by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
This past Sunday, Oct. 16, I left with more than 50 pilgrims for the Holy Land. The pilgrimage is sponsored by the Northern Lieutenancy of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. The mission of the order is to preserve the Christian shrines and to assist the Christians of the Holy Land.
We arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Mon., Oct. 17, and traveled by bus to Tiberius in Galilee. On Tuesday, we were able to visit and celebrate Mass at the chapel on the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Later in the day, we visited Tabgha, where Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.
We also visited the Chapel of the Primacy, the site where Jesus declared Peter to be the rock upon which he would build the church. Later, we enjoyed a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, where Peter and some of the other apostles fished and where Jesus walked on water and calmed the stormy sea.
We visited Capernaum where Jesus spent a significant amount of time. It is sometimes referred to as the “second city” of Jesus. In Capernaum, we visited Peter’s house where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law.
On Wed., Oct. 19, we began the day by visiting Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding feast. The married couples on our pilgrimage had the opportunity to renew their marriage vows. I also prayed at Cana for our initiative to strengthen marriage and family life in the archdiocese.
From Cana, we went to Nazareth where Jesus grew up. There, we visited the Church of the Annunciation, built over the place revered as where the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary. It is there that Mary gave her “fiat” — her “yes,” to God’s amazing plan for her role in salvation history.
From there, we went to Mount Tabor, the site of the transfiguration, where Jesus appeared in his glory to Peter, James, and John — the same three that he would ask to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was in the Basilica of the Transfiguration that we celebrated Mass.
On Thurs., Oct. 20, we crossed into Jordan to visit a parish and school that receives financial support from the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher. We celebrated Mass in the parish church.
Today, Oct. 21, we will celebrate Mass and renew our baptismal promises at the place on the Jordan River where it is believed that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
Later in the day, we will return to Israel and visit Qumran, the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as visit the ancient ruins of an Essene community. It is believed that John the Baptist was affiliated with the Essenes — a very devout sect of Judaism during the time of Jesus. There is some evidence that many of Our Lord’s disciples were affiliated with, or at least influenced by, the Essenes.
In the evening, we will arrive in Jerusalem, where we will stay the next six nights at the Notre Dame Center which is located just across the street from the Old City.
I apologize if this week’s column sounds like a travelogue. However, it is important for us to realize that the locations we read about in the Gospels are actual places. Jesus is a historical person, not a mythical figure.
Over the course of our pilgrimage, we will visit the actual places associated with 19 of the 20 mysteries of the rosary. As you can imagine, it is not possible, this side of death, to visit the place where Jesus crowned Mary, Queen of Heaven. The Holy Land is sometimes referred to as the “fifth Gospel,” because it brings to life so vividly the four Gospels.
Please know that I carry you and your intentions with me in prayer. It has been wonderful to see fellow Christian pilgrims from all over the world. While Jesus is a historical person who lived and died, Jesus — unlike anyone else — rose from the dead. Jesus still lives and is animating the life of his disciples today.
People ask me sometimes: What is the difference between a vacation and a pilgrimage? While there are similarities between a vacation and a pilgrimage, the key difference is prayer. On a pilgrimage, we are not just visiting interesting historical sites, but each place we visit leads us into prayer. Through prayer, we actually enter into conversation with Jesus as we visit the sites that were important to his life and ministry.
If you are interested in making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I encourage you to visit the School of Faith’s website. Mike Scherschligt leads phenomenal pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Please pray for me and all my fellow pilgrims that we take advantage of all the graces Our Lord desires to give us during these special days.
Finally, I hope many of you are joining me in making Father Michael Gaitley’s self-administered retreat, “33 Days to Merciful Love.” Our retreat began on Tues., Oct. 18. If you missed the first few days, you can still catch up and join us in this spiritual adventure. The retreat concludes on the eve of the solemnity of Christ the King, when all the retreatants will be invited to make a consecration to Divine Mercy.