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.