Holy Land Christmas Break – December 2012

27 December 2012 to 06 January 2013

Pilgrim Photos: Betsy Nieto’s Picasa Album

Was it safe in Israel? Ask the Pilgrims Who’ve Traveled throughout for Ten Days

What was their experience? We traveled from Tel Aviv to Galilee, from the border with Lebanon to the border with Syria. We’ve been to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Did our pilgrims ever feel in danger? Quite the opposite. Listen to their own words

Day 1: Arrival

First day is off to I spectacular start. Everyone arrived safely, no lost luggage, and everything went according to plan.

Smooth ride up to Galilee, wonderful Mass, Delicious dinner and everyone is now sleeping with the soothing sound of the waves of the Sea of Galilee coming into their windows.

Everyone has a “sea-view” window. Good night pilgrims; good night Galilee!

Day 2, Part 1: Beatitudes, Banias

Beginning of our first full day. Mass at the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus proclaimed the Gospel, Banias where Jesus made Peter the Rock and gave him the keys of the kingdom. Then to Golan Heights for Druze lunch and an overlook of Lebanon and Syria with a lesson in Middle Eastern politics.

Day 2, Part 2 Tabgha, Primacy, Dinner at Auberge

Jesus multiplied loaves and fish and caused a miracle of a huge catch of fish. Steve gave a talk on Jesus and the charcoal fire mentioned in John 21. We visited all these sites and more this afternoon along with a wonderful dinner in an elegant dinner at Auberge Shulamit in Rosh Pina.

Day 3, Part 1: Mount of Transfiguration, Cana, Nazareth

Day three was another great day of allowing the land of Our Lord to permeate and change us. When walked with an open heart and an eager mind, the Holy Land can grab you and change you.

Fr. Craig commented today on what Amer said the first day: “Don’t just pass through the Land, let the Land pass through you!” Today people were moved and changed as we climbed Mount Tabor to learn about and experience the Transfiguration our Our Lord. Three biblical events took place up here and we discussed them all.

Then we drove to Cana. There is more to say about John 2 than we could cover in a whole day but I shared from my book St. John’s Gospel and we talked about Mary, the turning of water into wine, marries in the Middle East and so much more. But the highlight of Cana is when we renew wedding vows in the Wedding Church exactly where Jesus visited 2,000 years ago.

Day 3, Part 2: Nazareth

After that emotional experience we jumped back on the bus for an authentic Arab lunch in Nazareth, as usual supporting the local Christians. Grilled chicken kabobs, lamb kabobs, lots of Arabic salads and pita bread, fries, baklava and Turkish coffee. Great lunch! 

Then off to the Church of the Annunciation where the Angel Gabriel brought the good news to a little 15 year old Jewish girl named Miriam who lived in a cave. We prayed the Mystery of the Annunciation in the entrance of that cave. Our planned Mass at the Annunciation was altared due to a wedding which was a dream come true for Fr. Vasek. He wanted in the worst way to celebrate Mass in the Church of his hero St. Joseph and that’s exactly what we did.

Mass was above the House of the Holy Family in the Church of St. Joseph. To make it even more special – it was the Feast of the Holy Family! There were a few tears due to the emotional experience. What a great Sunday Mass. After driving back to the shore of Galilee to our hotel everyone had a few hours to relax before dinner.

Frs. Vasek and Romke sat on the patio and shared with everyone their thoughts on the first days of the pilgrimage. Everyone prayed together and expressed what God is doing in their lives during this trip. All of this with the gentle waves of the sea splashing just below them.

Day 4, Part 1: Galilee Sea, Capernaum

Day 4, Part 2: St. Peter’s Fish, Elijah’s Mountain, Up to Jerusalem

Day 5, Part 1: Bethlehem

Great day, all day, in Bethlehem. Visited the largest Olive Wood store, heard the Our Father in the language of our Lord, touched the place Jesus was born, learned about the Church of Nativity and more in the morning. We ate falafel and schwarma for lunch.

Day 5, Part 2: Bethlehem

Mass in a cave in Shepherds Field where the angels announced the good news of Jesus’ birth to shepherds. We then visited the Carmelite monastery and wearing the robe of the Blessed Miriam of Jesus Crucified who is a local Arab saint. We prayed in front of her relics. Then for a dinner of the passover lamb along with fun Arabic dancing. Evening was blessed too with a time of reflection and free time.

Day 6, Part 1: St. Ann’s, Western Wall, Mt. Zion

Day 6, Part 2: Panoramic, Gallicantu, Holy Tomb and more

Day 7, Part 1: Gethsemane, Pater Noster

Another full and marvelous day ending with a meeting with the Bishop of Jerusalem who was born and raised and ordained in Bethlehem. Everyone is doing well and very excited. No injuries, illness or problems. All are completely safe and relaxed. This is a marvelous country and fear keeps so many from experiencing our Lord and Lady in this profound way.

Janet and I have been here well over a hundred times and have brought thousands of pilgrims — with never a problem.

Today we had an emotional Mass at Gethsemane. Afterwards we walked among the trees that are over 2,000 years old. If they had ears, eyes and a mouth they could tell you what they saw that momentous night.

Then we went to the Pater Noster Church where Jesus taught his disciples, especially to pray the Our Father. He also ascended into heaven from this spot. They have the Our Father on the walls in over 160 languages.

We walked down the Palm Sunday Road before returning for a free afternoon. Our pilgrims scattered all over the city of Jerusalem on their own to explore and pray.

Day 7, Part 2: Dominus Flevit, Meeting Jerusalem Bishop

At 4:00 PM we had the best Holy Shroud Exhibit tour anywhere. After that we walked to the Latin Patriarchate to meet the bishop of Jerusalem. Fr. Romke received his pilgrimage shell from the bishop of Jerusalem. He greeted us all gave us a talk about the Holy Land.

After a great day everyone had dinner and crashed into bed to prepare for another full day tomorrow.

romke shell with jerusalem bishop

Fr. Romke receives his pilgrimage shell from the Bishop of Jerusalem.

Day 8, Part 1: Temple Model, Qumran, Jordan River

Day 8, Part 2: Jericho, Dead Sea, Camel Rides

Early Morning Stations of the Cross to Mass at the Tomb

Fr. Vasek’s 4 Minute Homily at the Tomb

Fr. Romke’s Final Homily

Last Day Holy Land, Part 2: Elvis Restaurant, Visitation, Good Byes