Basing his presentation upon St. Paul’s letters, works of Scripture scholars, Pope John Paul II and his own experience, Fr. McBride noted at the outset that the saint brought “things down to a human level. He was not as exalted or insightful as you might like.”

Citing the first and 15th chapters of First Corinthians, Fr. McBride said the former provides the “wisdom of the cross,” while the latter notes “there can’t be any Christianity without resurrection.”

“The first Christ he (St. Paul) got to know was the risen one, not the crucified one,” the priest said. “In his life, through the tutorial of the Holy Spirit, he got to know the cross.”

Fr. McBride noted that the time between Jesus confronting Saul on the road to Damascus and the saint’s baptism took about six days, but that it was followed by three years of contemplative life after which he went to meet St. Peter for the first time in Jerusalem (Gal 1:18-19).

The priest said that if he were filming the 15 days “these giants of Christianity – the wiry rabbinical student and the tempestuous, rugged fisherman,” spent together, he would depict St. Peter taking St. Paul through Jerusalem.

“Paul didn’t know the Jerusalem sanctified by Christ; Peter showed it to him,” the priest said of the story that would be told in the film. He added that Peter would take him to a spot where the woman was taken in adultery, to the Upper Room where first Eucharist was celebrated, to the Praetorium of Pilate to touch the pillar of scourging, to Calvary and to the tomb of resurrection.

Fr. McBride said that St. Peter determined St. Paul needed further “tempering” and sent him into the mountains near Tarsus.

“Paul had an edge of edges. He was a summa cum laude in edge. He could be nasty at times. He wasn’t a sweet, positive thinking kind of guy … the Holy Spirit would have more to teach Paul and draw him into a relationship with Christ,” he said, noting that humility and prayer were essential to having a relationship with Christ.

“We have to have that relationship with Christ. That’s the beginning and end of Catholicism. It’s always about a relationship with Christ, and Paul had to learn that,” Fr. McBride said.

He said that prayer “was the secret to St. Paul.”

“If you want to think of Paul as a theologian, think of him first as a contemplative, a man of prayer,” Fr. McBride said.

Referring to the scholarship of Jesuit Fr. Joseph Fitzmeyer, an editor of the “Jerome Biblical Commentary” and the “New Jerome Biblical Commentary,” Fr. McBride said, “Most of what Paul wrote was ad hoc, handling of concrete situations by letter … Paul was always down to earth, down and dirty with the people. Church is people. That’s the way he worked. He was a missionary planting new churches, the greatest missionary we ever had. He was a pastor responding to questions and needs of his people – more pastoral theology than anything else.”

He cited 1 Corinthians 8, 1 Corinthians 14, 2 Thessalonians 3-7, Acts 15, 1 Corinthians 11:17, and 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 as examples of how St. Paul responded to the people he served.

Fr. McBride provided five explanations for what St. Paul meant by the word “church.”

First, he said, that while St. Paul uses building imagery in talking about the church (1 Cor 13) for the saint church was “the people of God,” noting that he used that term 60 times in his writing.

“The church comes into existence not by the consent of the governed, but by the call and grace of God,” the priest said. “We don’t create the church; we receive the church as a gift and then we work to sustain it with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit.”

The apostle saw the church as the body of Christ, according to the priest.

“That is the original contribution of St. Paul to the meaning of church,” he said. “Everything is in Christ Jesus. That’s why in our preaching and our faith, if we don’t make Christ the center of it all, it’s not going to work.”

Those who try to separate Christ from the church miss the teachings of St. Paul, Fr. McBride said, referencing Romans 8:37-39.

“That’s the Body of Christ. It elevates us out of our petty concerns,” he said. “The head Christ and members of the body belong together.”
Referring to 1 Corinthians 10:16, the priest said that Paul viewed the church as “eucharistic.”

“At Communion, Jesus gives us his body and makes us holy. When we eat ordinary bread, we turn that into ourselves,” Fr. McBride explained. “When we take the host, Jesus turns you into him. That’s the difference.”

He quoted an axiom of the fathers of the church: “The body of Christ in the Eucharist builds up the body of Christ in the church.”
The fourth Pauline view of the church, according to Fr. McBride, is that it is “a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

“Just as we cannot separate the church from Christ, we cannot separate the church from the Holy Spirit,” he said, referencing 1 Corinthians 3:16.

Noting that the Holy Spirit “sustains the church in good times and bad,” Fr. McBride said, “The Spirit influences us with an abundance of gifts. The Holy Spirit is giving us all the gifts we need to make it work.”

His final point was that Paul viewed the church as an “icon of love.”

“The love talked about in St. Paul is not human love, but divine love,” Fr. McBride said. With reference to Romans 5:5, the priest said that God’s love is the soul of every virtue; love is the opposite of all vices; and virtues express genuine love.