Desert Pilgrims

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Matko Boze Czestowocha

June 6, 7, 8
My grandmother showed me around town on these days. One of the evenings we went up the hill to Matko Boze Tuchowska, Our Lady of Tuchow. The Redemptionists have a seminary there, and many people flock there on pilgrimage (although, not as many as to Czestochowa). My grandmother is harping on me to eat. At any moment, she is offering me food. I guess I'm too skinny for the Polish!

June 9
Our visit to Czestochowa began at 12:30 am. My uncle had me wake up so early so that we could see the "unveiling" of the miraculous image at Jasna Gora (Light Hill, literally). I was absolutely in love with the Basilica at Czestochowa. I climb the bell tower, visited all the relics, went through the museum, venerated the miraculous image, and adored our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. We left at noon, having a full day.

Some More Pictures





The first photo is taken at the Phara in Istanbul. This is the "St. Peter's" of the Orthodox Church. I am standing in front of the remains of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory Nanzianzen (sp?). Next, we're in the Hagia Sophia, and I do not know what the guys are doing behind me. Third, I'm at the top of St. Peter's looking out onto the square. Fourth, I am toeing the line just like Gregory Peck did in "The Scarlet and the Black." Finally, I'm standing in front of the statue of St. Philomena at her shrine in Mugnano.

Since the Holy Land

Sorry, I know it's taken a while, but here are the adventures of the last two weeks.

May 28, 2006
Our flight from Istanbul to Rome went well. We arrived at the North American College (NAC) in Rome. Literally, it is in the back yard of St. Peter’s Basilica. My room has a great view of the dome. Mainly, we just settled in, ate lunch, had Mass, slept, and took a walk to the biggest church in the world. We looked around for a bit, prayed, and then after meeting up with some of the seminarians, we headed back to the NAC.
A spontaneous walk into the city was had by a handful of us. I tasted gelato for the first time, which was a delight. Exhausted, I fell into bed thankful for being in the capitol of the Catholic Church.

May 29, 2006
Where didn’t I go?…that’s my only question. After Fr. Mike celebrated Mass at the altar of Mater Ecclesia (Mary, Mother of the Church) Altar in St. Peter’s, Mike, Charles, and Phil met up with Msgr. Sable (Phil knows him well). Breakfast was had, and then Msgr. Sable graciously drove us to the Holy Steps. The steps upon which Christ walked in the Holy Land were moved to Rome by the Crusaders back in the 13th-14th centuries. They are in a church in Rome. We painfully climbed up the stairs on our knees, offering our incomparable suffering to the Lord.
St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome, was just a stone’s throw away. We spent some time in there.
Walking some more, we headed to St. Mary Majors, which meant three major basilicas in one day. St. Paul Outside the Walls’ is left, but it is quite a hike to get there. The four of us walked back to St. Peter’s Basilica, stopping at St. Peter’s in chains but found it closed.
I split from the group heading for the dome of St. Peter. Literally, I climbed the dome—360 steps and a whole lot of walking. It was worth it, though. Next, I jumped into line for the tomb of Pope John Paul II. He is buried in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, along with many other popes. I prayed there for a while, and then the guard touched my rosary to his tomb. Fascinating that in his death I reached him closer than when he was alive. Still, that same atmosphere surrounds him. Truly, he was a blessed man.
On the way out of the crypt, I crossed paths with some Swiss Guards. There job is sometimes menial, especially when they are directing the traffic of people who want to get a photo of them. Following this, I prayed my holy hour in one of the chapels at St. Peter’s Basilica. I offered my vocation to the Father and prayed for the intercession of Our Lady and all the saints, most especially the popes. Energy spent and feet tired, I trudged back to the NAC for supper.

