In the Footsteps of St. Paul

greece road

The remnants of the old Roman Road in Philippi. The road dates back 300 years Before Christ and is called Via Egnatia. This road would have been trod by St. Paul.

Good morning from Greece and a town called Kalambaka very near to monasteries in Meteora which we will visit tomorrow. It’s been a wonderful trip so far, but tiring. I will do my best here to record some of the highlights.

Monday, Jan. 21

We began following in St. Paul’s footsteps by coming to Philippi in Greece. This seems fitting. It is in Philippi that Paul makes his first presence in Europe, Paul himself a native of Tarsus, which is in present day Turkey. St. Paul is of two worlds: steeped in his Judaism, and a citizen of the Roman Empire, trained in the arts of the Greco-Roman Empire.

Our first step in Paul’s footsteps was to visit Lydia’s grove. As Paul writes in Acts 16, it is here that he met Lydia, dealer in purple cloth, worshiper of God. After listening to Paul, Lydia asks to be baptized.

We noted the connections between Lydia and those we serve in Catholic Charities. Lydia was a single female head of household (a widow). Being that purple was a most expensive dye, it seems clear Lydia was a successful businesswoman. And so, by the small river in Philippi, we pilgrims from Catholic Charities noted how we are trying to empower women through our asset development programs.

As we journeyed into this northeastern part of Greece we heard about the many undocumented people flowing into Greece (and thus the European Union) from Bulgaria and other eastern European countries. While Greece is under severe economic pressures, it still is a better alternative to desperate peoples from other non-European countries. 

greece 1

Father Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, and Father Donald Senior, professor of New Testament Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, celebrate Mass in Lydia’s grove on a very cold day.

Tuesday, Jan. 20

We began our day by visiting the Church of St Demetrius in Thessalonica. Demetrius is the patron saint of Thessalonica and was martyred in the 5th century. We were lucky enough to be there while a liturgy was underway. Orthodox Christian liturgies are lush and filled with ritual. It was a wonderful way to begin our leave-taking of Thessalonica and northeastern Greece.

We stopped in Vergina and viewed the Royal Tombs of Macedonia. It is certain that one of the tombs was that of Phillip II, Macedonian king and father of Alexander the Great. The artifacts are stunning, particularly when you realize you are viewing objects from 310 years before the birth of Christ.

As we traveled southwester, we were treated to a view of Mt. Olympus.  Any reader of Greek mythology would be thrilled to be looking at the high mountain home of the Greek gods.

Hope all is well.  I am thinking of everyone and being prayerful on behalf of all of us.

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