Saturday, March 22, 2014


We have safely arrived at Mundelein Seminary this evening. 
Thank you for your prayers and journeying with us during our pilgrimage to the Land of Christ. 
God Bless You!

Friday, March 21, 2014


This is the final day of our Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. We are almost on our way back home. Truly, it has been a blessing to be able to walk the paths of our Lord Jesus Christ, to experience the people he lived among, to hear the language He spoke. We would like to thank all the people - God's instruments who have made this wonderful pilgrimage possible for us. We are grateful to all those who have been praying for us throughout our time in Israel. Please know that we have been interceding for you before God and will continue to do so. May Jesus Christ, and He crucified bestow on all of you His many blessings. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Visit the Home of Peace Orphanage in Jerusalem

Only a few days remain for us pilgrims here in the Holy Land. Fr. Fuller has emphasized to us not to check out of the pilgrimage and to remain a pilgrim because God still wants to give us grace in these final days.  Many of the men who have done the eight day silent retreat through IPF can testify to this reality. On Thursday we will have a day of recollection in order to thank God for this privileged opportunity.  

In our final days, the schedule affords us many open days for us to be able to visit any of the sites we have visited.  Some people returned to Yad Vashem in order to take in more of the exhibits. Others went to Ein Karem where John the Baptist was born and the Church of the Visitation. Another group went up to the Temple Mount. There are surely many places one can visit. 

A group of 11 seminarians climbed the Mount of Olives to visit the Home of Peace Orphanage and present a donation from Mundelein Seminary. Throughout the year at Mundelein, various social events serve as fundraisers for different charities. This year 3 North's Casino Night elected to donate money to the Polish Sisters of St. Joseph who run an orphanage in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The children enjoyed a break from their studies to interact with the seminarians.  This was indeed a rewarding experience for all involved.  

On a closing note, yesterday was also the observance of Purim here in Jerusalem. In our class on the Five Jewish Scrolls we learned about this feast found in the Book of Esther.  It is a day where people dress up in costumes and celebrate. 
It is much like our celebration of Halloween. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Saint Peter's Church in Jaffa

            On our final Sunday in the Holy Land, we took our final bus trip to the ancient port city of Joppa (now called Jaffa) where we visited St. Peter’s Catholic Church.  This beautiful church stands on a bluff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.  To the north are the towers of modern-day Tel Aviv. The church commemorates the passage in Acts in which Peter has a dream where he sees a sheet being lowered by its four corners; on the sheet are all the animals of creation (Acts 10:9-16).  The message Peter receives from the dream is that the new covenant Christ has established between God and man has abolished the old dietary restrictions of Judaism.  

It was right after this that Peter baptized a man named Cornelius along with his whole family, the first Gentiles to be baptized (Acts 10:17-33), showing how the new covenant was open to all.  Peter’s visit to Joppa in a way represents the beginning of the spread of the Gospel beyond Jerusalem, an expansion to the ends of the earth which continues to this day.  And it is a very fitting place for us to visit as we near the end of our pilgrimage, a pilgrimage that began in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, continued to Galilee, where Jesus spent the hidden years of his life and conducted his public ministry, and then to Jerusalem, where he suffered, died, and rose from the dead.  In Joppa the Church established by Jesus began to spread to the Gentiles. We are not called to remain in Jerusalem but to return to the seminary and to our home dioceses where we will soon be ordained deacons. And each one of us has been given the same mission as the early Church, “Go, and make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:19).”  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Bethpage Church: Jesus mounts the mule to descend into Jerusalem

Our destination this past Saturday was the Mount of Olives where we visited three churches:  Bethpage, Pater Noster, and Dominus Flevit.  Bethpage commemorates where Jesus mounted the mule to descend into Jerusalem (c.f. Luke 19:28-40). Along the same route of Jesus’ descent, Luke (19:41-44) records that Jesus wept over Jerusalem marked by the Church called Dominus Flevit. 

Dominus Flevit Church

The Church of Pater Noster commemorates the place where Jesus taught his disciples how to pray.  Tradition holds that Jesus regularly taught his disciples in caves.  On the Mount of Olives alone there are two such caves: one at the bottom near the Church of All Nations, and the other being Pater Noster. 

The Church of Pater Noster

The grounds of some sites we visited have adorned prayers specific to the site in multiple languages.  This was the case at the two churches in Ein Karem: The Visitation (Magnificat) and the Birth of John the Baptist (Benedictus).  The Church of the Pater Noster was no exception with over 160 plaques containing the words of the Our Father.  Many groups decide to chant the Our Father in their native tongue; our group elected to chant the Our Father in the language given to the name of the church--Latin. 

