Holy Land Parish Group: St. Ann’s with Msgr. Droll – November 2013

17 November 2013 to 27 November 2013

Day 1: Arrival

Their flights arrived on time and all stepped off the plane a bit tired but enthusiastic and ready to go. We got them up to Galilee for a fine dinner and Mass on the shore of Galilee.

I hope you enjoy the videos. The first is the arrival and all the excitement of being in the Holy Land and driving north to Galilee. The second in Msgr. Droll’s first homily given right on the shore of Galilee with huge waves crashing in.

Msgr. Droll’s first Holy Land pilgrimage homily given on the wave-tossed Sea of Galilee. What a great opening homily!


Day 2: Transfiguration, Nazareth, Cana

Mass at the Church of Transfiguration

Today we had great weather, not too hot or cold, just perfect. Everyone has already bonded into a fellowship of believers set on learning more about our Lord and Lady and the Church. And we are reading the 5th Gospel – which is the Holy Land. 

Today we began early to avoid the lines and arrived first at Mount Tabor, the Mount of the Transfiguration. We had Mass was Jesus was transfigured before his three disciples in the presence of Moses and Elijah. I gave my talk on the meaning of the Transfiguration and its relationship to Mount Sinai. You can listen to Msgr. Droll’s homily here.

Everyone was emotional at the renewal of wedding vows at the Wedding Church in Cana. Msgr. Droll did a marvelous job of explaining the beauty of marriage and all the married coupled renewed vows together. I gave my talk on the Wedding Feast of Cana and how the six jars became seven when Jesus died on the cross.

Then to an authentic Arab meal in Nazareth. One of the pilgrims commented, “That was not lunch, it was a feast!”

Our last stop of the day was a third Rosary site – the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. My friend Amer, who is our local guide, lives in Nazareth and the Annunciation is his parish church so I laid low so he could explain his own church but I did give one of my favorite talks “A Day in the Life of the Holy Family” at the cave where Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived.

The late afternoon and evening were free. It was nice to see our pilgrims swimming in the Sea of Galilee, sharing a glass of wine watching the waves and I know that some took a nap.

Msgr. Droll’s Homily at the top of the Mount of Transfiguration; click here 713_0023

Day 3: In the footprints of Jesus and Peter


Great day beginning with Mass at the Mount of Beatitudes. This is such a lovely place it’s hard to get people to leave.

Then we drove one hour up to Banias which in the Bible is referred to as Caesarea Philippi. Along the way all three priests on the bus told us their vocations story. Everybody loves location stories!

I gave my talk on Peter and the primacy of Rome while we sat under the huge rock with the cave called the Gates of Hell.

20131120-191423.jpgWe went into the Golan Heights and had a local lunch which everyone enjoyed very much. It was a simple lunch because we have a huge, and elegant dinner tonight. We looked out over the country of Syria and discussed the recent political situation.

We arrived back at the sea of Galilee to view the place where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish and the place where he fed his disciples early in the morning in John chapter 21. Then back up to Rosh Pina for the elegant dinner at Auberge Shulamit.

On the way home we turned the bus into a comedy club and everyone roared with laughter until we returned back to our hotel.

Msgr. Droll’s homily delivered at Mount of Beatitudes. 713_0024



Day 4: Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee and Drive up to Jerusalem

Another great day with the St. Ann’s Parish pilgrimage. We started out with Mass at Capernaum where Jesus said,” Eat my flesh, drink my blood”. I gave my talk “Defending the Eucharist”.

We then went in on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee before arriving at Nof Ginosar to see the ancient boat from the time of Jesus.

Next we ate St. Peter’s fish for lunch, just like Jesus and the disciples did. Then we left for our 2 hour UP to Jerusalem. Even though we were going south we would never say down to Jerusalem. In the Bible it says “up to Jerusalem 22 times.” Jerusalem is sheer God lives and is therefore the highest place of the face of the earth.

On the way up to Jerusalem I gave my conversion story, why two Baptists decided to become Catholics.

After arriving at our Notre Dame Hotel owned by the Vatican we quickly walked to the Holy Sepulchre where we had a special event called the Solemn Entry. You will see in the video that we were all able to enter the tomb of Christ escorted by the Franciscans and beautiful organ music. Very few people get this privilege.

Then back for dinner and bed to prepare for a full day tomorrow in Bethlehem.