May 30, 2006
Having my own plans, I ended up touring Rome solo today. I headed over by bus to St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and ended up staying for Mass. It is stunning—again one of the four major basilicas. Entering into the church, one first passes through an atrium courtyard. Then, colonnades line the nave, leading up to the tomb of St. Paul. All around the building are mosaics of all the popes. Benedict’s is up there, leaving room for five more. Legend has it that this will determine the “end of the world,” because there will be room for no more popes. In my estimation, this is highly unlikely.
Not only did I become a master of the buses, but I also championed the Metro Subway. I scurried over to Termini Bus Statio`n, and soon I located Santa Maria della Vittoria. This church is home to the famous Bernini sculpture, “Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila.” I was thoroughly amazed at the grandeur of this piece. Noteworthy is the expression of the angel piercing the Carmelite Superior’s heart. From one location, it looks like a smirk; from another point of view, it looks like a frown. The body of St. Victoria is located in this church. She is a third-century martyr under the Diocletian persecutions. This is the first incorruptible body that I have seen. (John XXIII is incorruptible, but he is encased in wax.)
Crossing the street was Santa Suzanna. I decided to go in, visiting the Baroque church. Both Santa Suzanna and Santa Maria were both ornately decorated with hardly any light.
Taking the metro once again, I ventured towards the Colloseum. From there I walked to Jesu Church, which houses the remains of St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Robert Bellarmine, and St. Francis Xavier. It was closed, so I was off to the Pantheon. Along the way, I walked into a church, Santa Maria Sopra Minvera. This church marks the spot of the ancient Temple of Minerva. Now, to my surprise at the time, the remains of St. Catherine of Siena are buried in a tomb under the high altar. After visiting the Pantheon, which was packed and there was hardly any room to walk around, I made my way to another Bernini masterpiece, the Spanish Steps. This is an outdoor street with steps, with all the surrounding buildings, villa, and fountains designed by the famous artist/architect. Many people were lounging on these steps, and it was difficult to maneuver through the crowds.
Then, I headed to the Vatican Museum. I marched through as fast as I could because the only thing I wanted to see was the Sistine Chapel. Again, massive crowds were in the way. I did, however, manage to spend an hour viewing all the frescoes on the walls and ceiling, imagining if the walls could talk, what would they say. Many popes were elected in this room, and so I imagined the many successors of Peter reacting to their elections by the Cardinals.
Settlers update: Dave won again.

May 31, 2006
One major prayer was granted today. I was able to see the Pope. Waking up at 6:00 am, several of us headed to the Square early for the Papal Audience. At first, we had to fight Italian nuns and a priest who had a very large group. They weren’t really in line, but when we headed towards the front of the gate, they became very upset. The sisters were pushing people in wheelchairs, ramming the metal into our ankles. The priest at one point knocked over Mark R. was wanting to fight Charles. The situation was a mess, but we few Americans stood our ground. The NAC seminarians told us to show no mercy. At 8:00 am, the first gate opened, and it was a mad dash toward the gate with all the security guards and metal detectors. At 8:30 am, there was another mad dash through security. The five of us seminarians were able to reach the front barricade on the left hand side of St. Peter’s Square. The fight was not over, because for two hours we need to hold our ground. So many people were wanting to take our seats and places. Through the generosity of one nun, she let us sit in the front row. Moving our chairs up to the barricade (for there was about five feet in front of us), and Rich planting himself in the aisle, not allowing anyone to go through, we stood there in vigil. The same Italian group that was ramming wheelchairs into our ankles then began yelling at us to sit down, shut up, etc., etc. They were not very happy with us.
The audience was beginning. Pope Benedict rode around on the pope-mobile right in front of us, only five feet away. He rode through the crowds and made his way to the front. He made comments about his recent trip to Poland. The audience had its usual go-around: introducing different groups, making statements in all the major languages, and the Pope meeting dignitaries and bishops. During his final blessing, we held up our religious articles. He then began shaking hands with the people in the reserved seats at the top of the steps. Once placed on the pope-mobile again, he came down off the platform and headed for our section. A very nice group of Americans was behind us. We waited a good hour after the audience for this moment. On the truck, the pressed up against the barricades and began shaking hands with the people in our section. The anticipation mounted, and we knew our turn was soon to come.
With His Holiness only a few feet away, I wrapped my rosary in my hand after the suggestion of one of my brother seminarians. As he drove by me, he began to bless the crowd, but I was able to pull his hand down. What a surreal moment! Caught up in the emotions of the moment, turning a blind eye to the world around me, the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, held my hand in his and looked me straight in the eye. The only words that came to my mind were, “Viva, il Papa,” which means, “Long live the Pope” in Italian. I will never forget that moment, nor wash my hand ever again.
Afterward, all those around us joined in our cheers and celebration for experiencing that glorious moment. A couple behind me was Baptist, and yet they celebrated the same with us (I’m really praying for them now!). The five of us—Rich, Mike, Charles, Mark R. and I—could not stop talking about it when we returned to the NAC.
The days adventures did not end there. Some of the seminarians, myself included, went to St. Peter’s for Mass at 5:00 pm. Apparently, Cardinal Szoka celebrated Mass for the patrons of the Vatican Museum. The “officials” kept telling us that what was supposed to be a public Mass was closed to the public. A woman, one of the patrons I guess, was refusing to allow anyone to come into the chapel. She was even ready to refuse an elderly man who could barely walk. Needless to say, many of us were on the verge of an explosion of anger. The same woman was even going to deny us from receiving communion. Thank the Lord that the Basilica guards new better. We were able to receive, but I had a deeper appreciation for it afterward.
Charles and I received another surprise, for Bishop Vigneron, former rector of SHMS, was concelebrating the Mass. We were able to greet him after Mass and walk around for a few minutes. He had some business to take care of for the Diocese of Oakland and there new cathedral. Dinner followed, with the pilgrimage group gathering with Msgr. Sable and Fr. Urban.
One gains a deep appreciation for the gifts God bestows most especially when they are hard earned graces. It took a lot out of us to do what we accomplished, yet certainly only God could have provided the circumstances in which to achieve them.

