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.
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
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.
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
Bethpage Church: Jesus mounts the mule to descend into Jerusalem
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
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
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.
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
to the Carmelite Sisters in Bethlehem
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
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!
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
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
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.
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
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
O Lord, my God, I call for help by
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
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
for they are cut off from thy hand.
6 Thou hast put me in the depths of
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Thy wrath lies heavy upon me,
and thou dost overwhelm me with all
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.
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
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
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
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
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.