Thursday, January 13, 2011

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #13 Church of the Holy Sepulcher Part II

December 31, 2010 1:15 AM
Day #13 (strictly speaking)

We're nearly in the home stretch now. These people never sleep- the Greek nuns have literally taken all night to just mop a small ring-shaped corridor around this place. It's incredible. Everyone rang their bells at around 11:30 PM, the Greeks have incensed everything in this place twice since then. So have the Coptics and the Armenians, actually. They've been singing their Mass the last thirty minutes, I think. Even the Latin priests all got up and prayed Matins and Lauds this evening around midnight-ish for thirty or forty minutes. They chanted the whole thing in Latin.

I read and meditated upon the Easter Vigil readings for a while and prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries on Calvary. I think I'm going to wander around for a little while then try to almost finish out the night by reading the Gospel of Luke. We'll see what happens.

I've been doing fine thus far, but I'm fading. My mood is good, but the singing and the bright artificial lights are starting to get to me...

(Note: I did not have another journal entry until after I was back in Rome. The evening finished at 4:00 AM and they opened the doors to let us out and let the pilgrims waiting for entry into the church. There were several guys from our pilgrimage group, looking to get a little last minute prayer in there, so it was like the NAC changing of the guard. We went back, I showered, then we got a few hours of sleep, packed, went to Mass, and headed back to Rome. All went well enough- I was feeling a little sick and was totally sapped after the previous evening, but it was all 1000% worth it. Praise God!)

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #12b Church of the Holy Sepulcher Part I

December 30, 2010 10:45 PM
Day #12

So I'm sitting in front of the Holy Sepulcher right now. We're locked in for the night. To continue from my last note, the rest of our time in Bethlehem was very blessed. Mass turned out just fine. I was very moved at the sign of peace, since up to that point I had been pretty irked by the preceding series of events. I tried very hard to offer that anger and annoyance to our Lord early in the Mass so that I might worthily participate and, lo and behold He took it.

We then ate a decent lunch and I made a ton of purchases. I bought numerous rosaries and Jerusalem crosses, which I touched to the stone of Calvary and to original wall of the Holy Sepulcher this evening, praying for each of the people who would receive them. They finally opened up the Nativity grotto and I was able to go down and pray there while the shop owner put together a beautiful crucifix for me (well, beautiful for something in its price range, anyway). I was able to spend some time praying there, which was incredibly moving.

We had also visited Ein Kerem, which is where Mary visited Elizabeth when she was pregnant with John. It was nice but nothing spectacular. They did have some beautiful Marian artwork; my favorite was one with Mary wrapping her mantle, with the help of some angels, around all the people praying for her intercession. Please wrap us all in your mantle, dear Mother!

So we returned to Jerusalem, had a sharing of graces after our pilgrimage, which was very rich and is always so edifying and encouraging, then we had a quick dinner and came here. We are almost half-way through the evening, now. (They imposed three rules on us when we got here. The first was that we couldn't light any candles and walk around with them. The third was that there was absolutely no sleeping during our time in the Sepulcher. I cannot remember the second, to be honest. It was probably something like 'leave the Orthodox alone.') Anyway, the evening began with the ritual door-closing ceremony, after which they kindly offered to give us a tour of some of the off-limits areas. We got to see the Armenian excavations to the foundations of the original Holy Sepulcher Church of Constantine. Then the Franciscans showed us their private chapels and the upper levels of the church. We also got to see their living quarters- one was riding a stationary bike just a level above the Holy Sepulcher, which we found hilarious. They actually used to even sleep in the rotunda a level up all around the Holy Sepulcher. How incredible would that be!

