I spent the last ten days of April on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. It was a trip that was delayed from 2012, when the intifada heated up again and we had to cancel our plans. When Joy, my friend and former colleague, emailed me that she was putting another group together, I jumped at the opportunity. I went with a group of 38 pilgrims, flying out of Boston. I knew a few of the pilgrims from New Hampshire, where I had been campus minister for Keene State College, but most of the pilgrims were strangers. In addition, about half the group was from Denver where Joy had studied Spiritual Direction. We were blessed to have two wonderful Oblate of the Virgin Mary priests accompanying us.
On the plane - ready for take off...
We landed in Tel Aviv on April 21 and were met by our guide Isaac, who had been specifically requested by Joy as she had met him on two previous pilgrimages to the Holy Land. He was truly amazing. Although Jewish, he knew more about Christianity and Scripture than most Christians I have met. We all had the sense that he didn’t just know about Jesus, but he knew Jesus (and yes, there is a difference). Over the next 9 days, Isaac was able to connect Old Testament, New Testament, history, archeology, culture, and geography together as we traveled from holy site to holy site. People ask me: what was your favorite part? It is very difficult to pick just one thing, but I think just having a sense of the geography and the lay of the land probably had the biggest impact on me.
Part of the group at Tel Aviv Airport
After we landed in Tel Aviv after a 11-hour flight, we took the bus North along the Mediterranean coast to Mt. Carmel and Stella Maris in Haifa.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Stella Maris
Haifa at Night
The following day we traveled to Galilee and saw Mount of Transfiguration, Megiddo, Nazareth and Cana. At Cana, the married couples in our group renewed their vows. I think my favorite part was seeing Mary’s house which is in the lower level of the Church of the Annunciation. It is not really a house as we would think, but more of a grotto that had been expanded and closed in with walls.
Church of the Mount of Transfiguration exterior
Church of the Transfiguration Bl. Sacrament Chapel
Mary's House, Nazareth
Church at Cana
Water Jar at Cana that would have held 70 Gallons of Water/Wine
At the end of the day, we traveled to Tiberias, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee where we stayed in a hotel for two nights. Every morning we awoke to the sunrise over the Sea of Galilee. What an amazing place to pray morning prayer.
Sunrise over the Sea of Gallilee
Stay tuned for future installments
JULY 23: SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The tiny mustard seed grows into a big bush (which produces more mustard seeds). A little yeast makes the entire dough rise. A little holiness can have a profound effect on the world. So often we focus on the evil in the world, on the sin and suffering around us. It is easy to let scandal and sin discourage us. Yet, if we know where to look, the Kingdom of God is all around us and growing. It is growing in the person nervously standing in line to go to Confession. It is growing in the teenager who befriends the new kid in the neighborhood. It is present whenever we decide to live our faith out loud and share Christ’s love by performing corporal or spiritual works of mercy. We may never know the fruit that our little acts of faith and love produce, yet it is the Kingdom of God growing all around us.
Laudate App: (android and iphone – just search your app store) This app has loads of Catholic resources from readings to prayers to liturgy of the hours, daily meditations, novenas. If it is Catholic, it is probably on the Laudate App!
JULY 16: FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
In Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed, we realize that Jesus gives us what we need freely and liberally. We have so many opportunities to hear his word, but do we listen? It is so easy to get distracted by noise of our world and to let the word of the Gospel go in one ear and out the other. Like a farmer tills the soil to receive the seed, do we prepare ourselves to hear Christ’s word? Can we carve out some quiet time to read the Gospel and pray with that Word? At Mass, can we listen attentively and perhaps remember one word or phrase from the readings? The Word of God is powerful and effective, but for it to affect us, we must engage it, grapple with it, discuss it and share it. Do not let the Word of God be sown in vain.
Rosary Apps: There are loads of rosary apps out there that can help you learn to pray the rosary, and give you various reflections, meditations to help you pray the rosary better. Here are a couple:
Daily Rosary (http://mission.itakeoffthemask.com/category/prayers/ and click on the free android apps in the right hand column).
osary (iTunes and search for iRosary or http://www.opicury.com/ )
JULY 9: FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
What God has hidden from the wise and the learned he has revealed to little ones. Evangelization is all about building a relationship with God, and what is needed isn’t that we are smart enough or powerful enough or good enough. It isn’t about what we know or do. Rather what is required from us is trust. God wants us to trust him like a child who jumps into his father’s arms from the top of the steps. The child trusts that his father will catch him and gather him into his arms. We are called to be like one of these little ones, set aside our pride and self-reliance, and place all our trust in God’s loving providence. It is when we think that we can do it all by ourselves, that the yoke becomes heavy, but if we trust and rely on God, Jesus will carry the yoke with us, and our burden will truly be light.
JULY 2: THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
To be worthy of Christ, or eternal life with Christ requires that we make Jesus our priority. Following Jesus is a choice that requires a renunciation – that we place everything, even every good thing, second to Christ. He is our all in all. In order to follow Jesus, we even have to pick up our cross ... we must die to self. In baptism, we have died with Christ that we may also live in newness of life. To be an intentional disciple means that we choose to follow, choose to live our Christian life to the fullest, never counting the cost.
From July 1-4, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will be convening an unprecedented gathering of key leaders from dioceses and Catholic organizations from all across the country in order to assess the challenges and opportunities of our time, particularly in the context of the Church in the United States. This has been an ongoing initiative of the Bishops' Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person. The gathering will assemble Catholic leaders for a strategic conversation, under the leadership of the bishops, on forming missionary disciples to animate the Church and to engage the culture.
Our Diocese is sending a small delegation of 5 people in addition to Bishop LaValley. If you are interested in following along, EWTN will livestream starting at 1pm on Saturday. It will also be shown on the USCCB site.You can also follow the hashtag #CatholicConvo on twitter and aother social media.
Please keep our delegation and the entire Convocation in your prayers, that it will bear much fruit for our diocese and for the Church in the United States.
Prayer For The 2017 Convocation Of Catholic Leaders
O Holy Spirit, you who first enkindled in our hearts the joy of the Gospel,
renew that same joy in those who are preparing for the Convocation of Catholic Leaders.
Enflame the hearts of our bishops and their diocesan delegations,
leaders of national organizations and movements, clergy, religious and laity,
all who make this event possible, and Catholic leaders across the United States.
Move us to welcome the word of life in the depths of our hearts
and respond to the call of missionary discipleship.
O Holy Spirit, transform our hearts
and enable us to enter into the perfect communion
that you share with the Father and the Son.
Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us.