For the past two weeks Robin and I have made a grand tour of Greece. The wifi has been spotty so posts to this blog have not been possible until today. We are now back in Athens at a nice hotel with good wifi and so I am now catching up a bit. The short version of how we wound up here in Greece begins with a desire to follow St. Paul's travels in this country. Our former Archbishop of Western Oregon, +John Vlazny, has been leading our pilgrimage and is always a delight to travel with. He has a talent for brief but thought provoking homilies that always seem to touch our hearts in a positive way. We have visited numerous churches and monasteries, celebrated daily mass in churches, hotels, at archeological sites, and even in a bar aboard ship. We swung through Mykonos on our way to Turkey where we visited Ephesus and the house where St. John the Evangelist cared for Mary, mother of Jesus, during the last years of her life. The extensive ruins of Ephesus, once a major trading port, were stunning. We also visited Pátmos, where St. John wrote the Book of Revelation. Our travels then took us to Rhodes, Crete, and Santorini before landing back in Piraeus and continuing on to Corinth where St. Paul preached in 51 and 52 AD. We pushed on to Olympia, Patras (where St. Andrew converted the city to Christianity during the reign of the Emperor Nero), and Delphi (located high up on the cliff sides of a breathtaking valley), and finally back to Athens where I now am sitting.
Our travels went smoothly for the most part. Robin cantored at all the masses even when our group caught and shared a cold that left half the group coughing and hacking (including Robin). The history of Christianity in this country is amazing as is the reality that Greece was truly the cradle of civilization. We saw lots of ruins, and antiquities that helped us understand how advanced the early Greeks were. Their engineering, and construction skills, their artistry and design capabilities, and their system of government all remind us, and humble us "modern" people, how much of what we claim as our own in the modern era was in existence thousands of years before Christ. So in short it was a remarkable journey. Pilgrimages can be, and usually are, somewhat challenging. I think that is why many feel attracted to this type of travel. Spiritual nourishment particularly in this day and age is ever more necessary. The pilgrim road, regardless of location, always seems to awaken us and lead us in some new positive direction. For that we are always grateful. So this pilgrim journey is now done, but another is beginning. We fly to Rome tomorrow and then will go by train to Florence. After a few rest days in Florence we will make our way to the Sanctuary of La Verna where St. Francis received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ. It is from this sanctuary that we will begin walking the Way of St. Francis to Assisi and then onwards to Rome. Another pilgrim road beckons and onward we go.