Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Hi to all:

I will write some thoughts soon of the trip. I got home early Sunday morning and had a good sleep. Still getting over the jet lag as I have only once before travelled to Europe. It was a wonderful trip in many ways.

Fr. Mike

Friday, 10 February 2012

Greeting to all:

It is Friday afternoon as I write this post to you. This morning we went to the Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary just outside the old city for our last Eucharistic celebration together. It is a beautiful church where it is believed that Mary after the resurrection of Jesus spent her last days and died here. We have had some free time after mass and soon will have our closing ceremony and our farewell dinner.

To recap the last couple of days on Wednesday we went to Ain Karen to the Basilica of the Visitation and  Basilica of St. John the Baptist. This was where Elizabeth lived during her pregency with John the Baptist. Mary came to visit her cousin from Nazareth and it sure is in the hill country as the town is built on a hill. I was the homilist for the day so it was extra special for me. After mass we walked to where John the Baptist was born in the lower part of the Basilica. So often it is the case that these holy places like the churches are in areas where there is just Arabs living so there is no people who come to the churches except pilgrims like ourselves and there are sure a lot of people that come. As I have mentioned this is January and February the raining season and usually it is quieter with less pilgrims, however there sure has been many groups that we have seen on our journey. We visited the National Museum of Israel and the two exhibits that are noted is model of the Old City of Jerusalem at the time of the second temple and the building where the scrolls of Qumran are kept. That afternoon and early evening we had two conferences.

Thursday was a light day as we went to celebrate mass at Pater Noster on the Mount of Olives and than we had a free day to tour, visit sites to  shop and to rest. Our last conference was on pastoral charity.

Tomorrow we are on our way back home. Our flight is not till 12:30 p.m. and just heard that there is no taxi to take us around 8:30 a.m. so we are leaving really early at 6:45 a.m. so we will be spending more time than we thought at the airport in Tel Aviv.

I will write some reflections and attach pictures later on this evening.

Fr. Mike

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Hello again to all:

It has been a few days since my last post on Saturday. It is Wednesday evening now and a few days with many experiences have happen since Saturday. Firstly I have been under the weather so have not had the energy for a new post later at night or early morning as that seems to be the time that I have found for a new post.

Sunday was a day of rest with no schedule so I went with some of the fellows to a Maronite mass in the old city. It was a compound tucked away a chapel on the second floor. The liturgy we could follow as they had some order of the service in English as it was mostly in Arabic, some french and the archbishop spoke in English a couple of times. The liturgy was somewhat different with the order of the mass and they had a cantor a woman in a side room who canted parts of the mass and people responded with singing. That afternoon our Victoria crew Fr. Stephen and John, myself and a fellow from Washington D.C. went on the light rail system to the Holocaust museum for a few hours. It was intense to see some of the pictures the films and memories of what happened in many parts of Europe prior and during WWII.

On Monday we headed to Qubeibeh in Samaria (palestinian area) where the Emmaus story took place. It was a round about way we had to go on the secondary roads through Ramallah. Once you are in the Samarian zone you sure see the difference as it looks so much poorer the communities. If there are Jewish communities they are on the tops of the hills as this is hill country and they are gated and wired protected communities. The father at the church in Emmaus said you are brave to come here as seldom pilgrims these days. Our next stop was through Nablus to Sebastia as we were heading north through the hill county. We stopped in Nablus on the way back and visited Jacobs Well in a beautiful church. The icons were amazing to see. After returning to Notre Dame we had a conference and dinner and called it a night.

Yesterday was a trip to the Judean desert with a stop on the way in Bethany to see the tomb of Lazarus and celebrate mass in the church. We continued on to Qumran which is heading south along the Dead Sea  where the Dead Sea scrolls were found in some caves in the mountains besides the lake in 1947.  It was fascinating to see the site of the Essene community and how they lived. On down the road we went to Masada. It is a well know site and spectacular  as it sits on a plateau of one of the mountain tops. The fortress was built by King Herod. During the second temple period the Jews revolted against the Romans and they than destroyed the Kingdom of Judah and this fortress was the last bastion of Jews to fall to the Romans. Fr. Kelly one of the fathers who lives here was saying one time while visiting Masada while coming down on the tram a Israeli government official was saying to him that now the government is somewhat sorry that they have chosen Masada as a symbol for the people for in the end after killing those that were left including woman and children the ten men left choose lots and one killed the 9 and than the sword on himself so when the Romans entered the fortress there was no one alive. It is the idea of suicide rather than surrendering. We than stopped a bit further down the lake and some of us took a dip in the Dead Sea where one floats and would never sink. The salt was sure hard on the eyes and water not too warm till one was used to it. It was a full day and today we visited Ain Karen known for the Visitation when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and the birthplace of John the Baptist. I will write more about yesterday tomorrow and post some pictures too as I am retiring for the night.