I then spent time praying at Calvary, followed by a Holy Hour in the Holy Sepulcher. No visions or ecstasies, but it was a good time of prayer. I was able to focus for most of it and really mean what I prayed, so praise God. The Orthodox just took the Sepulcher from us not long ago, but they've been pretty quiet thus far. We'll see what happens as the night progresses. +AMDG

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #12a Bethlehem

December 30, 2010 11:00 AM
Day #12

Well, we should be having Mass right now, but another group is taking waaaay too long. We're here in Bethlehem, a hilly, dirty, overdeveloped little hovel of a town. The Church is surrounded by riot police right now because they chose this blessed day to clean the grotto of the Nativity, which of course has caused all the Christians to come to blows over who has the right to do the cleaning. AND since they are cleaning right now we are not permitted in to see the place of Jesus' birth. If you can't tell, this isn't the quiet, peaceful, prayerful place I expected. Well, whatever, such is life. I just hope we make it back to Jerusalem in time to get everything done before spending the night in the Holy Sepulcher. "Let us too go to die with Him." +AMDG

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #11b The Franciscans and the Praetorium

December 29, 2010 6:15 PM
Day #11

So I wound up going to Pilate's place, St. Anne's Church where Mary was born, and the Pool of Bethesda. I also went to a procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher with the Franciscans this evening. It was very beautiful- a ton of ancient hymns and chants. It also never made you so proud to pray in Latin, in the midst of all of the other rites and eastern orthodox in that Church. You quickly realize here in the Holy Land how necessary a strong ritual identity is. It makes you proud to be a Latin-rite Catholic. These Franciscans aren't your run-of-the-mill Franciscans, either. These are pretty hardcore by all appearances, the defenders of the Catholic tradition in the Holy Land.

Tomorrow we go to Bethlehem and to the site of the Visitation, then I need to quickly finish my shopping and get ready for a night in the Holy Sepulcher. +AMDG

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #11a Mass at the Sepulcher

December 29, 2010 7:30 AM
Day #11

What an incredible morning- I would say these have quite possibly been a few of the best hours of my life. I was hit by grace like a bombshell this morning. We left the pilgrim house at 4:30 AM to celebrate Mass in Jesus' empty tomb. That was so humbling, to receive the sacramental Risen Lord from an altar maybe two feet above the slab from which He rose. I got to touch the original tomb rocks, which are hidden under an icon of our Lady.

After Mass I prayed a holy hour back up on Calvary. How much Jesus loved us! I was thinking of the love I sometimes feel for my family and closest friends and how much infinitely more Jesus loves each and every one of us, yet I thought that so strong a love would surely kill a man! But is that not exactly what happened? Is that not exactly what our Lord did? Did He not love us to the end? He did not need to die to redeem us, but He so desired out of love- He loved us so much that He died to show it, that, with His consent, it killed Him. Who are we to merit such a Redeemer, such a Lord, God, and friend?

That homily one of our priests gave discussed how we see so many instances in the Gospels of people just longing to be with Jesus, and how we, too, long to be with Him, yet how very much He longs to be with us, so much so that He gave us Himself in the Eucharist! Last night we had our holy hour at Gethsemane and a friend of mine who's pretty good with his Greek noted that the word used for 'stay with me' by Jesus in addressing the disciples in the Garden is almost always used by the disciples addressing Jesus, but here He is asking them to do the same. God longs for us to stay with Him- as He told us from the cross, 'I thirst.'

That time praying before our Lord in the Garden was very good. I realized just how beautiful that Church really is. I spent my time praying with Isaiah 40-42 and the Suffering Servant stuff from Isaiah 50-55ish. How beautiful and how obviously Christological it all was. It is easy for us to ask it in hindsight, but how could they not have seen this in Christ?! How could they not have understood the prophecy? How good our Lord is to us poor followers of little faith.

Later today we go to the Wailing Wall and St. Anne's Church. I also want to go to Pilate's place, the praetorium, and the 'Ecce Homo' Arch, and try to get back to the Dormition Abbey and St. Peter in Gallicantu.

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #10 The Room and the Rock

December 28, 2010 3:00 PM
Day #10

This morning we had Mass at the Franciscan chapel abutting the Cenacle (which is now a mosque, remember). One of our priests gave an excellent homily about the Eucharist and God's desire to be with us. I broke away rather quickly from the group after Mass and went to visit the Dome of the Rock/ the Temple Mount/ Mount Moriah. It was nearly closed when we got there, so we didn't have long, but we got to look around and spend some time up there. They informed us that we would never be able to go inside and see the rock, but we got to see the rest of the place. It was more edifying than I thought it would be, especially after a talk given to us by a Legionary the night before which helped to pull all the places of salvation history together for us. I was walking in the place where Abraham was ready to offer up Isaac, his 'only begotten son.' Jesus probably would have been able to see that spot from Calvary, the Only-Begotten, the Lamb of Sacrifice offered up just as the Father had promised to Abraham that short distance away so many years prior.

I tried to go to the Dormition Abbey again to pray, but it was closing just as I arrived, so I ate lunch with some of the guys. I really enjoyed myself with them. They're a good group of God-fearing men. Afterward, two of us decided to try to make it over to Gethsemane, but it was closed, so we tried farther up the mount at Dominus Flevit, which was also closed. I didn't want to go all the way back when it was going to open in an hour, so I decided to pray a Holy Hour in the Jewish graveyard just across the way on the Mount of Olives. It was a huge sea of white tombstones, all marking people resting in the hope of the resurrection of the dead, yet without the full understanding of the hope which Christ brings. I prayed for all of them and I offered a Divine Mercy chaplet for all of us. Then I went back and am now here in Dominus Flevit (well, I was there at the time I wrote this...), overlooking the city of Jerusalem.

I ended up (rewriting tenses to prevent awkwardness) spending another hour there and at the Garden, went back and rehydrated and took a nap, then went back to the Garden of Gethsemane for a Holy Hour that night, which I discussed more in my next journal entry.

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #9 Calvary, Peter in Gallicantu, Dormition Abbey, and the Cenacle

December 27, 2010 6:00 PM
Day #9

Today we rose early and had Mass at Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. After that we walked the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus supposedly took carrying the cross from the place of Pilate's judgment to the final stop on Calvary. I got to carry our cross briefly on the Way of the Cross, which was powerful. Then a little later we went to Peter in Gallicantu, where Peter betrayed Jesus and Jesus was held in a cistern awaiting trial in the grounds of what once was Caiaphas' House. We also visited the Church of the Dormition of Mary and the place of the Cenacle, supposedly. Those are the place where Mary is supposed to have been assumed and the upper room of the Last Supper, respectively. I think we can safely say that the Upper Room is no longer the same upper room that it was before, but it seems fairly undisputed that the current place was at least the same site of the original, from everything I can tell. The current Cenacle seemed sketchy to me because it is currently a small mosque, but I guess there is a long tradition on that spot, at least.

The place of the Dormition was beautiful. It managed to be more modern looking while still maintaining a relatively high level of beauty. I prayed the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary there with Our Lady and lit a candle or four for my mother. The place of Peter's Betrayal was very powerful. I spent some time praying in the dark cistern where Jesus probably would have been kept awaiting His trial- it was very busy down there but I hid under the set of stairs and so found some quiet time by myself with our Lord. I got trapped for a while by some charismatic Nigerians who were all speaking in tongues, but it just gave me some extra time to pray, as well. I had a very good day in prayer, so praise God. I guess I had enough material for a little meditation!

It was funny, though- a lot of guys really had dry pilgrimages, which is a good reminder of the fact that prayer isn't about feeling, it's about faith, love, and trust. The priest leading our pilgrimage even said at one point that if we weren't feeling what we wanted to be feeling at these places, that we ought to remember that Jesus' disciples probably weren't, either, and that we should take that with us to prayer. What a chaotic and disorienting week Holy Week was for them, moving from joy and expectation to total desolation and abandonment and betrayal. We shouldn't expect our prayer to feel moving all the time; we should stay with it whether it is or not, though. Prayer is a relationship, and it has its ups and downs like any, which help to purify the relationship and provide us with an opportunity to prove our dedication to one another. God's dedication is proven, but He desires opportunities to show it to us, anyway, and what a beautiful thought that is! It should move us to a greater desire in prayer. What a perfect school in God's gratuitous love Jerusalem is, where He came to die for us, proving His desire for each and every one of us!

P.S. Upon further reflection, I could write a great deal about each of these places, but I simply don't have the time now (nor did I do so in my original journal). If you want me to explain a place a little more in this post or others, please just feel free to ask!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #8a Gethsemane and the Kidron Valley

December 26, 2010 6:30 PM
Day #8

What a busy day! We began with Mass at Gethsemane over the rock where Jesus supposedly lay praying. We spent some time in a private section of the garden, too, which was great. The rest of the garden is normally just part of the church complex, but across the street is a nice private section of what little remains of the garden of olives. It was very peaceful and we were able to spend a little time praying there, like Jesus, being able to look up and actually see the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus was to be crucified.

We then went to 'Dominus Flevit,' a lookout with a little chapel which marks the spot in Jesus' arrival at Jerusalem on Palm Sunday where He wept over the residents of the city (see Luke 19:41 and Matthew 23:37-39). That was definitely my favorite view of the city. I plan on returning there.

We also visited the Grotto of Gethsemane, the supposed 'Tomb of Mary,' and the Chapel of the 'Ascension,' which were all rather uninspiring, to be honest. I'm of the mind to seriously doubt the last two, though I know St. Ignatius of Loyola was convinced of the Chapel of the Ascension and I could be persuaded, I suppose. Anyway, we then walked through the Kidron Valley like Jesus would have, stopping to visit Hezekiah's Water tunnel and the Pool of Siloam, which were kinda neat. Finally, we entered the Old City through the Zion Gate, very briefly stopped at the Holy Sepulcher, and grabbed lunch. Some of the other guys returned later for a tour of the Sepulcher, but I was pretty wiped out and figured that I would be returning there often, so I just rested.

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #7 Christmas, Journey to Jerusalem

December 25, 2010 9:00 PM
Day #7

Midnight Mass last night was a great relief. I received extraordinary spiritual consolation, but life goes on. It was good to hear Fr. Hurley's homily this morning about finding Jesus in the ordinary and not necessarily in the extraordinary, because a little consolation is great while it lasts, but then it's back down the mountain to the mundane again, and we have to do what we can to remember that consolation and let it drive us to persevere in those more ordinary of days. ... ... ...

Today we had Mass to the sunrise and stopped at Qumran and Jericho and the Dead Sea on our way to Jerusalem. It was really nice getting to engage in some good camaraderie there. (You wouldn't believe how buoyant you really are on the Dead Sea. It's incredible. You float so well that you have great difficulty swimming on your stomach because your legs and arms are too far out of the water! The water is so salty, too, that you aren't allowed to put your head underwater without seeing immediate medical attention. I got a little water up my nose and it totally dried out and started to itch. We had a ton of fun there while it lasted.) ... ...

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #6 Capernaum Revisited and the Bay of Parables and the Waterfall

December 24, 2010 6:00 PM
Day #6

So this evening begins Christmas. I just got off the phone with my family. One of my classmates let me use his iPhone, which was very kind.

Today we had Mass back in Capernaum. I spent a few hours there, taking in the town and reading the Gospel of Mark in the ruins of the Synagogue. I had never read it all the way through in one sitting before. It meant a lot more having seen so many of the places mentioned. I then walked back along the shore with another classmate, stopping to read the Gospel at the Bay of Parables and stopping also at the spring/waterfall. I got in and waded in the water around the spring. It was really cool getting to wade in the same spring in which the Apostles probably waded washing their fishing nets.

No really deep spiritual insights today. Prayed with a number of passages from Mark. The demoniac Legion really shows us how comfortable we can become with our sins and ugliness and the sins and ugliness of those around us, even casting out the one who desires to bring healing to our loved ones or to us. It reminds me of one time, many moons ago, I was out eating in a restaurant and there were 3 or 4 college guys at the next table over, and I couldn't help but overhear their conversation, as loudly as they were talking. They were complaining about this new boyfriend that a girl they knew was dating. He was a real jerk, the kind that had persuaded her to stop doing drugs and get her life in order- I bet you know the type. How pitiable that they were upset by this! How like the Gerasenes, casting out Jesus for casting out demons from their friend. The demons, at least, were a known quantity for them. The power of God was not and they shied away from it. How very sad, and it made me wonder in what ways I and others do this, as well.

