"Get off your Irish high horse O’Donnell!" -a suggestion once given me by my high school history teacher in the heat of a battle (actually it was a discussion). Now, I could have been smart and say "Ok" heeding his advice, but I was only a high school student then, and I responded: "My? high horse!" That did it. I was sent to the dean of students-we called him director in those days. Once there I had to explain why I was in his office. He laughed, but strongly suggested that I recognize who was the teacher and who was the student in that class. I got down from my horse and I won.
Well, you’d think that I would have learned, but it seems that I have to keep relearning that particular lesson. As a teacher I often used to think that I was "in charge" after all, that’s what they told me at the De Paul School of Education-"You will be in charge of your classroom." The principal of the school also told me that. Truth be told, despite all my great knowledge and experience, sometimes I would again find myself on my "Irish high horse". I had to learn that my students brought much to the classroom; issues that sometimes got in the way of my lessons for the day. Despite all my efforts, my students’ issues often took precedence. When I recognized that, I was successful; when I stayed on my high horse, we both lost.
Well, the lessons continue today as a retired writer of reflections and the other great things I’m doing in retirement. Just when I think I’ve got it-I’ve got all the answers-people close to me demonstrate how much I have to learn.
Even on my Irish high horse, I don’t think I’m at all a match for the apostle, St. Paul, but it seems he also had to learn this lesson. The lesson isn’t in today’s reading, but we know it’s coming. Today he is described as: "Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church;* entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment." (Acts 8:3) I suspect he meant well, just like me.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.