There are many religious orders present in the Holy Land, predominantly the Franciscans, in addition to the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), Legionaries of Christ, Benedictines, and the Carmelites. Throughout our pilgrimage we have encountered Carmelite Friars at two places: Muhraqa (where Elijah slayed the false prophets of Baal) and on Mount Carmel (where Elijah sought refuge). The Church of the Pater Noster is also home to a convent of cloistered Carmelite sisters.  In addition to Pater Noster, there were Carmelite Sisters in Bethlehem. 

Visit to the Carmelite Sisters in Bethlehem

Perhaps unknown to many, John Paul II declared the founder of the Carmelite Sisters in Bethlehem Blessed on November 13, 1983.  Blessed Mariam Baouardy, affectionately called the Little Arab, was a native of Palestine before joining the Carmelites in Pau, France.  She is regarded as a mystic of the Church, noted for her levitations, ecstasies, stigmata, apparitions, prophecies, and bilocations to name only a few of her gifts! As a parting gift, the sisters in Bethlehem gave all the seminarians their own small relic of Bl. Mariam (a piece of her habit).

Relics of Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified in Bethlehem 

During our time here in the Holy Land we have had the privileged opportunity to pray at many holy sites where many holy people have been before we arrived.  We give thanks to God for this privileged time of grace and look forward to the gifts God wishes to give us in our final week, as we pray in the way Jesus taught us, thy will be done!

Monday, March 17, 2014


There's no doubt that any time Palestine and Israel are mentioned there are as many opinions as people out there. Having heard both sides, the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives, it's much harder to say that one side is absolutely in the wrong or in the right. What this land represents, in a way, is sinfulness and what the effects of sin can be on people who are dependent on others. Both are dependent on foreign powers, both in their history and in the current political climate. At the same time, both desire independence and autonomy How is sin connected to this? A common element of sin is the desire for power and control. It expresses itself through fear and anger. Sure, we can all look to big things like attacks, but sometimes it helps to see how small things contribute. Things such as animosity, ill-will, name calling, jeering, and mocking all have their place in furthering sin in the world. In this land the conflicts and prejudices of Europe meet the conflicts and prejudices of the Middle East—often times it is those who seek peace that are the most abused.

There is hope in this land. We've spoken to many level-headed people on both sides of the border who recognize that this land suffers from special interests, misunderstanding, and fear. They are working through education to remedy this among the youth of Palestine and Israel, attempting to set aside myth and prejudice in hopes of giving each other a true understanding of the religions and cultures present. In talking with these men and women I can say we all came away impressed.

This is my opinion, but I've been pleasantly surprised by Catholic efforts educating, serving, and working for the people of both Israel and Palestine. Reconciliation, I've seen, is possible through work and prayer. Large wounds heal slowly, but they only heal when they're attended to. This land gives us two lessons: that division can be caused and intensified by simple acts of ignorance or wickedness and healing comes about by simple acts of patience, openness, and charity. This means that it's all within our power here and elsewhere.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Today we had the great blessing to hear a talk by a priest of the Hebrew speaking community here in Israel who also has worked at the forefront of Jewish Christian relations. His information and experience helped piece together many things that have come up for us in our classes and from the variety of people we have met on pilgrimage. I think we have made strides in understanding more about the Jewish people and their faith. Especially in regards to our common heritage and the scripture we share. 

From what I gathered the Hebrew speaking Catholic is a rather new development, but it makes sense if you figure in the fact that many of the migrants to Israel are Catholics looking for work and seeking a prosperous place to raise a family. The new mission is now to provide catechesis for these children who are being raised in schools utilizing Hebrew. We celebrated Holy Mass with the community in Hebrew. The Mass was aided by a seminarian who played the guitar and sang beautiful songs throughout.  It was truly a privilege to pray with this community and chat with them afterwards.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


The roof of St. Peter in Gallicantu Church
Yesterday, we traveled to the church of St Peter Gallicantu, which is located right outside of the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. Gallicantu is the location of two significant things to pray and reflect on. The first is that this is the location where Saint Peter, the chief apostle, denied knowing Christ three times.