Msgr. Droll’s homily in Capernaum here 713_0025


Our 51 pilgrims at the Holy Sepulchre


Msgr. Droll prays with us on the bus


Our boat arriving on the Sea of Galilee


Entering the Tomb of Christ

Day 5: Bethlehem

Great day. It was our “Bethlehem Day!” We saw all the main sites and more including Mass at Shepherd’s Field. We started by shopping in Bethlehem to support the persecuted local Christians. Then to Shepherd’s Field for Mass after which we had lunch at the Christmas Tree Restaurant (wait until you see Msgr. Droll making falafils! Then to the Carmelite Monastery and dinner. We had the Passover Lamb along with much, much more Palestinian food. I know many of you think all we do on this pilgrimage is eat 🙂  Enjoy the dancing!

In the evening we went to visit the Bishop of Jerusalem in the Latin Patriarchate. Fifteen of our group are Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre and 10 of them received their Pilgrimage Shell from the hands of the bishop. The group picture below took place with the bishop of Jerusalem.

Msgr. Droll’s homily in Bethlehem 713_0027


Day 6: Jerusalem

Praying REAL Stations of the Cross

This is always the highlight of the pilgrimage. We start early – very early – and pray the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa where Jesus carried his cross.

We arrive before the crowds at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and everyone gets to touch the top of Calvary where the Cross was standing. I remind people that if they touched that spot 2,000 years ago their fingers would come up sticky with his blood.

Tomb of Our Lord where our priests celebrated Mass

The next logical step is the Tomb. And that’s exactly what we do. We have a private Mass at the Tomb of Christ and in the end Jesus again comes out of the Tomb for us in the form of the Blessed Sacrament. It alway elicits tears and awe. Msgr. Droll did a marvelous job and you can listen to his homily here 713_0028.

After we walked back through the Old City we had breakfast at Notre Dame and a bit of rest. Then we jumped on the bus for a trip to the Church of Paternoster where Jesus not only taught the apostles to pray the Our Father but from where he ascended into heaven after his resurrection.

Touching the steps on which Jesus was dragged to his trial

Next was Peter in Gallicantu where Peter denied Jesus and where Jesus was imprisoned over Holy Thursday night. I took everyone down into the prison and we read Psalm 88.

Lunch at the Notre Dame and everyone had the rest of the day and evening free. They are scattered all over Jerusalem exploring, praying, hiking, enjoying and more. At 5:00 PM we offer the optional Holy Shroud Exhibit – the best in the world. 

Tomorrow is a busy day going to Mass at Gethsemane, visit to the Dormition of Mary and the Upper Room. After than lunch at a Jewish Kibbutz and – from the most magnificent lookout point – I give my 30-minute “Story of Salvation History.” Then some more free time before dinner.

Day 7: Gethsemane, Wailing Wall, Upper Room

Gethsemane with 2,000 year old Olive Trees

Another great day with marvelous weather, fantastic pilgrims, a sumptuous itinerary and deeply spiritual experience. We started with Mass at Gethsemane – one of the most moving sites for many people.

Here is Msgr. Droll’s homily at Gethsemane 713_0029

Mike at the Western Wall

Then we prayed at the Western Wall where I explained the history and shared some interesting stories. Mount Zion is a highlight for the Jews and also for Christians.

It is here that Mary “fell asleep” or had her dormition. We visited the Abbey of the Dormition and then went to the Upper Room. This is the most special place for priests and four of the seven sacraments are directly related to this room.

After this we had a great lunch at the Ramat Rachel Kibbutz with Bethlehem out the huge windows. Next was one of my favorite talks – a 30-minute “Story of Salvation History from Adam and Eve until Today” with the whole backdrop right before our eyes at the lookout point of the Promenade.

Msgr. Droll at the Jerusalem overview

We ended the day with a visit the the Church of the Visitation where I gave my talk on “Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant.” After this everyone had 2 1/2 hours free before dinner and a free evening. What a great day!

Day 8: Dead Sea, Camel Rides, Jericho

Today was special for this group because most of them, including Msgr. Droll are from St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Midland Texas. I arranged for their last day to have Mass at St. Ann’s in Jerusalem where the Blessed Virgin was born. Here is Monsignor’s homily713_0030

It was a rollicking day of visiting great sites, swimming in the Dead Sea, riding camels and so much more.

Everyone just left with tears and hugs and farewells. By now they are arriving at the airport and boarding for home.

What a great group! It is always sad to say good-bye after we all became some close over the last eight days. Msgr. Droll is a class act! Everyone was great. 

But I will let you watch the day for yourself…