Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The story of St. Paul and his invisible horse

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY | Published January 21, 2022

So many little girls are enamored of horses, but my own experience with these beasts was doomed from the get-go. My parents couldn’t afford riding lessons, but they wanted their daughters to have a well-rounded childhood, so they treated us to pony rides.

I recall being terrified when I was hoisted upon the pony’s back and then dumbfounded when he revealed a decidedly stubborn streak. While the other children were enjoying their rides, my pony wandered away from the group and staked out a claim on an apparently delicious patch of grass.

All the adults seemed to have vanished at this point, so there was no one around to advise me. I begged and pleaded with the pony to move, but he ignored me. Then I gave him a gentle nudge in the stomach with my foot. Nothing.

I gave him a harder nudge, which definitely got his attention. He slowly turned his head around, bared his big yellow teeth at me—and gave me a hearty nip on my leg. My screams brought the adults running.

The people in charge of the pony rides assured my parents it had been a friendly love nibble. But I looked over at the pony, and I swear he was grinning triumphantly at me.

From then on, my experience with horses was entirely imaginative, as my sister and I enjoyed transforming ourselves into invisible—and quite obedient—horses in the backyard. We whinnied and pranced to our hearts’ delight beneath the azure sky.

At school, Sister told us about Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, where he saw a blinding light and fell off his horse. He heard Jesus ask, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?

When I read the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, though, I found no mention of a horse.

Much later, I learned that many artists depicted the conversion scene with a horse, which led to the belief that this was scriptural. But as a child I was too timid to ask Sister about the passage and since I had a vivid imagination, I concluded his horse was invisible.

I feel a kinship with Paul and love him dearly, not because of his amazing experience on the road, but because of his previous life, when he used to hunt down Christian men and women, and deliver them in chains to prison.

My own actions weren’t that dramatic, but when I was teaching philosophy in college, I would  steer my students away from Christianity. You see, my own college professors had so thoroughly shaken my childhood faith that I’d become a materialist, who believed nothing existed beyond the physical world.

In my forties, through God’s grace, I had a wake-up call that knocked me off my metaphorical high horse and brought me back to Catholicism. I realized that when Jesus asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting me?” he was asking all of us. I understood that when we deny Christ to others, we’re hurting Christ himself.

Perhaps, if I make it to heaven, I’ll get to meet St. Paul. I can just see him galloping up to me on a majestic steed and asking if I’d like a ride. Once I’m seated securely behind him, he’d gently tap the reins and off we’d go.

In my imagination, everything is perfect, just as you’d expect in heaven, with the horse galloping across verdant fields beneath an azure sky. And in this dream, I realize another kinship with this saint, which makes me love him even more. In our own ways, it seems we’ve both had experiences with invisible horses.

Artwork by Jef Murray ( Lorraine’s email address is