June 1, 2006
I was on my own again, traveling to Assisi by train. It took 2 ½ hours on the train, and when I arrived, it was cold and very windy. A cab driver, knowing no English, took me around to the Church of St. Damian, where St. Francis first heard the call of the Lord. St. Clare’s first convent was still intact at the same location.
Next, we ventured to some churches: Cathedral of St. Rufinus, housing the patrons tomb and Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, a very well-decorated and ornate church. I found the Basilica of St. Clare to be very modest, simple, and plain, reflecting the character of this saint. Her incorruptible body is entombed in the crypt chapel and the San Damiano Cross, the one which spoke to St. Francis, was housed there, as well. Next, I visited some medieval ruins, after which, I arrived at the Basilica of St. Francis. Three levels of frescoes, altars, and dimly lit chapels fill the site. At the lowest level, the tomb of St. Francis can be approached, where I sat for some time and prayed, venerating his tomb. I then reached the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, and headed back to Rome by train. Short-lived, but truly this was a memorable experience.

June 2, 2006
St. Philomena delivers graces, but they are hard earned. An early start, about 5:00 am, began a day of patient waiting. Dave, Phil, and I headed toward Mugnano del Cardinale to visit the Shrine of St. Philomena, the Wonder Worker. Nothing is known about this saint other than when her body was transferred from the catacombs to this site many miracles were being attributed to her. On her sarcophagus were seals that said she was a virgin, a martyr, and how she was killed. She granted one of my prayers, to meet the Holy Father.
Off we were by train from Rome to Naples. In Naples, we ran into a little trouble because 40,000 buses were around us, and we had to hop on the right one in order to arrive at the village. Once we figured out which bus, we realized that it was passing right in front of us, heading toward our destination. The next one arrived two hours later.
Once in Mugnano, our next adventure was to find the church. Mind you, none of us knows Italian and the natives don’t know English (at least in Southern Italy). A friendly man, after a brief moment with him, gave us a ride to the church about a mile away. It was a beautiful church, and we prayed for while, took some photos, and looked around. Then the rector, Don Giovanni Braschi greeted us warmly and proceeded to give us every detail about the church…in Italian. He spoke slowly enough and with emphasis that we caught on to what he was saying. We had espressos in the sacristy while he told us stories and people he knew in the States. We returned to Rome, being exhausted myself, and Dave and Phil really refreshed by the experience. It was a good experience, but I have been running mad for almost a month. When I arrive in Poland, I hope to take a little breather.

June 3, 2006
St. Peter’s was completely packed. If I thought it was crowded on Wednesday during the audience, then I had something yet in store. Because the Holy Father invited all the renewal movements in the Church to the Pentecost celebration at St. Peter’s, many groups, truly filled with the Holy Spirit, filled every corner of the square. It was quite the challenge to attend mass in the St. Joseph Chapel inside the Basilica, but I managed somehow. The last adventure of the day was heading to the airport and flying off to Poland. My aunt and uncle were waiting for me in Krakow and I met my grandmother later that night in her apartment.

June 4, 2006
I am finally living the breather I prayed for before. I watched Pentecost Mass from the Vatican and from Czestochowa. Lunch was at my aunt’s, and we went to Mass at the Church of Divine Mercy in Tarnow (not the shrine).

June 5, 2006
Again, I was able to sleep in today. I woke up late, and hung around the apartment until my aunt and uncle arrived. They took me around the city, visiting parishes. I am liking a lot of these parishes, some of them very new. They are tall, great acoustics, and built like churches should be. Each church has a main altar, two side altars, beautiful icons of Our Lady and of the Divine Mercy.
Like most family, especially Polish, they are hoarding over me to eat and drink. I wonder how long it will be before they realized I do not need someone waiting on me hand and foot, reminding me to eat and drink. Long will I remain patient, too.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Last Few Days

The last few days have been hectic, but I've kept track of the events. Here we go...
May 24, 2006
It has become extremely hot in this country. The temperature is between 90 and 100 degrees with a humidity well over 75%. It short, it is a little bit miserable, and truthfully, I am a wimp when it comes to heat.
We made several short visits to places today. First, we found the synagogue church where Christ was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. After reading it, our Lord proclaimed that the prophecy had been fulfilled in Him. It was a small stone building, barely enough room for twenty-five people. The Franciscan there was very warm, a common occurrence that we have found in the Holy Land. The guide then showed us a Melkite church which had many amazing icons.
Again we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation. Remarkably, I was able to pray the Angelus at the site for morning, noon, and night. It was difficult to pray, mainly because it has been so hot—100 degrees with high humidity. At the same time, when you have been traveling all day, people like me are ornery and cranky, just waiting the time to take a breather. We had Mass in the St. Joseph chapel, marking the carpentry shop where the foster of the Lord worked. A great meditation to be had is Joseph showing Christ how to work with His hands. Those sacred hands sanctified manual labor. I made sure to pray for all manual laborers, that their lives may be sanctified.
We were near the tributaries of the Jordan River, so we stopped. A lot of people were walking in ankle deep. Many catfish and carp were in the water. Apparently, these are not “kosher” and so nobody harvests them. One fisherman said that they are like cows in India, but not necessarily held sacred. One woman there was able to catch them in her hands. Nearby, a group was being “baptized” in the Jordan River. As Catholics, we believe that you cannot be re-baptized and prefer to remember our baptismal promises. That group seemed to be seriously doing baptisms, so I do not know exactly what they were up to other than that.
A small chapel on the shores of the Sea of Galilee is dedicated to the Primacy of St. Peter. After the Resurrection, Christ appeared to the Apostles as they were fishing on the lake. On shore, Christ was cooking fish. Many have venerated a stone upon which this took place. More importantly, this is the site where Christ entrusts the first of the Apostles with the Church. Here we have the beginning of the tradition of the papacy. It was difficult to pray in this church because wrens were nesting and flying all over and the smell was awful. We spent some time outside, trying to skip the flat stones on the waves of the lake.
Before settling down for the evening, we visited the Benedictine monastery commemorating the site of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. The church there is quite simple with mosaic floors dating back to Byzantine times. We spent the night at a hotel on the Mount of Beatitudes.
Settlers update: I won again! It was a very close game, and a lot of fun.

May 25, 2006
We began with Mass at the Chapel on the Mount of Beatitudes. Today marks Fr. Mike’s tenth anniversary to priesthood. His homily reflected some of the most memorable moments in his ministry. The heat was turned on full blast. It reminded me of Fr. Zuegner’s homily when he was at my home parish: “If you think its hot now, think of what hell must be like.” I am such a wimp.
We traveled to Caesarea Philippi, a pagan city in the time of Christ. St. Peter had his unforgettable confession of Christ as the Son of God. We were able to visit some ruins. There were some streams in the area, but it was forbidden to walk into them. What a temptation to break the rules!
The guide led us into the Golan Heights, an area recently marked by war and strife. It is held by the Israelis, but is disputed with Syria. Though nobody felt alarmed or in danger, it did remind us of some of the reading we did prior to or on the pilgrimage. We read a book called “Blood Brothers” about a priest from this area who had been exiled in his only land. A charming book bringing life, names, and almost faces to the troubles in the Holy Land. I suggest that people read this book to understand the depth of the issues.
After lunch, we head to St. Peter’s house in Capernaum. The church, not remarkable for its architecture, is definitely so for its engineering. It is set over the ruins of three old churches that used to be there. Right next to it was the synagogue where Christ taught. In addition, one of the houses was where the Lord cured the crippled man lowered through the roof. Again it was hot!
We then proceeded to a boat ride on the lake. A warm breeze came over the area, and it did feel good at times. The boat was similar to one that Christ would have traveled in His time. The men attempted to fish, but caught nothing…go figure. They played some Christian rock, and I decided to do my holy hour praise and worship style. I was practically led to tears, praising God for the good gifts He has given me. After tonight’s postcard writing party, I truly cherished the gift of humor. I am sure my brothers would appreciate it if I did not reveal what was said and done tonight. It is late, the next few days will be long and wearisome. Know of our prayers for all who asked and who ask and who will ask. Did I get everybody in there?

May 26, 2006
On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, we celebrated the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Again the temperature raised to boiling. The suffering did not last long for us, for we headed towards the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Along the way, we stopped at Caesarea Maritima, where St. Paul was imprisoned before being taken to Rome. The ruins were pretty amazing. The theater was, for the most part, intact. Concerts are held there periodically. It was at this place that I first touched the Mediterranean. Its sparkling blue-green color was dotted with sailboats, motorboats, jet-skis, and barges. Closer to shore, one could see the various immobile wildlife like seaweed, algae, and mosses. We were able to find few tiny hermit crabs.
Lunch was shwarma—pitas stuffed with lamb and vegetables. Good, but a little too much. After having begged Fr. Trapp, we were able to go to Mount Carmel, the cave where Elijah hid when he was chased by Jezebel. Some hermits eventually lived there, creating what we now know as the Carmelite order. The church was fascinating, definitely Italian Baroque in architecture. It is situated on the cliffs overlooking the sea. The views over Haifa’s lower city were serene, marked by the harbor as water vessels were darting in and out of the marina.
Another church that we visited was the Church of St. Peter in Jaffa. Here St. Peter received the message from Cornelius after raising Tabitha from the dead. This church was another great architectural site. It was mainly Italian Renaissance, not having a tryptyphorum level on the walls. Most of these places were closing as we were walking in, but as for the souvenir shops, I cannot say the same.
We winded up just outside of Tel Aviv, our hotel near the airport. We stayed overnight on the beach. Before dinner, some of us headed for the water, swimming for the first time in the Mediterranean. After dinner, we headed for the pool, getting kicked out of there, as well. Tomorrow is a long day in Istanbul/Constantinople/Byzantium…whatever you wish to call it.

May 27, 2006
Rising early, like 2 am, we left the nice five-star hotel in Tel Aviv to fly to Istanbul. Our layover to Rome is a day, so we had the opportunity to see the sites of the ancient city of Constantinople. We waited a while this morning, but finally we managed to hop on a bus and visit the Orthodox Patriarchate, sort of like the Vatican of the Orthodox. It pales in comparison to the Vatican. The tiny church was surrounded by five buildings. Inside, icons and chandeliers filled almost every nook and cranny. We were able to venerate the remains of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory Nanzianzen, two Easter doctors developing much of the doctrine on the Holy Trinity and the dual natures of Christ.
Both the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Patriarch of Jerusalem were meeting today, so we were told. There was a little bustle in the area of the church.
Afterwards, we made it to the center of the city amidst the worst traffic I had ever seen. Turkish driving is crazy, disorganized, and completely chaotic at times. We ate at McDonald’s, my restaurant of choice, and then ventured to an old church-turned-mosque-turned-museum. Its name was Korah, which had two meanings. First, it meant outside the city, which would have been true during the third and fourth centuries. Secondly, it means the Bearer of the Uncontainable. There were awesome mosaics, mostly portraying the life of Mary.
We ended up in Hagia Sofia, the church-turned-mosque-turned-museum. This has to be the largest church I had ever been to, EVER! There were so many people, but since it is over 1,500 years old, and gone through many repairs and restorations, it does not reflect its original splendor. Its sheer size is spectacular, though.
Exhausted, our group returned to the hotel, celebrated Mass, and ate dinner. On to the Eternal City, Rome.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More Pictures


Hezekiah's Tunnel...and no, I'm not a devil. The second photo is the Upper Room.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mt. Tabor pt. 2

We had a morning reflection today on Mount Tabor. The Franciscans there were extremely gentile, hospitable, friendly, and most importantly joyful. They made our stay all the more worthwhile. Fr. Trapp told us to attempt to meditate on two things: the need for the redemption of the world and the Transfiguration. I had some pretty intense prayer, some of it focused on internal and personal things. At the end, like most times on this trip, I just thanked God for this wonderful opportunity.
Several of us walked down the mountain, which took about half an hour. I asked Fr. Trapp what "rising from the dead meant." He chuckled a little.
On our way to Nazareth we stopped at Cana for Mass. This is the site of the first miracle of Christ, the changing of water into wine. Fr. Trapp celebrated Mass in the quaint church. We prayed a little, and then I decided to walk around and view the excavations. I ran into an American college group. They were part of the Christian Fellowship of Athletes, ministering to youth in Israel and touring part of the country. They were not Catholic, and I heard their guide explaining how it was wine that Jesus created, not grape juice. Quite a humourous group. Then, I proceeded to check out the shops, not really wanting to buy anything. The shop across the street had free wine taste testing. It was not a good year.
Eventually, we made it to Nazareth, stopping at the Basillica of the Anunciation. This church, over the area of where Mary received the news from the Angel Gabriel about Christ, was built in the 1950's. It definitely represents the architecture of the time. Some of the artwork, in the words of Fr. Trapp, is unforgettable.
We made our way to the hotel. St. Gabriel hotel is like the St. John's Center of Nazareth. It was a monastery converted into a hotel. It has great views of the city, but my room doesn't have one. Oh well! We'll have Mass at the Basillica tomorrow. God bless.

