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Lynn on Pilgrimage


Lynn departs for the Holy Land on January 7. This pilgrimage is for potential pilgrimage coordinators, so perhaps there is a Holy Infant Holy Land pilgrimage in our future? 😊 There are 21 "pilgrims" from around the country. Plus the pilgrimage coordinator and the local guide.

Jan 7-8  Arrived safely in Tel Aviv and successfully navigated the public train system to get to our hotel at noon. Very grateful to have been able to check in early for an afternoon nap. Dinner topic was what day is it here - 7 hour time difference and jet lag stupor!   We had heard about snow in the forecast, but just rain. Funny... I never pictured Jesus trudging through snow. The rest of the tour group will join us tomorrow and we will spend another night in Tel Aviv. 

Friday Jan 10 After an amazing breakfast buffet, we set out for Caesarea where St. Paul was imprisoned for a couple of years. Then on to Cana where the couples in our group renewed their wedding vows. (Since John is not with me, I renewed my half of our wedding vows, which were made 40 years ago.) By the way, the water jug was much larger than I had imagined. Since our water did not turn to wine, we bought some local Cana wine. Our next stop was Nazareth. We had Mass at the Church of the Annunciation. I was so honored to have been asked to read the first reading from Isaiah. I was proceeding very professionally and then I got to the part where I say "And this shall be a sign unto you.  A virgin shall give birth and name Him Emmanuel" ... And then I lost it as I realized that this is where the fulfillment of this prophecy was announced to Mary. Very moving experience for me. 

Saturday Jan 11 We began the day with Mass at the the Church of the Beatitudes. It is in a beautiful setting near where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Christmas decorations are still up in churches and this one had the infant Jesus with the banner Prince of Peace, so my mass intention was for the people of Holy Infant. Then on to Capernaum where we saw the excavated town that included the home of St. Peter. After lunch near Magdala where we ate St. Peter's fish (and drank Magdalene wine), our next stop was Tabgha with the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, commemorating where Jesus fed the crowd of 5000 and Peter's primacy where after his resurrection, Jesus met with His disciples and told Peter: "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep." 

This is low season for tourists and also one of the coldest times in the Holy Land, but the sun has shone when we most needed it and we are able to move about freely and have Mass in the choice locations. The sun was shining while we were on our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee back to our hotel. After another evening buffet with every sumptuous Mediterranean dish one can imagine, we relaxed in the hotel hot mineral pool. This is a wholistic pilgrimage for mind, body and spirit. 😊


Monday Jan 12 We traveled up the very steep road of Mount Tabor by taxis. (No bus could make those hairpin turns!) and had Mass at the Basilica of the Transfiguration - a very beautiful church. Climbing that mountain was no small feat for Jesus and Peter, James and John. (The rest of the disciples may have been glad not to be asked to come along!) We continued down the Jordan Valley in the West Bank to Jericho. We were able to eat our lunch al fresco. In Jericho we saw a very old sycamore tree that may have been THE one that Zaccheus climbed. I can't wait to show the sacrament prep children the photo. They hear a lot about him in preparation for First Reconciliation. A high point of the day was the renewal of Baptism promises at the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. Yes, of course, I waded in the water - chilly and murky!


Then we proceeded up to Jerusalem and arrived in time to take in this amazing view of the city from our hotel window! 

Tuesday Jan 13 We left the city and headed back to the West Bank passing through the wall which separates Palestinians and Jews. Our first stop was Ein Karam on the hillside - the site of the Visitation of Mary with her cousin, Elizabeth and then further down the hill to the birthplace of John the Baptist. We had lunch on the top floor of a nice hotel in Bethlehem before going to the Church of the Nativity. Then finally - a shopping stop. Our dinner in Bethlehem included a Palestinian folk show with young dancers and audience participation. By now our group has gotten to know each other quite well and we bonded further over another traditional activity new to most of us! 

Wednesday Jan 14  The Garden of Gethsemane, Palm Sunday road, Pater Noster Church, the Upper Room, the place of Peter's Denial, the Wailing Wall, the place of Jesus's imprisonment. It is such a moving experience to be in this place.. Our tour guide, Maher, is a font of knowledge and has a wonderful presence. We have been privileged to have Mass in some choice locations. Mass today was in the Upper Room. 

Thursday Jan 15 The birthplace of Mary with ruins of pool of Bethesda - the church here has amazing acoustics. We sang a hymn to Mary together and then the only college-age person on the tour, who happened to have a beautiful voice, sang Ave Maria. Our tour guide also sang a solo there; he has a beautiful voice and is always singing. Then we walked the Via Dolorosa through the busy streets of Old Jerusalem praying the Stations of the Cross. All who wanted could carry the cross. The way of the cross concluded at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that is "shared" by six Christian faiths. I use the term loosely: tension in the Holy City is not only between different faiths, but between the various members of the Body of Christ. No wonder Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Our group celebrated Mass here. We climbed to Calvary, touching the stone of the crucifixion, and then visited the empty tomb which are both enclosed in this Church. The rain held off until we reached Notre Dame Hotel, just outside the city walls where we ate another sumptuous meal. Our bus took most of the group back to our hotel to spruce up for the visit with the Archbishop at the Latin Patriarchy later that afternoon, but five of us opted to venture off on our own in search of more sites. We first tried to visit the newly opened excavation site at the Tower of David that purports to have uncovered the place of Jesus' trial. We found it, but it is only open certain days and by reservation, so not this trip. Then we went in search of the home of St. Mark's mother now a Syriac Church. Some Christian traditions hold that this is the real site of the Last Supper and Pentecost. We were the only visitors there, but trudging through the rainy streets of Old Jerusalem to this out of the way place was well worth it. (However, it was not a good day to have opted for my cloth Tom's instead of my boots!) The little Armenian lady who takes care of this church was quite a storyteller. (She made me think of Anna in the temple at Jesus' presentation.) In addition to an explanation of why they believe this to be the authentic site, she told us of miracles that she has experienced there and she sang the Our Father in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. We reunited with our group at the Latin Patriarchy, looking like drowned rats! The Archbishop was very personable. He talked about the value of a pilgrimage and thanked us for coming in this time of unrest when other groups have cancelled out of fear. He shared some of the efforts being made to bring peace to this troubled land and asked for our prayers and asked us to encourage others to make this pilgrimage.

Jan 16-17 Homeward bound after a very fulfilling time in the Holy Land! Next year in Jerusalem! Won't you join me?

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