It’s 11 degrees F., outside this morning (well, technically yesterday morning since this isn’t getting posted until after midnight). It’s always a good morning when I’m meditating on the daily scripture but it’s especially a good morning to be doing so while sitting by a warm wood fire in the fireplace.
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. In the first reading from today’s Liturgy, Acts 22:3-16, I can clearly visualize St. Paul, bloody and bruised from a severe beating by the Jews for preaching against the law and for bringing Greeks into the temple, standing on the temple steps witnessing in his own defense how Jesus Christ had not so delicately called his name to follow Him. As I read, I underlined in red the words the Holy Spirit spoke through Ananias to Saul:
“The God of our ancestors designated you to know His will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of His voice, for you will be His witness before all to what you have seen and heard. Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon His name.” (Acts 22:14-16)
With the warmth of the fire, the comfort of my favorite chair, and a cup of coffee in hand, my mind slipped back in time to exactly six years and ten months ago today when I heard Jesus call my name. His call to me was considerably more delicate and less dramatic than His call was to Saul, but no less effective.
I wasn’t persecuting the Church or anyone in particular. Although I’d been married to a faithful Catholic for thirty years, I was neither here nor there with respect to religion. No, at the time I was simply in a place where the pressures of life had me pinned down to the point of suffocation. My work was not satisfying and it was keeping me from enjoying time with my family. I didn’t know if they loved me or if they knew how much I loved them.
Looking back, I have to believe that, after 55 years, the Lord finally had me where He wanted me. It was also in His plan for two men to have befriended me, for those same two men to be on a Christ Renews His Parish giving team together, and for me to accept their invitation to attend the retreat thinking that I would find time to relax, get away from the stress, and reflect on my life. Little did I know my life was about to change.
I saw more praying that day at the retreat than I’d seen my entire life. For the first time ever I heard men witness how Christ had changed their lives. But, mostly, I saw happy men whose hearts were full of love for others and who felt loved by their families and by the Lord. I knew my life was missing something.
That night I couldn’t sleep. Something was happening to me that I couldn’t explain. Finally giving in, I got out of bed and went to my knees in prayer. Not knowing how to pray, I simply asked God to help me feel His love, to realize the love from my family and to know that they knew how much I loved them.
It didn’t take long for God to answer my prayer. By noon the next day I’d received affirmations of love from all my family along with acknowledgement that they knew my love for them. I realized their love had been there all along but the darkness surrounding me had blinded me to it. And, I discovered God’s manifestation of love for me through friends I didn’t even know I had – friends who have since become, as the saying goes, more precious than gold.
I don’t remember a friend ever speaking the words to me that Ananias said to Saul, but I felt them in my heart. I knew without being told that I needed to “get up and have myself baptized and my sins washed away”. So, without delay, I went to our Pastor the next day and asked to be taken into the Church.
I also knew that I was called to be His witness to all I’d seen and heard. Shortly after my initiation into the Church I began contributing to this blog as a way of evangelizing to others. I hoped to show how I saw God working in my life so that others might more easily see Him working in theirs, too.
I participated in subsequent Christ Renews His Parish retreats with the hope of seeing other men’s lukewarm, laissez faire faith catch on fire like mine had. And, through these experiences I discovered that many Catholic men yearn to grow in their faith but don’t know which way to turn nor to whom they can talk and, as a result, their fires often die. I prayed to find a way to help these men.
Again, God answered my prayers by bringing to my attention the concept of spiritual mentorship. And, it wasn’t long before He confirmed His call to me to pursue becoming a spiritual mentor by introducing me to the Apostles of the Interior Life and their Catholic Spiritual Mentorship Program. That was two years ago, and this month I completed the two year program of study for certification as a Spiritual Mentor. I realized today that i have more zeal for helping other men grow in their relationships with Christ and live lives of holiness than I ever had in any of my real jobs – because this job is born of love.
As a result of his conversion, St. Paul went on to convert entire civilizations and, from which, many individuals went on to become saints themselves. With God’s grace, I’ll just be happy if my conversion might become efficacious by bringing a handful of men closer to Him.
“Lord, I cracked open the door of my heart almost seven years ago and You blew it off the hinges! I pray, Lord, for the grace to let the Holy Spirit work through me to do Your will of helping others grow closer to You. May You accept my service as eternal gratitude for Your love and mercy. Amen.”
(Conversions was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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