Donna and I recently returned from a trip to Greece and Turkey with the Catholic Theological Union (“CTU”) at the University of Chicago. There were 35 of us making a pilgrimage — following in the footsteps of St. Paul.
Saul of Tarsus was born in Tarsus in the Roman province of Cilicia in about 5 A.D. Saul was a Roman citizen but he was also a Jew and a Pharisee. And as a young man, he zealously persecuted the followers of Jesus of Nazareth and vigorously attacked the early Christian church — and its members. He played an active role in the stoning of the St. Stephen. And he was involved in the rounding up and silencing of Christians. However in or about 35 A.D. while walking on a road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus was struck down by a bright light and the voice of the Lord (Acts 9; Acts 22). Saul was blind for three days and upon opening his eyes, he literally saw the light. He underwent a dramatic conversion and began preaching the Christian gospel to all who would listen. And he was henceforth known as St. Paul. St. Paul went on to preach the Gospel of Christianity to Jews, Christians and Gentiles until his death at the hands of the Romans in 67 A.D.
The pilgrimage with CTU took us to most of the places where St. Paul wrote his iconic letters and to those places where he spent time: Thessaloniki (I and II Thessalonians); Philippi (Philippians); Corinth (I and II Corinthians); Ephesus (Ephesians); Antakya; Athens; Kavala; and other places. And we visited Tarsus. Where it all began. All I can say is “Wow!” And. . . St. Paul sure got around. And we did too. The trip was a bit arduous on occasion but immensely fulfilling. The only time of mild concern when we arrived in Istanbul on the evening of Friday, May 31st. Just after 9:00 p.m. To our hotel off Taksim Square. . . . .