Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

Alumnus Fr. Tom Logue ’11, who grew up in the Hinsdale, IL parish of StIsaac Jogues, returned to Fenwick on January — to preach as a priest!

By Father Thomas Logue

My name is Fr. Thomas Logue, and I graduated from this school some 12 years ago now, and I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ just this past May.

It’s great being back in this way to celebrate this Mass. I was on Kairos with a couple of the alumni here who are my age, and many of my teachers from my time as a student are still here, which is awesome.
If I recall correctly, I think in Latin class, Dr. Porter told us we wouldn’t use Latin all the much.

So, I’ve just got to say, Dr. Porter, as a priest I get to use Latin all the time: checkmate.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Conversion of St Paul. And you might be wondering, “Okay, that’s cool, Father, but what’s with the gold thing you processed in with?”

Well, I’m glad you asked! My doctor happens to be a fellow alumn, and we have worked together in healing ministry; he lent me this relic of St. Paul — I believe it is a fragment of his bone. So we’re incredibly blessed that this real man will be with us as we come to worship the real Jesus together with him.

Alumnus Fr. Tom Logue, Fenwick Class of 2011.

Now, as we look at what this man experienced, coming face-to-face with God the Son in resurrected human flesh, and who was struck blind for three days thence — all these amazing things — we have to remember that Luke — the guy who wrote this down — didn’t write it down for Paul:

“Hey, Paul, want to hear the story you told me again?”
“Um, no.”

God, the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write this down for me and for you, so that we might believe. It was all written for you ….

So, that begs the question: All this crazy stuff happened to this man that fundamentally changed him from a murderer of Christians into the greatest Christian witness the world has ever seen — okay.

But, what’s the import for me?

It all centers on the one question Paul asks of Jesus: “Who are You, Lord?” . . . “Who are You, Lord?

Because, for Paul up to this point, before encountering Christ, if someone asked him, “Have you ever heard of Jesus? Who is He?” he’d ultimately say something like: “Jesus is just some dead nobody who’s keeping my life and my culture, even my worship, from what I want it to be. Just some dead nobody who’s caused me a lot of trouble.

But the genuine revelation of the Catholic faith says something quite different, otherwise this school wouldn’t exist; the Catholic faith wouldn’t exist.

A miraculous image from the 1st century, believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus.

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is the God who holds us in existence.

He is God the Son who took on my broken human flesh, calling first the Jewish people, and through them the whole world — me and you — back into relationship with the True and Living God, Himself. And, to do this, from our lowly human flesh, as God and as a Man, He made a perfect act of love to God the Father when He consecrated Himself a sacrifice for me and for you, and then died a torturous death by suffocation in crucifixion, and rose three days later.

“Who are You, Lord?”

But even from 13 years of Catholic schooling growing up, I feel like many, many of my peers, and even a few of my teachers, and me especially, if asked, not just on a theology test, but through the way you can really tell what someone believes — by how we live — if you asked us, “Who is Jesus?” and looked at how we live, our answers might correspond to something like:

  • “He’s just a good moral teacher, or maybe a revolutionary.”
  • Or, “He just asked us to be nice or something; He died, but He didn’t rise from the dead — He’d have to be like, God or something, lol.”
  • Or, “He was just a made up idea that helps people be kind.”

In our culture, and in a culture like this, when we reject Christ, we don’t usually reject Christ outright. We make a new Christ that fits my view of things. And, as a priest who I know says, “that is a very effective way of murdering Jesus Christ, to change Him to suit our own desires.” It’s not the real Jesus we talk about when we do this. We are just making up our own.

And what I felt — and some of you might know what I’m talking about, though I hope you don’t know what I’m talking about — I felt like, ironically, the Catholic culture for me growing up, and the apathy I experienced towards the faith and towards our Lord in it, which seemed louder than the Gospel — that it almost vaccinated me against Catholicism.

You might be thinking, “Vaccinated?” You know, with old school vaccines (not the new mRNA stuff) if you want to make someone immune to something that is very contagious, what you do is you take the contagious thing, you isolate it, you kill it, and then you inject the dead thing into the person, so that when they encounter the real thing out in the world, their system just says, “Oh, I know what that is, and it’s not for me.”

But what have we done the past few generations with our Catholic faith but this very thing? We isolate the fullness of the faith and the real Jesus, we give to our young people a dead, seriously deficient version of the faith, and we’re surprised they don’t practice it — when in fact we’ve vaccinated them against it.

