Seeing the Hand of God’s Providence

The seminarians look out over the Aegean Sea, across which St. Paul would eventually sail to spread the Gospel to the western part of the Roman empire

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. Although there wasn’t much to ‘see’ there (as most of Troas has yet to be excavated), nevertheless there was still a profound physical beauty to the site – the landscape, the plants, the weather.

A tree before sunset at Troas, where St. Paul set sail to go west

But while we were taking in the site, our guide Orhan made a comment that struck me. He said to us, “Who knows … if Paul never set sail to Europe, none of you may be Christian. Christianity may have just remained in the Holy Land if it wasn’t for Paul.” What a profound thought! In this lies the true beauty, the spiritual beauty, of Troas. Because of Paul’s commitment to following Christ, and preaching the Gospel, Christianity was introduced all around the Mediterranean. From there, over the years, it continued to spread all around the world. And this same Gospel which St. Paul preached is the reason why we, as a group, are currently preparing for the priesthood of Jesus Christ at Mundelein Seminary and are making this pilgrimage of walking in the footsteps of St. Paul.  

Jack Watt (Diocese of Peoria) reads from the Acts of the Apostles, recounting how, at Troas, St. Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man imploring him for help (Acts 16:8-10).

Although it was such a simple comment, Orhan’s words gave me a greater awareness of how much God is at work in my own life and in all our lives. How many little things throughout my life have played an integral role in bringing me to where I am today? The true answer to that question is probably incomprehensible, because His providential care for his children is beyond anything we can imagine. And although we can often lose sight of his guiding hand – due to our own ‘blindness’, or due to suffering or hardships – every now and then we receive these profound moments of grace where the Lord opens our eyes to see how He has been at work all along. 

Christian Sinclair (Diocese of Joliet) laughs on top of a stone pillar at Assos after pretending to be an ancient saint imparting wisdom to the rest of the group

Making this pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Paul has been a beautiful opportunity to receive this renewed sense of ‘sight’. The life of St. Paul is a true testament to God’s providence and love. God always takes the lead – even in the times when it is hard to see that he is at work.  While St. Paul experienced more hardships than most, he never lost his sight of God’s guiding hand and His fatherly love. St. Paul knew that a life in Christ is the only life worth living because apart from Him we cannot find our way. The words of Christ echo true in the life of St. Paul, and I know that they hold true in ours as well: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).

-Christian Sinclair, Diocese of Joliet

Photo Credits: Ryan Nooraee and Thanh Ho

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