What do the Scriptures tell us about St. Paul’s personality and temperament? A lot more than I realized–and it’s not all pretty. Over at The Catholic Thing, Pete Brown (who worked in CUF’s Catholic Responses department a few years back) gets us started with a bang:
Paul called the Galatians “stupid,” (Gal 3:1) and then wished their Judaizing opponents would circumcise themselves and have the knife slip. This was after he bragged of having opposed the first pope to his face, not caring whether he really was a “pillar” of the Church. (I suspect Paul lost that verbal confrontation because otherwise he would have bragged about his victory.) He mocked the pretenses of the Corinthians (1 Cor 4:8), belittling them by calling them babes, while refusing to accept their support for fear of being tainted. He insulted the Cretans by repeating the hoariest stereotypes of their lying beastly gluttony (Tit 1:12).
Brown goes on to compare Jesus’ and Paul’s “public personas” as well as Jesus’ popularity and Paul’s unpopularity, and he talks about the many setbacks and sufferings Paul endured.
And finally, Pete shows us how, in Paul, we have a brother who understands the frustrations and failures in our own lives:
We may easily identify with someone who is an ardent Christian, but does not seem very effective in the main passion of his life. We who work at child-rearing or housework or jobs where we are underpaid or underappreciated can identify with a man who spent most of his adult life in that condition. We who are unlikely to become martyrs and must pursue our Christian vocation incrementally can admire a man who follows God mostly in fits and starts and with nearly constant setbacks.
Paul’s life reminds us of an old truth that, provided we make Christ crucified our center, God will show forbearance for the rough edges and personal flaws at our perimeter. . . .
Definitely worth a read.