian. And he is a typical Catholic Saint. Because he has a flaming love of souls which leads him unerringly to the difficulty which obscures the truth in the mind of the person to whom he addresses himself, and which endows him with gifts of clarity, simplicity and persuasiveness. Saint Francis of Assisi has done it in a way. Saint Francis de Sales did it in his way, too. But Saint Paul did it like the gigantic Apostle that he was, and he is. He set out to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. And he succeeded. He is really the Gentiles’ Apostle. He is everybody’s Apostle. He is our Apostle.

Any one who is willing to be Saint Paul’s pupil is bound to be a sound Catholic in the end. He cannot be anything else. It does not matter what one wants to know. Whatever it is, it is sure to be in Saint Paul. Try it over and over again. It never fails. No matter what controversy may arise. Go to Saint Paul, and you will get your answer. Put down your newspaper. Look up the point in question in your Epistles. And there you are. It is as clear as daylight.

Is it something about the Church? Is it something about the Sacraments? Is it something about morals? Is it something about marriage? Is it something about self-discipline? Is it something about Vocation? Is it something about the Religious Life? Is it something about prayer? Is it something about penitence. Is it something about forgiveness? Is it something about temptation? Is it something about mystical union with Christ the life of the soul? Is it something about the attainment of sanctity? Is it something about death? Is it something about life after death?

Go to Saint Paul and you will feel that you have been taught by a great Doctor. You will feel that you have been blessed by a great Saint. You will feel that you have been talked to, in plain language, by a good, wholesome, wise, witty, masterful, old Bishop. He is simply superb.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury