In the midst of Paul’s second missionary journey, he had a vision that prompted him to go at once to preach in Macedonia (formerly a Roman province adjacent to Achaia/Greece). During this first mission visit to Europe, Paul soon found himself at a riverbank in the Macedonian city of Philippi. Lydia happened to be at this river with a group of women who were seemingly gathered together for a time of worship. When Paul began to speak to these women about the life of Christ, Lydia’s heart opened, and she believed. Amazingly, Lydia had her entire household baptized and then insistently encouraged Paul and his companions to stay at her home during their time in Philippi.
The 16th chapter of Acts mentions that Lydia was a dealer of purple cloth (hence she is also known as “Lydia Purpuraria” — Lydia the Purple Seller) from the city of Thyatira. Thyatira was a city in Asia Minor (Turkey) known for its cloth and dye-making businesses. Intriguing to note is that Thyatira was located in a region known as Lydia. So, it appears that Lydia may have been named after her region of birth and at some point traveled from Thyatira to Philippi. Interestingly, Lydia’s hometown of Thyatira was one of the seven churches addressed in the Book of Revelation.
While in Philippi, it appears that Lydia may have let her house be used as a church. The Bible records that when Paul and Silas were evangelizing in the city, they found themselves in prison — quickly followed by a miraculous release. When they left the prison, Paul and Silas went to Lydia’s house, where some Christians were gathered together. The missionaries gave the group of Philippian Christians encouragement and then traveled on to Thessalonica.
Lydia is never mentioned in the Bible again after this story. Whether she remained in Philippi or returned to Thyatira is uncertain. What is known, however, is that her warm acceptance of Paul’s mission opened wide a door of Europe to Christian teachings.
Five Days with St. Lydia
The Church remembers St. Lydia on May 20, and she is considered to be the patron saint of dye workers. Truly, anyone who works with fabric might call her their patron saint — or anyone at all — even if you simply like her story! Five days with a Bible and this impressive New Testament saint can help you to imagine with more clarity the spread of the early Church. Using the five passages listed below, picture yourself at each setting, read a few footnotes, and journal about any reflections or insights that come to mind. Let the Holy Spirit bring you closer to the Lord through the influence of St. Lydia.
- Day 1) Acts 16:9–10
- Day 2) Acts 16:11–15
- Day 3) Acts 16:40
- Day 4) Philippians 1:1
- Day 5) Revelation 2:18–19