We do this to our Catholic faith, and this has happened to many of us here. C.S. Lewis says, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately

Well, this was the message I got — that it’s moderately important: like basketball or a TV show. And since this, sadly, is how many of us were raised, when confronted with Christianity and the real Jesus who calls us to repent, who calls us to change — when, in fact, we don’t want to repent; when we don’t want to change — what do we do but try and invent our own Christ.

A painting of the Apostle Paul from 1600s.

But, tragically, we know that when we invent our own Christ, that our own “Jesus” is totally impotent; that “my Jesus” is powerless to save or forgive me; that when I erect my own “Jesus,” in my own image, the
only person I worship is me. And, if I’m honest, I am powerless to save myself … and so I lock myself within my own heart.

But the real Jesus, who comes knocking on the door of our locked hearts — the One who appeared to Paul — we know and believe that He can actually do something about my life. This Man who conquered death and is alive right now, with real Blood flowing through real veins as He sits at the right hand of the Father — that He can heal me; He can save me. He comes full of mercy, full of peace, forgiveness, with genuine meaning (not the futile self-fabricated kind) — real, genuine, objective meaning from the Person who is Truth Incarnate Himself — He offers this for those who will receive Him as Lord, as Master and as Savior.

Ask Him, “Who are you, Lord?”

In my own practice of the faith, my parents went to Mass, and though I felt an affection for the Lord, the liturgy and prayer in childhood (I was even considering priesthood non-stop since I was 5), as I got into junior high and the sort of vaccination I received against Catholicism began to take effect, along with my difficulties with some of my peers and distance from my family, I began to, like Paul, frame Jesus as someone else than who He really is:

“Maybe he’s just a good teacher, probably not God,” I pondered. But this was just a cover for the fact that, even though I was interested in Jesus, I doubted that He could really be interested in me. I felt rather unloved and unwanted, and began to paint the lies on my heart over the face of God.

By the time I got into high school here at Fenwick, I was pretty convinced I was an atheist, and that Christianity was some weird scheme or money grab; it was just something I had to just endure and
put up with until I graduated. But through the testimony of the priest who taught me freshman year, I began just to crack open the door of my heart, and a little bit of light began to shine into my darkness. I was beginning to believe. And, at the time, although I was dead scared of going to confession, I felt tugged towards it, and it terrified me.

Saul is knocked from his horse and blinded on the road to Damascus.

My sophomore year, I was sitting next to my atheist friend up in the front row of the nosebleed seats here in the Auditorium when all-school confessions were being heard, and I finally overcame that fear and, by the grace of God, returned to confession for the first time in 9 years. It was incredible.

But I was still clinging to sin in my life, and it was slowly eating away at me. It wasn’t until my senior year about this time of year, actually — that things came to a head.

I went on the Kairos retreat and had such a profound encounter with the real Jesus that all I could do was weep on the floor in my bedroom, overwhelmed by this love I hadn’t known before, but was utterly familiar, and had been present all my life, in all of my pain. And laying prostrate before the crucifix in my room (like I saw one of the Dominicans do at his ordination), I looked up at the cross through tear-blurred eyes and said, “I will do whatever You want me to do, Jesus, just tell me what it is.”

Well, spoiler — He made that pretty clear.

Needing the Lord

Fr. Tom as a Fenwick senior in 2010-11.

But, due to my surrounding myself with less than quality friends, the following week (again, about this time of the year), I got in some very big trouble in pretty much every aspect of my life. Got 15 detentions
and demerits. I was in trouble in school and out of school; it was a huge mess. I bet you didn’t think a priest alum would say something like that!

I realized through the experience of my big mess up that some ofthe friends I thought were my best friends that I had invested in for 6+ years were in fact just using me. And in my hunger for acceptance, after naming the serious wounds of rejection I’d felt for years, I found myself drifting further and further from the Lord.

I ran from Jesus. And I became so lost in my own serious sinfulness and mistakes and pains from other people, that when I looked into the mirror it’s almost like I didn’t recognize the person looking back at me. This is the darkness of serious sin; and this is what I was living in.

But somehow, I knew to cry out to Jesus from my need. I was fasting, praying the Rosary, and during my study halls I would ask Ms. Dactilidis, “Do you mind if I go into the chapel to pray during study hall?” I had some kind of weird schedule where I had two study halls in a row, followed by lunch. And so I would just stay in there with Jesus for hours each day. It was the only place I felt peace. The rest of my life was riddled with horrible anxiety and loneliness.

I felt like, because of all the things I’d done, that God could never love me, that He could never forgive me. But still, I went back to the chapel day after day, just crying to Jesus from the darkness of my heart.

Eventually, I was asked to help with the first ever June Kairos. And on that retreat I heard that the priest was offering confession. I hadn’t given all the crud and poison and sin on my heart over to Jesus through the priest yet, and I felt Jesus calling me there to confession, in love, to His Mercy. So, I finally went. And I surrendered all of it.

