Apostle! -a sonnet for St. Paul

Conversion of Saint Paul Artist Unknown Niedersaechsisches Landesmuseum, Hannover, Germany Conversion of Saint Paul Artist Unknown Niedersaechsisches Landesmuseum, Hannover, Germany

The 25th of January is the day the Church keeps the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. However often told or re-told, it is still an astonishing story. That Saul, the implacable enemy of Christianity, who came against the faith ‘breathing threats and slaughter’, should be chosen by God to be Christianity’s greatest proponant and apostle is just the first of a series of dazzling and life-changing paradoxes that flow from Paul’s writing. At the heart of these is the revelation of God’s sheer grace; finding the lost, loving the violent into light, and working everything through the very weakness of those who love him. Here’s a sonnet celebrating just a little of what I glimpse in the great Apostle.

This and my other sonets for the Christian year are published together by Canterbury Press as Sounding the Seasons; seventy sonnets for the Christian Year.’ You can get this book in the UK by ordering it from your local bookshop, or via Amazon.

As always you can hear the poem by clicking n the ‘play’ button if it appears, or on the title of the poem.


An enemy whom God has made a friend,

A righteous man discounting righteousness,

Last to believe and first for God to send,

He found the fountain in the wilderness.

Thrown to the ground and raised at the same moment,

A prisoner who set his captors free,

A naked man with love his only garment,

A blinded man who helped the world to see,

A Jew who had been perfect in the law,

Blesses the flesh of every other race

And helps them see what the apostles saw;

The glory of the lord in Jesus’ face.

Strong in his weakness, joyful in his pains,

And bound by love, he freed us from our chains.

Caravaggio: The Conversion of St. Paul


Filed under christianity, Poems, Theology and Arts

6 responses to “Apostle! -a sonnet for St. Paul

  1. Dear Malcolm, As always, your poetry readings refresh and challenge my spirit every day. Today happens to be the 27th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, so this sonnet is particularly meaningful to me. My Bishop insisted upon this feast date despite my feelings of unease and attempts to “negotiate” an alternative date — a dear friend, who is Jewish, was to read the first lesson in Hebrew. She had to decline to read because of the circumstances, though she attended the service to celebrate the occasion with me.
    Thank you for sharing your faith and energy with all of us who have found your writings and music!

  2. Erika Hoffmann

    Thank you, Malcolm. So much packed in your lines – so much to love and appreciate about this great saint.

  3. Derrick

    Thank you!
    Trying to figure how to fit this into our church’s patronal festival tonight.

  4. barbara

    the painting by Caravaggio made a wonderful contribution

  5. Dorothy Tipper

    So sorry this one is late- i put it down to the visitors…..

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