10th October 2022

In my first year at Senior School, we ‘did’ St. Paul in the once-a-week Scripture lesson. We had to fill in Paul’s missionary journeys on a fairly crude map of the Roman Empire. (This was before photocopiers!) We labelled the places mentioned in Acts and later had to learn the lot for exams. If you live in the North Midlands, you know his first missionary journey went to Derby and Leicester (Derbe and Lystra).

The map had no scale and I never gave a thought to what was involved in such extensive travelling. Luke does not tell us because his initial readers all knew what was involved. He only includes the story of Paul being ship-wrecked. (If you could, you went by sea as the walking was harder.) 

Saul, as he then was, went from Jerusalem to Damascus probably on foot, maybe with a mule. This is the equivalent of starting from Bristol to walk to Edinburgh. After his conversion he walked back. And that was only the start. No wonder that the so-called ‘pilgrimages’ in the steps of St Paul are tourist holidays by plane, train or coach.

Pilgrimage on foot has a long history and can be thought-provoking.

Keith’s and my only tiny pilgrimage on foot was a few miles of Paul’s last journey as a prisoner walking the Appian Way into Rome. The old Roman road is traffic free and tree-lined and you can see Rome ahead. It was an accidental pilgrimage as we could not find the bus stop to return from a visit to a catacomb but it was meaningful none-the-less.

Margaret Clements