Fr. Mike

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Good Evening to all:

This morning was an early morning as we celebrated mass at 5:00 a.m. at the Holy Sepulcher in the  tomb of Jesus. It was a tight squeeze with over 30 of us. The Franciscans have the church from 4:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. for the pilgrim groups who are celebrating mass. After breakfast the english group first had a tour of the museum of the Shroud of Turin. If you ever come to Jerusalem you have to see the exhibit as it is amazing that is right here at the Notre Dame Center where we are staying. Today we had a conference on Mary in the life of the priest. The conferences are an hour long usually. Themes we have had are The cross in the life of a priest, conference on the Eucharist as some examples. This afternoon we went to see the Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem who gave talk on Christianity in the Holy Land. He started with the history of Christianity to the present day an informative talk to listen to. The english group went for a walk to Jewish quarter in the Old City this afternoon. There are a few of us that have colds and mine has acted up and more are getting sick so not a good sign. Tomorrow is a free day which is great for those who have been on tours know they can be busy. I will send some pictures with this post.

On Thursday we started the Sacred Triduum where we followed Jesus to his death and resurrection visiting holy places on the path to his death. The pictures are not in order. The first is from Bethpage when he rode the donkey into Jerusalem. Second is the Garden of Getsemani, Third is the Russian Orthodox Monastery of Mary Magdalene and the last is a view from the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu looking towards the wall and one can see the temple square with the golden dome.

Until next time  Fr.Mike

Friday, 3 February 2012

Here are some more pictures with the first from mass at the Jordan River, second from the Basilicia of St. Joseph's in Nazareth, third from Capernaum, and the last from the Mount of the Beatitudes. 

Fr. Mike

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Here are some pictures that I promised to send the other day.  Fr. Mike

The first is the Jordan River, second Mount Tabor Church of the Transfiguration and the last is a side chapel.
Hello to all:

Today is Thursday February 2 early afternoon. It has been a couple of days since my last post. On Monday we were in Nazareth for the day and later on in Cana on the way back to Tiberias. I have found it amazing with the number of pilgrims that are here in the Holy Land even now in January as this month and February are the two winter rainy months and cooler. As we travel to the holy sites one see's the same groups and buses that are touring at the same time. There are many languages that one hears people talking and english is not usually one of them. Our group as I mentioned is spanish speaking as the majority. Often Fr. Adam our tour guide gives the information in both languages and Fr. Edward will give the translation for the homily given by the spanish speaking priests.

Back to the Galilee part of our pilgrimage. On Tuesday we went to the sanctuary of Peter's Primacy and celebrated mass outside. The Franciscans often look after the Holy Sites and one will see the fellows with brown albs. The next stop was Capernaum where Jesus spent a lot of his time here as Galilee was the main base for his ministry. The site is has the remains of the temple and where the houses were of the people who lived in the town and it was impressive in seeing the site. After Capernaum we stopped at the Magdala project. If one goes online you can see the discovery of a 1st century synagogue that was discovered when preparing the site for the center construction. To see a active site where they are digging and finding treasures was interesting to see. Next stop was Tabgha where there was the multiplication of the loaves and fish to feed the people. Again to see in person where these miracles took place is special. We stopped at the Mount of Beatitudes which is a mountain and still below sea level as the Galilee region is all below sea level. Beautiful grounds with all the trees and plants which I knew it would be from seeing Elizabeth DVD she had from her trip to the Holy Land. It was cloudy with some sun so we did not see to much of the lake. One could hear fighter jets overhead as they daily are in the air for Syria is above the Golan Heights across the lake and over the mountains to the north west is Lebanon.

That was Tuesday a lighter day it seemed and yesterday Wednesday we had a longer day as we headed to   Haifa and Mount Carmel and than down the coast and back to Jerusalem. I do promise to send some pictures from the last few days soon.

