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.