Priests for Life Holy Land Pilgrimage – April 2012
20 April 2012 to 29 May 2012
About the Pilgrimage
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Day 1 – Arrival
Everyone arrived safely from as far away as England and Australia. We drove to Haifa for Mass at Mount Carmel and then to dinner and sleep at the Sea of Galilee.
Day 2 – Transfiguration, Cana, Nazareth
When Jesus goes up on a mountain and is transfigured, what other mountain should you think about? When Jesus’ face shines like the sun, what other prophet should you think of?
Today was wonderful. We visit Mount Tabor – the Mount of the Transfiguration and discussed all the rich meaning from the Bible related to this site. Then to Cana to renew wedding vows. One couple from Australia was married three days ago so this was very memorable for them. I also taught about the six stone jars, Jesus’ “hour” and Mary’s intercession for the wedding guests.
Then to Nazareth where it all began. Without Nazareth there would be no Bethlehem or Jerusalem. It was at Nazareth that the Word became flesh. In fact, on the altar here it says, “The Word became Flesh HERE!”
After visiting these great sites with Mass and the Rosary and lots of good teaching and exploration, we all had the late afternoon free to swim in the Sea of Galilee, nap, have a glass of wine on the shore with new friends and more. Delicious dinner with a great variety of foods and to bed early for a busy new day tomorrow.
Day 3 – Beatitudes and All Around Galilee
All the lost suitcases have been found and delivered. Everyone is thrilled and doing great.
Day 4 – Boat Ride, Capernaum, Up to Jerusalem
Today was another great day with marvelous weather, curious pilgrims, insightful talks, great food, and wonderful holy sites in the footprints of Jesus and Our Lady.
Mass at Capernaum is always special – partaking of the Body and Blood of Our Lord right where he said, “Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood.” The long boat ride across Galilee is always a highlight, as is eating the same fish Jesus ate.
We have conversion and vocation stories on the bus on the way to Jerusalem, but we stopped along the way at the place of the Visitation for a talk on Mary.
We had a special blessing after dinner. The bishop of Jerusalem called me (Steve Ray) and offered to come visit with our pilgrims. It was a great evening. See the pictures. Tomorrow we spend the whole day in Bethlehem.
Day 5 – Bethlehem
We had a good first night sleep in Jerusalem at Notre Dame Center, owned by the Pope. After a delicious breakfast we boarded the bus and left two minutes early (we enforce timeliness). We headed out to Bethlehem.
On the way we talked about the authenticity of the biblical sites, the dealing with vendors and the history of Bethlehem. Then we went shopping for exquisite olive wood carvings, Russion icons, mother of pearl, and much more.
We had a long line to see the grotto of Jesus’ birth in the Church of the Nativity. In the end we all saw and touched the place Jesus was born. Lots of tears and deep breaths. Then to lunch at the Christmas Tree Restaurant.
Mass at Shepherds Field where the angels announced the birth of Jesus. Dinner in Bethlehem where we ate the Passover Lamb and danced to Arabic music. It was a wonderful and very full day.
To listen to my interview with Teresa Tomeo on EWTN and Ave Maria Radio summarizing the day, click HERE.
Day 6 – Crucifixion and Resurrection
Today we woke up at 5 AM and boarded the bus to head to the Herod Gate. We walked to the beginning of the Stations of Cross while the sun was rising. Amer gave us a short intro to the Via Dolorosa and walked, prayed and meditated the 14 Stations of the Cross — where they REALLY happened.
Then we all touched the top of Calvary where Jesus was crucified. If we had touched this place 2,000 years ago, our hands would have been sticky with his blood. Then we have Mass right next to the tomb.
After Mass we all entered to touch and pray at the Tomb of Christ. Tears were everywhere.
Breakfast at the Notre Dame, visit to St. Ann’s Church where Mary was born and where Jesus healed the crippled man (John 5). Then to the Western Wall and lunch before a free afternoon and afternoon.
Lastly we had the marvelous Holy Shroud Exhibit and dinner at Notre Dame.
Day 7 – Part I Mass at Garden of Gethsemane
Mass at the stone where Jesus sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane.
Israel Museum to see model of the Temple from Jesus’ time and the Dead Sea Scroll Museum.
Visited authentic Baptismal Site of Jesus to renew our baptismal vows before lunch in Jericho.
Then to Qumran to see the ruins and the famous Cave No. 4. We discussed Scripture, Dead Sea Scrolls, ran and the Essenes.
The day rounded out with a swim in the Dead Sea and camel rides and back for dinner and a free evening.
Day 7 – Part II Qumran, Dead Sea, Camel Rides, Jericho
Day 8 – Last Day Part I Olivet, Pater Noster, Upper Room, St. Peter in Gallicantu
Part One. Two familiar sites for Jesus, the Apostles and Mary – the Mount of Olives and Mount Zion.
Jesus ascended into heaven from the top of the Mount of Olives. He had always been on the ground with his disciples but this day he lifted off the ground and the last thing they saw was the bottom of his sandals as he disappeared into a cloud (which represents the glory of God).
We visited the Church of Pater Noster with over 160 copies of the Our Father on the walls in different languages. He taught them to pray in a cave near the church. This is a favorite site.
It was on Mount Zion that Mary experienced her Dormition before being assumed into heaven. The Upper Room is on Mount Zion where three of our Seven Sacraments were instituted: the priesthood, the Eucharist and Reconciliation. It was also where Pentecost took place. Mary was there to be part of the Birth of the Body of Christ, the Church.
It is always a bit disquieting to hear a rooster crow when we visit St. Peter in Gallicantu, which means “where the cock crowed.” It was here that Peter denied Our Lord in front of a charcoal fire. It was also where Jesus was tried before the High Priest Caiaphas and kept in the cistern prison over Holy Thursday night.
So much more I could say but the video will help understand the rest.