Fr. Mike

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Hello to all:

The last post was a couple of nights ago as we arrived in Tiberias our base for our Galilee experience. I will post some pictures of our journey from the retreat on Sunday. Yesterday was a full day and was too tired to update you last night. For those who have been on a pilgrimage before you know from experience some days are busy and you do not have a lot of free time.

Yesterday was a day spent in Nazareth and Cana of Galilee. It was a cool wet and raining day as we left for Nazareth which is not too far from Tiberias. Fr. Adam our guide is a wealth of information and as we drive to our destinations he will give us its background in history sometimes to the present day and at the Holy land places he will give more details of how it relates to the life of Jesus. Nazareth for example is one of the two present cities in Israel that the Jewish and Arab people live together reasonably well at peace with one another. The Arab people are citizens of Israel which is quite different that the ones in the West Bank that covers most of Samaria. These people would like to have their own state and at the present time people are trying to work out solutions that this will become a reality. Lower Nazareth is the old part of the city and the market place whereas West Nazareth is the newer part of the city.

We first saw the Basilica of the Annunciation and its museum. In doing some building they found some artifacts and than did some archotological

Hi Again:

I was checking the spelling and must have touched the wrong button and the post was published so here I am continuing where I left off. At the basilica they did some digging and found some treasures that are in the museum. One of the treasures found was a house and our guide at the museum showed us how it would have been lived in with the animals also lower down in the cave. I will send one picture as the family lived close to the door and when we hear the story of the person who knocks on the door asking for some bread the owner of the house says I cannot open the door for my children are sleeping that is the case for they would be sleeping close the door.

Each day we celebrate mass somewhere and take turns as to who is the celebrant and the homilist. Next door to Annunciation is the basilica of St. Joseph where we celebrated mass. After mass in what I thought was a beautiful church and seeing the grotto below we went back to Annunciation to spend some time there. It was a cold and wet day so we spent more time inside yesterday. After Nazareth we drove a short distance to Cana of Galilee but stopped at Mary's well which is in Greek Orthodox church with some beautiful icons and paintings on the walls and ceilings. It was dark and busy at the church for even now in January there are buses of pilgrims like our tour that are here in the Holy Land. I am amazed at all the different languages that I have heard in the last few days. Off to Cana we went.

I have just brought you up to last night and fading so will send a few pictures and let you know tomorrow night if I have the chance what we saw in this lower Galilee area.

Fr. Mike

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Good Evening from Tiberias:

We arrived here this evening on the Sea of Galilee to begin our pilgrimage in this area for 3 nights and four days. To make a correction our retreat was in the town of Abu Ghosh about 13 km outside of Jerusalem at the Ark of the Covenant Retreat Center. It was a good experience as Fr. Ed MacNamara gave the meditation talks to the english speaking priests. Fr. Ed was a excellent retreat master as he has a wealth of practical and scriptural knowledge. The weather was cool wet and windy which sounds like the weather back home in the winter time.

We left the retreat center and headed back around Jerusalem as we were heading towards the north east towards the Dead Sea into the desert to the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. We celebrated mass and had a renewal of our baptismal vows. Our next stop was Jericho an oasis in the desert. Because of the water it is filled with a green landscape with the mountains behind and Jordan on the other side of the river. We sent by tram up to the Greek Orthodox Monastery on the Mount of Temptations. No pictures were allowed in the monastery so I took some pictures of Jericho. After seeing the monastery we stopped for lunch. This was the route that Jesus and many took from the Galilee area to Jerusalem as it was the safest route.

After lunch we were on our way heading up the Jordan River valley to Lake Galilee. This is the Palestine area called the West Bank that we have been travelling in since Jerusalem. Eventually as we were closer towards Mt. Tabor we were back into Israel again. The land sure changed as we now were travelling along fertile land and seeing various crops that have been planted.  Mt. Tabor was our last stop before Tiberias. This is the Trasnsfiguration of the Lord and a beautiful church.

I will write more tomorrow as I am a bit tired after a long day so will say bye until the next time. Mike

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Greetings from the Arch of the Covenant Retreat Center:

We have just arrived this evening at the center which is in Ain Karem a short distance from Jerusalem. This is a mini retreat till Sunday morning when we will depart for the pilgrimage to Galilee. This was the place where King David kept the Ark of the Covenant untill it was safe to bring it into Jerusalem.