Anyway, it was beautiful praying with all the people whom Jesus praised or whom the Gospel mentioned that He looked upon with love. It was also interesting to note those that He rebuked. We'll have Midnight Mass tonight followed by Christmas carols and an early morning tomorrow. Come, Lord Jesus!

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #5b Swimming in the Sea of Galilee

December 23, 2010 6:15 PM
Day #5 still

In the RSV, it reads, "Jesus went out to a lonely place to pray." How very appropriate for this morning! I stayed with our Lord in that for a while. This afternoon I went swimming in the Sea of Galilee with a few of the other guys. That was a wonderful experience. I was very moved by all the seashells, like the 'lilies of the field.' God creates works of art, never to be seen by man or even crushed underfoot without a second thought. How much more does He put into us and provide for us! We just spent some time in silence on the Sea, meditating and taking it all in. I collected some of the seashells for my mother on the way out. I hope they survive the two flights back home from here (so far they've made it through one of them!).

The rest of the day was very quiet. I wrote an email home this evening. We have a Holy Hour later tonight than another day in which to take in everything that we've done, to process it all. I will spend some time in Capernaum, I think, and maybe go to the Bay of Parables and the waterfall and pray there for a while.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #5a Prayer in the Dark and More on Yesterday

Day #5
December 23, 2010 8 AM

So the time in the Synagogue Church yesterday was very moving. I had never given it too much thought before, but it must have been buddies and friends of the family who tried to kill Jesus after His reading of Isaiah, since Nazareth was such a tiny village. He would have known all these people trying to kill Him. What feelings of betrayal and heartache that must have inspired in our Lord!

There was a beautiful stained-glass window in the Church of Joseph's workshop- it depicted him on his deathbed with Jesus blessing him and Mary holding him. It was very beautiful. May we all die such a good Christian death.

So I got up early this morning, around 4:15 AM, to go pray like Jesus in the spot where He supposedly went. It was a nightmare getting out there...

(funny story about that: I went to leave our compound and the gate was locked. Fair enough, so I went to the guard booth because I saw the light of a TV on in there. I was about to knock but I noticed that the guard, a big, burly Israeli guy, was in his tightey-whities brushing his teeth at the sink. I really didn't want to disturb that, so I started wandering along our perimeter looking for another way out.

I didn't have to look long before I found a door which, thankfully, was unlocked. I snuck through it and promptly stumbled into a large pile of brush in the dark. I fought my way out and wandered around, realizing that I was still in a fenced in compound, so I looked for a way back to the road. I wandered through olive trees for a while before finding a road. I had gotten so turned around that I thought it was the road I was trying to find. 'Miracle of miracles,' I thought, 'I have made it back out of the fence to the road somehow.' ... False... I kept following it and thought, 'gee, this doesn't look familiar,' until I realized after a few minutes that I was now on the property of the monastery next door.

I thought, 'great, we can get to the road from here, too, and I haven't been walking in entirely the wrong direction.' So I left the gate in the direction of the road, which was unlocked. Great. I forgot that the main gate of the facility would probably be closed. 4:30 AM logic at its finest. I stood there dumbfounded at the main gate, with their camera faced squarely at me, so somewhere there is footage in Israel of some stupid white boy trying to break OUT of a monastery. I figured, 'if I just follow this big gate along the main road, I'm sure I'll find a break or a spot where I can get over it.' Well, following it required me to wade through 20 or 30 yards of underbrush and thorn bushes, which was unpleasant.

Finally, I made it to the fence along the road road. No break in the fence in sight. I decided, 'screw it, I've made it this far, I'm jumping the darn thing.' Thankfully, there was no barbed wire, in spite of Israel's deep and profound love for the stuff. I threw my bag over the fence and shimmied up between the main brick gate and the iron fence that connected with it. Just as I was throwing myself over the fence, a semi passed by and caught me in their headlights. I was sure that they were going to call the monastery and someone was going to arrest me, but thankfully nothing happened. I made it over, checked my clothes and thanked the Lord that nothing was torn, and continued on my way.

