St. Paul & the Baptized Lion

As a start to my series on the Saints, I thought it would be good to begin with a nice little story about one of my namesakes and favourites, St. Paul. He was a brilliant and motivated man who earned himself the rank of Apostle, despite the opposition and jealousy of the twelve. If it wasn’t for Paul, no one would have heard of some carpenter’s son from Galilee. His letters make up half of the New Testament (13 of 27 books) and are the basis for the Christian faith. They also pre-date all the other books of the New Testament, even the four gospels; his epistles are usually dated from earliest at year 49 to around 57-58. It is because of Paul that we know the “Lord’s Prayer” and that we celebrate the Eucharist. His three great journeys are recounted in Acts of the Apostles and after long imprisonment, his life culminates in his martyrdom at Rome (sometime between year 62 and 68).  I will write much more about him later but first to the story. This legend is found in the Apocryphal Acts of Paul and was a popular folk motif in the ancient world (see “Androcles and the lion” or Aesop‘s fable “the lion and the mouse”).

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While Paul was travelling from Damascus to Jericho, he met a noble lion. The lion was twelve cubits in height and the size of a horse! Upon meeting each other, they saluted one another and the lion asked Paul to teach him. They spent seven days together, at the end of which the lion was baptized. They parted as friends and Paul went along his way.

Later at Ephesus, Paul is taken prisoner by Hieronymus the governor. He was thrown into the arena to face wild beasts and the whole city came out to see the spectacle. The governor orders a recently captured enormous lion to be let loose on Paul. According to divine providence, it was the baptized lion. The two recognize each other and rejoice at their reunion. They began praying together in the middle of the arena, which further vexed the governor and amazed the crowds. The governor then orders an onslaught of various wild beasts to be released to kill the holy pair. At this point, despite the clear sky, a great hailstorm breaks out to protect Paul and the lion. The beasts and many people are killed, the rest flee in terror; Hieronymus himself had his ears torn off. Paul and his friend, the baptized lion leave the arena safely. They take leave of one another, the lion returning to the forest and Paul to the harbour to sail to Macedonia.

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