Wednesday, 25 January 2012

St Pauls Birmingham

With the recent news of the closure of yet another chain of Christian bookshops (Wesley Owen) and the devastating result this will bring to the lives of the employees, the loss to the customers and the resulting absence of further losses of a Christian witness on the streets of our towns and cities, it seems somewhat heartless of us to rejoice in the fact that today St Pauls has celebrated the 10th anniversary of the opening of our shop at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham.

However, for us it has been a day of celebration and thanksgiving. The principle event being the celebration of Mass in St Chad’s Cathedral attended by the staff of the bookshop, representatives of St Pauls in London, a number of our loyal customers and priests and people of the diocese of Birmingham. It was also very good to have Tim Tiley with us.

The photograph shows some of the staff of our shop, including Lorenzo Torri, the Manager, (second from the left) whose commitment and dedication to the mission of St Pauls has made an invaluable contribution to the fact that we have been able to have this celebration today.

The Conversion of St Paul

A meditation from Sister Wendy Beckett for the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul.

On the whole, artists were not especially interested in St Paul. The one event though that did attract artistic attention was his dramatic conversion. St Luke describes vividly in the Acts of the Apostles how he fell to the ground while he was on his way to Damascus "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord".

Nobody could have better appreciated this all-consuming anger than Caravaggio, perhaps the most violent artist in history. I sometimes think, equally, that no artist might have so longed to be overthrown, turned from his headlong career into savagery, and brought to his senses as St Paul was. Caravaggio enters fully into the shock of this incident but maybe his fellow feeling is almost envious.

This was the central event of Paul’s life, "a conversion" that changed him completely, but which poor, angry Caravaggio was never to know. He shows us St Paul, or rather, not yet St Paul but still the hostile Saul, flung from the security and eminence of his horse. Saul’s head almost juts out into our space; he is upside down, dislocated, we cannot see his facial expression, but must read the whole story from his body language. A bright light is shining full upon him, blinding him, and he hears the voice of Jesus: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" All Saul can stutter in reply is, "Who are you Lord?" The heavenly answer must have chilled him to the bone. His use of the word "Lord" means that Saul understood well that it was God who was speaking to him. And God says, "I am Jesus who you are persecuting."

St Paul was to spend his life unravelling the depth of that reply. How many of us understand it? All he had done against the Christians in Jerusalem, Jesus saw as done against himself. Years later, in the Gospels, it would be remembered "whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me". This was something Jesus tried again and again to teach His Apostles. St Paul, "last of the Apostles, an Apostle born out of due time" may well have been the first to understand to the full the impact of this teaching. He had not consciously persecuted anyone but those who he thought were enemies of God. But to persecute is an act wholly alien to God’s love. St Paul was to learn from this shattering experience that our neighbour, any neighbour, the most obnoxious neighbour, is still Jesus. Caravaggio dwells upon Paul’s horror and abasement. The very horse seems to withdraw from him; notice that uplifted hoof, and his companion looks down on him in sad amazement. But those arms, outstretched in fear and astonishment, are also outstretched in surrender. It never enters Paul’s mind but to obey the vision and change his entire lifestyle.

Picture: The Conversion of St Paul, Caravaggio © Bridgeman Art Library, London.
Text: Sister Wendy Contemplates Saint Paul in Art © ST PAULS Publishing.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Birmingham 10 years on

10 years ago today, Archbishop Vincent Nichols (then Archbishop of Birmingham) formally opened and blessed St Pauls bookshop at St Chad’s Cathedral.

Over these 10 years a great deal has happened within the Christian booktrade - much of it resulting in the closure of many shops from around the country. Sadly, this appears to be a trend that has not yet been reversed. We at St Pauls count ourselves blessed that we have not been affected in this way.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our customers and supporters, especially those who have enabled us to build up such a much respected resource in Birmingham. In doing so, we also recognise that this would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the staff, past and present.

To mark the 10th anniversary, Canon Gerry Breen (Administrator & Dean of the Cathedral) has kindly agreed to offer the 12.30pm Mass tomorrow (the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul) in thanksgiving. As a token of our appreciation to our customers, we shall be offering everyone a 10% discount on their purchases at St Chad's for the remainder of this week.

"ST PAULS is not just a commercial venture but a place that radiates the truth about Jesus Christ and his love." Blessed James Alberione.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Splendour of the Preachers

The Splendour of the Preachers by Duncan Macpherson.

The ministry of a deacon in the Catholic Church is one of service in three areas: the Word, the Liturgy and Charity. Of these, the deacon's ministry of the Word includes proclaiming the Gospel during the Mass, preaching and teaching.

As a deacon, Duncan Macpherson shares these important roles. His experience as a preacher makes him well qualified to write this book. A review of it has been published on The Goodbookstall website, which can be read here.

The Goodbookstall website was set up 10 years ago to support Christian bookshops. It provides reviews of books published by a variety of Christian publishers but, unlike other sites, it does not provide an online retail service; it directs readers to their local Christian bookshop. This is a valuable resource for bookshops and book lovers alike.

The Splendour of the Preachers is published by ST PAULS and can be purchased here.

Friday, 20 January 2012

"Read the letters of St Paul as if they were sent to you."

This saying of Blessed James Alberione, the Founder of the Pauline family, is sound advice as we prepare to celebrate the feast of the Conversion on St Paul.

The Society of St Paul (together with the other Congregations and Institutes founded by Blessed James) continues his mission to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples, in the spirit of the Apostle Paul, using the modern instruments of communication.The vehicles at our disposal today may be very different to those Fr Alberione had nearly a century ago, but our motive remains the same.