Holy Land Pilgrimage – April 2013

21 April 2013 to 30 April 2013


2013-04 Holy Land Pilgrimage

Pilgrim Photo Albums

Gus Zenker’s Shutterfly Album
Chuck Kissling’s Photos: Arrival, Nazareth, Around Galilee, Cesaeri Phillipi, Beatitudes, Galilee Boat Ride and Ein Karem, Bethlehem, Via Dolorosa, Western Wall, Jericho and Dead Sea.

Day 1 – Arrival

Our full bus of excited pilgrims arrived almost on time and were tired but excited to go! Because it was an early arrival, we had time to drive along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Haifa where we had Mass at Mount Carmel at Elijah’s Cave.

After a drive through Haifa toward Tiberias we arrived at our hotel on the very shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus lived and ministered. After a great meal everyone enjoyed their seaside balconies before getting a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow is a busy day visiting the Mount of the Transfiguration, renewal of wedding vows at Cana and Mass at the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth where the Angel Gabriel brought the Good News to Mary.

We will pray the appropriate Mystery of the Rosary at each of tomorrow’s sites.

Click HERE to see my early morning walk along the shore of Galilee.

Day 2 – Transfiguration, Cana, …

A great first day with this group in the Holy Land. Everyone is now enjoying the great weather, sitting on the shore of Galilee – some are even swimming. Others are sharing a glass of wine while discussing all the things we saw and learned today.

Dinner is in a few minutes and everyone is delighted with the fresh and varied cuisine. Enjoy the video and share the excitement with us.

Day 3 – Banias, Primacy of Peter

Today was a full day around Galilee and the Golan Heights. Mass at the Mount of Beatitudes was a great start for the day. Having reverent priests and a holy deacon is a blessing for all.

The priests gave their vocation stories on the way to Caesarea Philippi. Especially gripping was the story Fr. Janusz who was raised in Poland under Communist rule. Fr. Mark’s late vocation story was also moving and kept everyone wide awake.

At Caesarea Philippi I gave my talk “Peter: the Rock, the Keys and the Chair.” We all climbed around on the rock. After which we went to our favorite Druze Restaurant for Druze Bread sandwiches and looked out over Lebanon and Syria. We discussed the recent silence of our government and the secular media about the problem with Islam and the jihadists. 

A visit to the place Jesus multiplied loaves (yes, it was a miracle) and the place where Jesus appointed Peter to be the shepherd of his sheep. I gave my 1/2 talk on John chapter 2. 

Lastly we have a gourmet dinner at our favorite restaurant in Israel – Auberge Shulamit. The smoke salmon, smoked goose breast, beef steak, smoke lamb ribs and more is always praised along with the finest wines in Israel. On the way home we turn the bus into a comedy club with everyone sharing their favorite jokes.

Day 4 – Boat Ride Mass at Capernaum

Today was a wonderful day full of grace and adventure. The Bible comes alive in the Holy Land. This is why we call Israel the 5th Gospel. Started out with a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee to view the 2,000 year old “Jesus Boat” before arriving in the city of Jesus for Mass. What is the city of Jesus? It is Capernaum where he lived for the three years of his earthly ministry.

I gave my talk “Defending the Eucharist” and we visited the synagogue where Jesus said, “Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood.” It is one of my favorite places in the Holy Land.

Lunch was St. Peter’s Fish with the head on! It is the same fish eaten by Jesus and his disciples on a daily basis. On the two hour drive up (south) to Galilee I told my conversion story from Baptist to Catholic. I never tire of telling this story. We arrived at the Church of the Visitation and I explained why Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant.

We arrived at our hotel in Jerusalem, got checked in, had a great dinner and many people went out for a walk through the Old City of Jerusalem. We are all ready for a busy day tomorrow – all day in Bethlehem.

Day 5 – Bethlehem

Bethlehem is a city of contrasts, the largest between Christian vs. Muslim. Today we spent the day touring this ancient city which in many ways has still not moved into the modern world. It is behind a wall which constrains the inhabitants. We can come and go—they cannot.