Today was a walking tour in the old city of Jerusalem early in the morning at 6:45 a.m. We had a guided tour of the tunnel of the West Wall (which people generally refer as the wailing wall. It was fascinating the underground tour as this is the West side of the temple square wall and what people see on the surface is just part of the wall as much of it is underground. The Jewish people only have a small section that we know as the Western Wall as this is in the Muslim section of the Old City with houses built up over most of the wall.

Our next stop was the Temple Square that is controlled by the Palestinians where the Dome of the Rock is built on the Jewish temple. The Dome is a mosque and as of the year 2000 only Muslims are allowed into it. It was amazing to see how large the temple square was as there is another mosque in the square besides the Dome.

After leaving the Temple Square we spent a bit of time at the Western Wall which is an amazing site to see. The woman go into the museum that we toured earlier to a point underground that is closest to where the temple would have been as they cannot touch the Western Wall as only men and boys are allowed in the area.

We than went to visit the Pool of Bethesda and the Basilica of St. Anne as this was her birth place. After visiting the ruins outside we celebrated mass in the Basilica. At 1:00 p.m. we headed back hungry after our walking tour.

Some pictures are attached of the sights today. Until next time Fr. Mike

The last picture is the temple square. Second last is the Damascus Gate into the Old City. Third last is St. Anns Basilica and ruins of pools outside. The first four you can tell are the tunnel, Western Wall, Dome and wall again.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Included is some pictures from our Bethlehem visit today. The first and last are from the Grotto of Milk and the second is the Church of the Nativity and the third is a view from the Shepherds Field noticing the hills and housing built up the sides and top.

Fr. Mike
Greetings from Jerusalem:

I arrived safely yesterday in the early afternoon which was Monday Jan. 23rd. One notices the white stone of all the buildings here in Israel and the rocky soil and landscape with hills and valleys and houses built up the slopes with more types of trees than I thought.

Today Tues. morning Jan. 24th we went early on a trip to Bethlehem the place where Christ was born and the beginning of our spiritual and physical pilgrimage. It was beautiful morning with clear blue skies and warmer than yesterday. Leaving West Jerusalem we had to go through a check point as Bethlehem is in the Palestine territory with a high wall you enter through. The first stop was The Grotto of Milk a beautiful place with a chapel in the caves. The Basilica of the Nativity where Christ was born a short walk from the grotto was our next stop. This is the oldest existing church in the world for the Persians did not destroy it along time ago. Jerusalem for example has been destroyed at least six times. The Greek Orthodox look after the main church and there is a Catholic section that the Francisians look after as well as the The Grotto of Milk in Bethlehem.

We celebrated Eucharist together in the Grotto of St. Joseph down below in one of the cave rooms. One does notice the many tours that are going through the same holy sites as a group can be ahead and behind your own group. Although there are not as many pilgrims that this time of the year as it cooler weather.   After leaving we stopped at the Shepherd's Field with a little chapel and one in a cave where the shepherds would live along with their animals in the back section of the same cave. The Shepherds field is where the shepherds kept guard over their sheep. One can see the pattern of following the footsteps of Christ.

The group of priests on the course is is mainly Spanish speaking with the majority from Mexico and only about 9 English speaking. Our conferences are usually given in Spanish with a translator for the English. Tomorrow we are to see the Wailing Wall, and the the Temple of Jerusalem the pool of Bethesda and the Basilica of St. Ann

In closing we are going on a retreat to the Arch of the Covenant retreat centre till Saturday night Jan. 29 and than on Sunday we are off on the pilgrimage to Galilee for 3 nights. So if yo do not hear from me for a few days you will know why as I am on retreat.

Fr. Mike

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Greetings from Toronto

We have arrived in TO and are waiting for our connecting flight to Tel Aviv. The flight from Victoria did not seem that long. Did not sleep to much last night and we were up at 3:30 p.m. Have done some reading on Jerusalem.

Till next time Fr. Mike

Friday, 20 January 2012

Today I learned how to find my blog and how to post a comment. Matthew Thomson taught me all this.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A week from today I will be on my way to Jerusalem to begin a three week spiritual journey to the Holy Land.

I will be updating you as I experience for the first time walking and seeing the places that we read in the bible the roots of our Christian faith.