In this article, Ong explains why the Paulist Fathers find the purpose and motivation for their religious order in the life of St. Paul.  This article is an offshoot of Frontiers in American Catholicism published in 1957 by Macmillan, a book in which Ong researched and wrote about the early Paulists in America, especially Father Isaac Thomas Hecker, founder of the order.

Ong asserts that Hecker (and other early Paulists Hewit, Deshon, and Baker) found in St. Paul "a man between two worlds." As first a Jew and then a Christian, St. Paul was caught in the tension between body and soul, temporal order and spiritual order, and other seeming contradictions (rejection and reconciliation, death and life, folly and wisdom).  Paul's writing reflects a dialectic frame of mind, a flow between two poles evident in Jesus' teachings as well.

This dialectical approach in St. Paul made him attractive to Hecker and his colleagues because they, like Paul, were adult converts to the Roman Church from American Protestantism.  Like the Jews of Paul's day who converted to Christianity as a fuller expression of their faith, so too Hecker et. al. converted to Catholicism for much the same reason.

An even more striking connection for the Paulists to St. Paul is the fact that St. Paul was a citizen of the Roman Empire, a Graeco-Roman Jew who converted to the new Christian religion.  He was, once again, a man between two worlds--Roman/Greek and Hebrew/Christian.  Hecker experienced a similar situation because he was a man between the worlds of America and Europe.  He lived in both worlds; he was born in America, but he entered the novitiate in Belgium and actually conceived the idea for the Paulist community in Rome.  He felt the tradition of Europe but wanted his Church to be fully American.  In this tension Hecker learned to be inclusive, not exclusive, in his understanding of his faith.

In the last part of the article, Ong celebrates the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Paulists by calling on the Roman Catholic Church to be the same inclusive community that Hecker (and St. Paul himself) called for, to live in the present, and look to the future, keeping open all channels of communication.
 

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