I got to the cave, prayed for about 30 minutes there, and decided to pray a rosary. I reached in my pocket and realized that I had taken both room keys, and the way the house was set up you could not activate the electricity in your room without your room key, so my roommate was stuck in the dark when he woke up. I heaved a deep sigh, bemoaning the fact that I was not going to be able to watch the sun rise from atop the hill, and slowly made my way back to our complex. This time, at least, the front gate was unlocked, so I didn't have to go through quite the some adventure getting back in.)

... and I had a goodly amount of desolation in my prayer, but I resolved to dedicate and consecrate that time to God whatever may be, and so I did. I wanted to watch the sunrise from there... (I already wrote about that part of the story above)... I still got to watch the sunrise on the Sea of Galilee from our pilgrim house, which wasn't all bad. ... ... ...

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #4 Nazareth

Day #4
December 22, 2010 9:00 PM

Just a quick recap of the day, since I plan to get up before dawn and go to a deserted place to pray to the Father. We left for Nazareth and had Mass at the Grotto of the Annunciation. 'Verbum Caro HIC Factum Est'- from the altar in the grotto- "The Word was made flesh HERE." It was just part of Mary and Joseph's house. We also saw Joseph's workshop, their Synagogue where Jesus read Isaiah and nearly got killed, and the well at which Mary would have drawn water. Afterward, we went to and climbed Mount Tabor, the Mountain of the Transfiguration. I had a good talk with a friend of mine on the bus ride back. I'll fill in other details and experiences tomorrow if I think of it.

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #3 Mount of Beatitudes

Day #3
December 21, 2010 9:00 PM

I forgot to mention that many of us watched the sunset from above Eremos Cave yesterday over the Sea and Tiberius, was was so beautiful and peaceful. I've also watched the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee during my morning prayers these last two days, which was beautiful. Life seems a little slower here, like it should be. I think the way we do things in 21st century America is unhealthy.

Today we climbed the Mount of Beatitudes and had Mass at the top in the church built there. You see why Jesus chose that spot- it's a large expanse, very green, overlooking the mountains and the sea. It's peaceful, beautiful, recollective. We went back in the afternoon to walk the Stations of the Cross up the mountain. We were just doing our own, as there weren't any actual stations or markers along the trail.

It was a tough day for me today. My holy hour was miserable. God grant me peace and recollection... ...

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Day #2 Peter's Primacy and Capernaum

Day #2
December 20th 9:30 PM

Today was pretty incredible. We began with Mass at the "Peter's Primacy," where Jesus asked Peter thrice if he loved Him. We were also then right at the 'Mensa Christi', where Jesus served them breakfast. We spent some time on the Sea of Galilee before moving on to Capernaum. Everything was so close! Everything we did today was on about a two mile stretch of road along the Sea of Galilee- it emphasized how everything really must have known Jesus.

Capernaum housed the ruins of the Synagogue where the Bread of Life Discourse was given, in addition to Peter's house and the house of the Centurion nearby. The tax booth of Levi/Matthew was probably nearby along the sea. Peter's house was also the house where the paralytic was brought in all likelihood. It was so moving to actually be in and pray in these places. I had been having a hard morning for some reason but by the end of our time in Capernaum I was fine. We also went to the Eremos Cave, where Jesus sometimes went to be alone and pray. There was a simply beautiful view there.

I walked back with three of the other guys along the Sea, hopping along rocks and cutting through reeds (and thorn bushes, and other obstacles. I had a total blast, like we were kids again, just being able to play around along the seashore. We got back just after it had gotten dark, which made the last stretch of rock climbing and thorn bush avoiding more interesting, to be sure). We saw the waterfall where they would have washed their fishing nets, which was surreal. It all really brought the Gospels to life. I had a ton of fun walking back-more than I've had in quite a while. (It really made the Gospel smack you in the face with its reality- you start asking yourself really down-to-earth, for lack of a better word, questions like "I wonder how often Jesus had to buy a new pair of sandals" or "How many nights do you think Jesus and Peter spent sitting on his back porch talking?")