St. Peter in Gallicantu Church

The other significant thing is the old cistern, which is, as tradition holds, the location where Jesus was kept overnight after being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Inside the cistern prison, we quietly prayed to ourselves Psalm 88. Praying upon these two moments in Christ’s life help us to reflect on our own life and our relationship with Christ.  How do we respond when we feel betrayed by those whom we love dearly, how do we react when we feel imprisoned spiritually, mentally or physically? I leave you with the words of Psalm 88.
The Sacred Pit where Jesus was kept overnight after being arrested
Psalm 88
O Lord, my God, I call for help by day;
    I cry out in the night before thee.
2 Let my prayer come before thee,
    incline thy ear to my cry!
  3 For my soul is full of troubles,
    and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am reckoned among those who go down to the Pit;
    I am a man who has no strength,
5 like one forsaken among the dead,
    like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom thou dost remember no more,
    for they are cut off from thy hand.
6 Thou hast put me in the depths of the Pit,
    in the regions dark and deep.
7 Thy wrath lies heavy upon me,
    and thou dost overwhelm me with all thy waves.Selah
8 Thou hast caused my companions to shun me;
    thou hast made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9     my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon thee, O Lord;
    I spread out my hands to thee.
10 Dost thou work wonders for the dead?
    Do the shades rise up to praise thee? Selah
11 Is thy steadfast love declared in the grave,
    or thy faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are thy wonders known in the darkness,
    or thy saving help in the land of forgetfulness?
  13 But I, O Lord, cry to thee;
    in the morning my prayer comes before thee.
14 O Lord, why dost thou cast me off?
    Why dost thou hide thy face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
    I suffer thy terrors; I am helpless.
16 Thy wrath has swept over me;
    thy dread assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
    they close in upon me together.
18 Thou hast caused lover and friend to shun me;
    my companions are in darkness.

Friday, March 14, 2014


The Temple Mount

The Temple Mount is a very holy place for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  Entering early in the morning, it was beautiful. The gardens are very well kept and, for a place of such tension for the three religions, it was actually relatively peaceful. For the Jewish people, this is the holiest of all sites. Tradition says that it was from here that the world expanded into its present form and where God gathered the dust used to create the first man, Adam. The site is also the location of Abraham's binding of Isaac. Many Jews do not go up on the Temple Mount because this was the site of the Temple, and before going to the Temple requires purification.  So out of respect for the ancient traditions, they do not go up. It was the Holy of Holies of the Temple where the priest communicated with God. Seeing all this history and the place where the temple stood put me in awe.

The Dome of the Rock

For Islam, this is the site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Asqa mosque, which is the third holiest site in Islam.  It is important as being the site of the "Farthest Mosque" (mentioned in the Qur'an as the location of Muhammad's miraculous Night Journey) to heaven. The Dome of the Rock is the image that is most visible throughout the old city, as it can be seen clearly from miles away. Seeing it in person, one could see the beauty of the place and see why for Muslims, this is also a very holy site. For Christians, the temple was very instrumental in the life of Jesus. Jesus walked here, many times. He impressed the Jewish theologians with his knowledge of the Torah as a twelve-year-old boy. Jesus challenged the corruption and distortion and prophesied the destruction of the temple. Though there are tensions between these three religions, walking around the Temple Mount the tensions appeared to be gone. There was silence and in it that silence, a very peaceful experience seeing the beauty of God's creation.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Entrance to the Tomb of Christ

This last week, 12 members of our group spent the night at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This space houses many major sites and relics related to Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. Some highlights include Calvary (Mark 15:22), the Tomb (Mark 15:45), and the Pillar used at the Scourging (Mark 15:15). 

Stairs leading to the Calvary

Being marked by a pagan sanctuary, Constantine eventually ordered the construction of the church following his conversion to Christianity in the 300a.  During this time, his mother St. Helena came to the Holy Land to oversee the construction of the church. The original church was destroyed by the Muslims in the 11th century, and the current building was reconstructed (albeit smaller than the original sanctuary). Today, this space is shared by many Christian groups (Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic, and Roman Catholic), and services are regulated by a “Status Quo” set in place during the British Mandate. The Status Quo allows for pilgrims to keep an overnight vigil in the church. As long as there no liturgy taking place, the sites are open for prayer and contemplation. The only rules governing the overnight vigil are: no candles, no singing, and no sleeping. The latter rule made our stay both challenging and meaningful. 

Our Lady of Dolours

Our group was expected to arrive at 7:00PM, and a ritual of sorts marked the closing of the doors for the night. A Muslim family has possession of the keys (mandated by the British as part of the Status Quo), and one group is charged with passing a ladder through a small hatch in the door every evening. The Muslim man typically receives the ladder, locks the hatch 12-feet above the ground, and passes the ladder back to a member of a different community. This routine is done every morning and evening. 

Chapel of the Crucifixion

For most of us, the experience proved to be very enriching. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher draws thousands of people daily from all over the world, but this fact oftentimes makes it difficult for prayer. Most of us had the opportunity to spend 30 minutes- to one hour in the tomb, something certainly unheard of during the day. We participated in the night liturgies of all the groups, and witnessed their different styles of worship firsthand. 

Chapel of Calvary

If you ever have the opportunity to overnight in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, we would certainly encourage you to do so. The intimacy with probably the holiest site in Christianity is something completely worthwhile.