Though I Wasn’t Knocked Off My Horse

I used to think it would be just like St. Paul, my life changing once and for all. I still remember the feeling when I was in high school and college and even afterward. It would be like falling in love, or being knocked off a horse: All of a sudden I would be on the ground looking up. It would be pretty much the way Caravaggio imagined it (left).

 I have been thinking about the so-called “call,” the lightning bolt from the blue, since reader Michael Halbrook commented on it Friday, asking “How do you finally discern the call?” I responded with a post on Saturday, and a bushel of more comments came in. Frank offered his own superb thoughts about it yesterday. And now I wake up Monday morning to find the Conversion of St. Paul on my calendar and yours.

I recognize late in life that my own adolescent imaginings of a life-changing vision or wake-up call were just that, adolescent imaginings. Just like the dream of falling in love. And now that I put it that way, I realize that for myself, there was never a voice, not yet anyway (I’m still keeping my ears open), but there was a falling in love. Maybe that’s what happened to St. Paul, only Carvaggio just had a heightened sense of drama. He did paint a lover’s surrender, didn’t he?

But then falling in love is just like St. Paul’s falling off his horse, isn’t it? Because what I never realized when I pined for “love” was how hard it can be to stay in love, what a commitment the vow of marriage is. As someone said yesterday—was it Father Barnes in his homily?—there are hundreds of magazine articles about where to buy the best wedding cake, but no simple how-to manual for keeping a marriage sacred and intact.

Just so St. Paul. We think of his conversion, and for myself, I envy him. Being called by Christ? And then going on to write the book on Christianity for the Gentiles? As a writer and Catholic blogger, I can only hope!!

But the travel, the smelly companions, the martyrdom? I don’t envy that. When I was a child we had a Siamese cat named Nero. That’s as close as I want to get to Rome in the AD 60s.

Before we require God to “call” us, I think we should meditate long and hard on how willing we are to answer the call. St. Paul answered, and we are still listening.

  • Daily Grace

    Great reflection!

  • Mary P.

    I was just reading two different versions of the Epiphany of St. Paul (It's from the Breviary on my iPhone, I can't tell you why it has two versions!) But they were interesting to compare. In the first-person account, St. Paul says his companions saw the light, but could not hear the voice. In the third-person account, the others "heard the voice but could see no one." In neither account, does the "voice" tell St. Peter what to do, aside from telling him to go into Damascus!So what is St. Paul to do once he gets to Damascus? How does he identify further instructions? Well, we know that the Lord sends someone to tell him. Envy St. Paul! But even after that, it's not like he got a book of instructions. That "bolt of lightening" message was pretty non-specific. He had to take those first halting steps to Damascus. So how do those of us waiting for that lightening strike figure out if something is God's will? I've taken it to mean if you're drawn to something, such as a particular action, but that action looks really challenging, but you can't seem to get it off your mind, then God is probably calling you to do it. If you're wrong, the God will make it pretty clear. But if you're right, then you'll see God's hand at work!

  • Michelle

    I like the new layout, with the shorter views of the entries. Makes it a LOT easier to find older posts! :)

  • Webster Bull

    Mary P,I really like your reflection. Whether or not we get knocked off our (high) horse, or are hit by lightning, or hear a voice, or hear only a faint whisper of wind–and let's remember we have no control over any of that–what matters is what we do next! What Paul did when he got to Damascus and afterward, or what you or I do with the sense or intuition or maybe stronger signal that God is asking something from us. I agree that we need to keep our eyes and ears open, and see what happens in response to our response. In fact, this is what happened when I started this blog. No, I didn't hear any voices, but I did wonder what this blog was serving. And I resolved to continue and see what followed. So far, so good!

  • Mary P.

    But Webster, you did start this blog. You thought or heard or dreamed or SOMETHING that started it. Your intention was different than what it is now. That doesn't mean you didn't or aren't doing what God wanted/wants you to do, just because you thought you were doing it for another reason!Am I right that you hesitated when you realize the blog was morphing? Please understand I'm not picking on you, but you are the obvious example. The blog grew, and you began to see that it was having an effect on people that you never conceived when you started. Then Frank came onboard (did you think that was an accident? Not me!), and look at it now!I pray every day that the Good Lord will use my eyes, hands, feet and voice as his. And when I see something that needs to be done, and I do my best to do it. Many times I fail. Sometimes I take that to mean that I wasn't meant to go there. Sometimes God uses my "failure" to end up with a beautiful solution to a problem I never saw. And sometimes I succeed only because HE has taken the project over, made things happen, and the results are far beyond what I could have imagined. LIke what happened to you with this blog.I think the entire thing is something you nailed in your initial post. We have to be ready for what to say when God sends us inclination or whisper or shout or lightening bolt. St. Paul was compelled to stumble into Damascus blind and helpless. Totally humbled, he was forced to wait there for an appointment with a man who, only days before, he would have humiliated and pulled back to Rome in chains behind his horse, and everyone knew it. He was a very talented, brilliant man, but he knew that it was his turn to wait upon God. Luckily, God asks us for far simpler things. Like simply trusting Him!Piece of cake, right?

  • Webster Bull

    Mary,Too tired to respond to such a complicated question tonight. But soon, even though it may be a bit like looking into a hall of mirrors, I think I will post about how this blog started and how it has morphed (several times already, actually). Which wasn't because of lightning or a horse, but it is a mystery, especially to me. Thanks for following, and also leading me now, I guess! :-)