Fr. Tom’s favorite painting of the Prodigal Son, which he says is very much his story.

After I finally showed Jesus all the ways I hadn’t been faithful to Him, after I told Him all the ways I’d betrayed Him, stabbed Him in the back, persecuted Him. I told Him I wasn’t worthy of being loved by
Him, wasn’t worthy of His friendship.

I wasn’t rejected, I wasn’t turned away. What I heard was, “God the Father of mercies, through the death
and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Thru the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace. And I absolve you from your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

And what I experienced was real forgiveness, the warmth of the embrace of Jesus, with all my walls down, with all the sin removed from my heart. I was seen by God. I was known and loved by God. I was forgiven.

And, have you ever seen a family welcome a soldier home, how they all embrace and cry? Well, when I received communion that evening, I’m pretty sure my peers didn’t understand that I was going through something like that, being welcomed home, reunited with my Heavenly Father at least, because I was crying my eyes out: It felt as though I was surrounded by a myriad of angels shouting and singing in jubilation over me, because the prodigal son had come home.

Jesus Confronts Saul

At the moment of Paul’s life-changing encounter with the Real Jesus (not the framed versions of Him we make up of Him), what does Jesus first say to Him? He doesn’t start by naming his sins; He starts by saying his name: “Saul, Saul …”

And then, “…why are you persecuting Me?”

Imagine someone you have never met saying that to you. “Um, who are you again? … I just persecuted some Christians, not You. Who are You?”

Paul, formerly named Saul, preaching at Ephesus.

But Jesus says to Paul, on his way to persecute more Christians and to make them suffer, “Why are you persecuting Me?”

We forget that, for those of us who are baptized into Christ’s Body (which, by the way, He’s telling us in this Gospel, He wants baptism for everybody, which includes you), that we who are baptized into Him are truly united with Him:
For those Christians who Paul persecuted, He’s saying, “Paul, what you did to them, you really did do to me.” And, in effect for us He says, “What happens to you, happens to Me.”

He says, “If you feel pain, I feel it with you.”

“If you feel your heart break, my heart breaks with you.”

“When you hold back tears, my throat hurts, too.”

And why? Why does He do this? It’s because He loves you. He loves you. And His love for you is
real — more real than the ground under your feet, or the chair that you’re sitting in right now.

He loves you. The creator of the world, who holds you in existence; who took on our human flesh; who made Himself a sacrifice for you; who died a torturous death, and rose, keeping His wounds, for you — He. Loves. You.

Paul asked the question into the blinding light around him: “Who are You, Lord?”

And He got an answer: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

In coming to see who Jesus really is, in repenting and receiving His forgiveness, in accepting His Lordship, in allowing His life to be changed, Paul went from a killer of Christians to the greatest evangelist the world has seen.

My life since my conversion experience hasn’t been without difficulty, but it has been a steady surrendering to the real Jesus, one who can heal, one I can trust; one who wants to heal you, and has made me an instrument of His great healing for you and the world, like Paul was, and still is, for the world.

Like the real Jesus is.

For me and for Paul, the real Jesus did this … the one who saves; the one who heals. He’s not just some good teacher, some made up personal God, but the True and Living God. And He wants to transform you, too. Into what?

Only He knows, but it starts by seriously dropping our defenses, forsaking our sins, by casting away our fake images of Him, our idolatry of self, and looking into His eyes, the human eyes of the God who loves you … and asking Him …

Who are You, Lord? … And listening to Him:

“I am the answer to your broken heart.
I am your Healer.
I am your forgiveness.
I am your salvation.
I am your living and Risen Savior.
… I am Jesus, Whom you have been neglecting all these years.
I am the committed love and belonging that you’ve always sought. And my committed love is greater than all your sins.
I am knocking at the locked door of your heart.
Will you let me in?”

2 Replies to “Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul”

  1. Have known Fr Tom as I was one of his
    Interviewers for the Diocese of Joliet .
    I could see in Tom’s eyes that Jesus was calling him to be His priest
    In that journey I always believed that
    Someday I would see Tom anointed to become Fr Tom and it did because He called and Tom said … I am yours forever.

  2. I read every word, Fr. Tom, and “good on ya” as I believe you have a “Passion” for the words you share! Don’t lose it! Work on it as it’s a lifetime job! It may sound like a long time, but I assure you, it will be over here on Earth fast, and that job will be finished because thereafter the rewards will require absolutely no effort! He is listening along with all of us, so don’t disappoint him, as we, too, would be sad! Best wishes on your Journey! jph “66”

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