It helped me to come to a greater appreciation for Scripture to be able to walk it. I can now picture things much better and understand how it all fit together and get just a slightly better sense of who the disciples were and who Jesus was and is. Praise be to God. I look forward to seeing this develop. ... ...

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2010: Introduction and Day #1

This Christmas break I traveled to the Holy Land with 35 others from our college for roughly two weeks. I thought that the easiest way for me to post about it would be to draw from each of my entries from my journal, which I actually kept during the pilgrimage so that I could recall it later. Without further ado,

DAY #1
December 19th, 10 PM

(We left this morning at around 6:15 from the college for the airport. I had stayed up until 3 AM the night before finishing my Christmas cards, so I was pretty zonked. We got to the airport and everything was smooth. The flight was uneventful, but when we left the airport after our 3.5 hour flight I thought we were almost there. FALSE. Tel Aviv was a good... what, three hour drive, I think, from Galilee, so we then spent the equivalent of another plane flight driving there, which was ok, but unexpected. We got settled in late at our Pilgerhaus on the Sea of Galilee, celebrated Sunday Mass, then got unpacked, cleaned up, and I began journaling shortly before bed.)

Not too much to report tonight- we got settled in this evening. I am anticipating these next two weeks very much and feel open to whatever the Lord desires to say and do. I wonder how the Apostles must have felt right when they were called- trepidation, curiosity, excitement, peace? ... ...

(sorry, I don't have to share everything from my journal, now do I? I'll get the relevant stuff in here, though.)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Consistory 2010

Back in November we celebrated a consistory of the College of Cardinals. A consistory is an event in which the Pope creates new cardinals for the Church. Interestingly enough, contrary to common belief, those selected to become cardinals do not all have to be bishops, though in practice they most often are. We had 24 created last year, from all around the world. Two were Americans- Cardinal Burke from St. Louis who now works in Rome, and Cardinal Wuerl from Washington, DC. It was a very moving ceremony, emphasizing the need for unity within the Church, making our Church truly catholic, and the necessity of being close to the Holy Father. It really brought the catholicity, the universality of the Church to one's mind, seeing cardinals being made from Sri Lanka to the Congo, from Egypt to Poland, from Italy to Zambia to the United States. We truly are a much greater whole than we normally imagine, being accustomed only to the Church of Kalamazoo, or maybe even just to the Church of St. Monica Catholic parish or St. Joe Catholic parish.

It is an important guide for one's intercessory prayer, realizing that we really are closely united to those Catholics who do not get to take their faith for granted in countries like India or Egypt, where 21 were killed for attending Mass this New Year's Eve. It reinforces that same lesson I learned this summer, spending several weeks with the Coptic Catholics in Egypt. We truly are one body in Christ, though divided by race or language or culture or favorite restaurant or sports team.

We were blessed to be able to spend some time with Bishop Bradley, who came for the Consistory. He was old friends with now Cardinal Wuerl and came for him but turned it into a pastoral visit. We got to spend a good amount of time with him, which is always so encouraging and edifying. I pray that I may be such a fervent servant of our Lord when I am ordained.

I was chosen to read at the Consistory service itself, which was awesome. It was a little intimidating reading before the Holy Father and so many of the bishops and cardinals of the Church, but by the grace of God I managed to do it without stumbling on my words or passing out, which is good. If you wanted to see it, I'm sure my dad would be more than willing to show it to you- he recorded it and has shown it to virtually everyone that has stopped by our house since then, I bet. [:)

After the Consistory, we had a huge after-party at our College for the cardinals and their families and friends. Then things returned to normal, insofar as anything around here is 'normal.' More soon.

'It Has Been a While' and a Disclaimer for What Follows

So I've finally decided to make a few more blog posts. I have held off these last months for a couple reasons. First and foremost, with the exception of one big event which I will cover, there really haven't been too many exciting events to report. Secondly, my camera is still broken, irreparably I think, so I have not been able to provide any nice pictures.

All that being said, I wanted to post a little about the last Consistory at the Vatican for the creation of the new cardinals, as well as put up several posts about my Christmas pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will have all of that up in short order. Once again, I have to apologize for the lack of pictures, but c'est la vie.