Yesterday, we continued our pilgrimage along the western coast of Turkey, taking in the beauty of the Aegean Sea from the top of the city of Assos, and concluding our travels for the day in the ancient city of Troas. It was from Troas that St. Paul set sail to continue his journey into Europe, bringing the good news of Jesus Christ into the West.
The ancient city of Ephesus was a major center of the Roman world. It was a port city with a population that was near 250,000. The city had streets were made of marble and had a library that was second only to the great library of Alexandria. In the city were many temples to the Roman gods, especially the goddess Artemis, whose name was repeated for two hours in the theatre when Paul tried to proclaim the gospel in Ephesus.
Today, we visited Laodicea, one of the Churches mentioned in the book of Revelation (Rev 1:11, 3:14-22), and it was there that we were blessed to see the ruins of an early Christian community founded by St. Paul. The detail and artwork that went into these early churches was astounding, not only on an architectural level, but also theologically.
Today, we were privileged to visit the ruins of the church where these words were proclaimed by St. Paul to the people of Antioch of Pisidia. As I was standing and looking around at the landscape that surrounds the ancient city in ruins, I was struck by the permanence of St. Paul’s words.
When we were boarding our flight in Chicago to start our pilgrimage, there was an American there who asked about my USML hat. When I told him it was for Mundelein Seminary, he asked if we were going to be priests. I then told him we were going on pilgrimage to follow St. Paul. He asked, “Who’s St. Paul?”
After our ~16 hours of airports and flying, we made it to Istanbul, our first stop on our 2023 Mundelein pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Paul. Seeing as Istanbul is over 90% Muslim, like the rest of Turkey, and St. Paul never explicitly mentions stopping in the city, it might seem like a strange first place for us to visit.