Do you think St. Paul knew Mary?

The statue of St. Paul in the courtyard in front of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

We had just covered roughly 2,200 miles by bus across Turkey, but when we arrived in Greece it was this simple yet thoughtful question from a classmate that got me refocused on the Marian aspect of our pilgrimage. None of us could come up with a definitive answer, but in a sense the beauty of the mystery has helped me engage with our pilgrimage more. If anything, our travels have shown me that we are all pilgrims with our shared goal of eternal life with the Trinitarian God. However, in a particular fashion Mary has set the example for us on how to integrate our spiritual pilgrimage into every moment of our daily life.

When we landed in Thessaloniki, Greece, I was reminded of St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, in which he wrote, “Rejoice always, pray continuously, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 

Tomb of St. Paul
Seminarians praying before the tomb of St. Paul, the Apostle at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Beginning with the Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul, the pilgrims have now come to his final resting place in Rome.

Although I can’t say with certainty, I like to imagine that Mary would have met Paul at some point, because this excerpt of St. Paul’s letter sounds so much like the words our Mother Mary would have used to encourage us to be in relationship with the Lord at all times… and maybe she inspired him like she still does us today! She always pondered things in her heart, and that prayerfulness allowed her to maintain a disposition of gratitude. Gratitude has been one of the keys to this pilgrimage being a fruitful experience for us, since a thankful heart leads us to finding joy in acknowledging God’s presence, whether it be at the ruins of an ancient Biblical city in Greece or in a stunning Catholic Church in Rome. Both experiences help draw us closer to the heart of Christ through Mary’s intercession and build a deeper love for God.

I knew we were in good hands on the feast of St. Juan Diego recently when Fr. Dennis Kasule preached about how Mary empowers each of us to develop a deep personal relationship with each member of the Trinity, just like she empowered St. Juan Diego to trust more in the Lord. That message of Mary’s motherly care for us seemed to be confirmed when we had the privilege of celebrating Mass a day later in a church named after Our Lady of Consolation. 

-Lee Noel, Diocese of Cheyenne

Photo credits: Ryan Noorae and Thanh Ho

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