 We literally fought our way into the Church of Nativity to touch the birthplace of Christ. We did not throw any punches but the pressing crowds forced us to push back. But everyone thought it was worth the wait and the struggle.

 Lunch of falafils and schwarma, dinner of stuffed lamb with Palestinian rice and yellow lentil soup. 

 Mass in a cave at Shepherds Field where the angels announced the good news of the birth of a lamb, the Lamb of God. Prayer with shawl of the Blessed Mariam of Jesus Crucified in front of her relics caused us all to pray for holiness and sanctity. 

 The evening was also a contrast. We ended dinner by dancing to the throbbing beats of Arabic music before walking to meet the Bishop of Jerusalem. He updated us on the situation of the Christians in the Holy Land and gave us his blessing.

 Everyone had a part of the evening free but they all went to be early because tomorrow morning we pray the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa and have Mass inside the Tomb of Christ.

All is well and everyone is having a great time. For all those concerned about safety – it is a non-issue. Everything is peaceful and quiet as usual as tens of thousands of pilgrims spread out over the country to visit the holy sites.

Bethlehem and Jerusalem – Dancing and Bishops

Day 6 Mass at the Tomb

Mass INSIDE the Tomb of Christ

Today we covered the main sites of Jesus’ Passion. We visited the place Peter denied Jesus as he was tried and imprisoned on Holy Thursday.

But, the most powerful part of the day started at 4:30 AM when our alarms went off. I always tell our pilgrims they will thank me later – and they always do, profusely!

Before the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem get so crowded you can hardly breath, we begin the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows, the true Stations of the Cross. We arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre while it was still empty to all touch the top of Calvary.

Crusader Steps up to Calvary

We then prayed the Mysteries of the Rosary and tour a tour of the church. THEN, we all entered the Tomb of Christ for Mass which I had planned way in advance. Everyone was in tears and full of awe and wonder as we celebrated the Easter Morning Mass INSIDE the Tomb. Everyone had a chance to go in and touch their Rosaries where Jesus was laid. 

We all saw Jesus come out of the Tomb again today in the form of the Blessed Sacrament. The Tomb is truly empty but he still comes out each day for his people. 

So much more to say, but just watch the videos to see it all for yourself. Great day, free time, tour of the Shroud of Turin Exhibit and more…..

Day 7 

Today was rich. Mass at Gethsemane. Prayer in the Upper Room. Remembering the dormition, Assumption and Queenship of Mary.

Lunch at a Jewish Kibbutz. Story of Salvation History from Adam & Eve until today overlooking the whole story before our eyes.

Singing at the Church of St. Ann where Mary was born. Talking about the miracle of Jesus at Bethesda.

Free afternoon and evening with great dinner at St. George.

Day 8 – Jericho, Camel Rides


It was a day full of adventure starting with Mass at Notre Dame, then a visit to the Israel Museum to see the Jerusalem of Jesus’s time and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

We descended over 4,000 feet into the Judean Wilderness to the authentic site of Jesus’ baptism – one of my all time favorite sites in Israel. Here we prayed our last Mystery of the Rosary and renewed our baptismal vows while some jumped into the river!

Great lunch in Jericho. We also saw a huge sycamore tree like the one climbed by Zaccheus in Luke 19:1-6. We also saw the mountain where Jesus was tempted by the Devil. 

Qumran and the Essenes was next as we looked out over the cave where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Swimming – er, rather, floating in the Dead Sea is always a favorite. Then riding the camels – you have to see it to believe it!

Then the pilgrimage came to an end. We always keep the rooms the last day so everyone can come back to shower, relax, eat dinner and prepare to head home.

Many people wanted to share their thoughts. I captured many of them on video. See the video below.

So, what did everyone have to say as they were boarding the bus to return home?

Comments and Farewells, very fun to listen too.