Mt. Tabor

May 22, 2006
We’re on the road, the beginning of almost a week of traveling every day. Our destination was Mount Tabor, but now without a few stops on the way. We visited Jericho, first stopping at the tree of Zacchaeus. This is the tree where the short man, known as a sinner in the town, climb in order to see Christ. Christ invited Himself into the man’s house, where we witness the man in conversion.
We climbed up one of the mountains to a Orthodox monastery. The father who opened the door did not seem to warm and welcoming. He did not allow us to pray, although we rested a few minutes there. The hike to the mountain was long and steep, and climbing back down was not much easier. Before the bus returned, we went to a little shop at the foot of the hill. The woman had cold refreshments and ice cream. I broke one of my rules and had a popsicle before noon (I normally do not eat ice cream before 12:00 pm. It was so good that I had to have two. This woman was so hospitable. She pulled out chairs for us to sit in the shade instead of the incredible heat. Out of her poverty, she gave us all she had, and it was truly an incredible gift. I will always remember her for that.
Our third stop was the ruins at Beth She’an. This place was an amazingly large city, with colonnades, amphitheaters, temples, and churches. Some of the ruins dated back 7,000 years. By far, this was the best site of ruins. A lot of it has been restored, and parts of it remained after an earthquake in 794 A.D. We then had lunch at the Last Temptation Restaurant. The food was decent.
Riding on the bus further up the Jordan River Valley, we stopped at a church in Nein. This marks the spot of Christ raising the widow’s son in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 7.
Finally we arrived at Mount Tabor in the evening twilight. Fr. Byrnes celebrated Mass, and some of us completed our holy hours. I truly wanted to experience the Transfiguration. In my prayer, I was able to kiss the feet of the Transfigured Christ.
The Basilica of the Transfiguration lends itself well to prayer. The mosaic behind the high altar in the evening glow of the sun truly radiates the light of Christ. The acoustics in the church are awesome, leaving us with a three-second reverberation. It is incredibly tall, in Gothic architecture. Gardens surround the church and the abbey at which we spent the night. This has to be my favorite place.
Settlers update: Dave won two games last night. Mark R. won one the night before.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Ramallah

Before I begin with today's activities, I'd like to mention what we did last night. The communities here at Notre Dame had a barbeque for us. I volunteered to help cook, not realizing I'd be given the main barbequeing responsibility. I'll admit, it was the first time grilling kebobs, and I burnt a few (ok...a lot). We enjoyed some fellowship before hand, exchaning greetings and blessings, had a lot of food to eat, and then sang some songs afterward. It was quite enjoyable.
Ramallah, a town on the Palestinian side of the Wall, had quite a different atmosphere. I felt a little enclose by the Wall, because it was running on the side of one of the main streets. We went to Holy Family Church. We met some other pilgrims from Detroit. Fr. Fisher and a group from St. Lawrence, Utica, were there, marking their co-op as sister parishes. Mass was a little chaotic, a lot of movement, little kids everywhere, but I felt so moved by prayerfulness and joy that filled the church. The choir was excellent, as well.
Lunch was at a posch restaurant, where we ate like kings and gluttons. There was so much food! It was extremely delicious, and Fr. Trapp did not order anything for us (which meant no cow's stomach or pig brains)! Tomorrow, we're on the road until we hit Rome. We'll be traveling up the Jordan River to Galilee, fly to Istanbul and tour all day, then fly to Rome. Thanks for all your prayers. God bless!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Holy Cenacle and Dormition Abbey

It's the Sabbath for the Jews, yet the Christian pilgrims still travel. The Holy Cenacle and Dormition Abbey were on the itinerary today. Fr. Trapp celebrated Mass at the Church ad Coenaculum. This is a Franciscan church near the Cenacle. The Chapel was pretty, with a giant bronze sculpture of the Last Supper behind the altar. The Franciscan who greeted us was very cordial and warm in welcoming us. We went to the site of the Holy Cenacle, where Christ celebrated the Last Supper. It is in Gothic Architecture, with ribbed vaults and Corinthian columns. Any trace of Judeo-Christian tradition has been removed. Muslims run the place now, for it is over what is thought to be the Tomb of David. Jews venerate the tomb, as well. We went up there and prayed for a while. I imagined Christ washing my feet. Then I thought about Him instituting the Most Holy Eucharist. Anne Catherine Emmerich's book, "The Dolorous Passion", which inspired Gibson's movie, has a great meditation with impeccable details surrounding the Last Supper. (Take that, Daniel Brown!)
Christ appeared in the Upper Room after His Resurrection. I prayed, seeing Christ walk through the locked door and asking for something to eat. It's also the site of Pentecost. So then I imagined Mary and the followers of Christ waiting for the Holy Spirit. How did they spend nine days in such a place? It is amazing to believe what went on, who braved the crowds to buy food, why was it that Thomas left and returned. Many interesting thoughts to pray about.
Our last scheduled stop was Dormition Abbey. The tradition here is that this commorates the spot where Mary "layed down to die." We Catholics do not believe this, but rather believe that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. It's still a nice church, with a pious tradition about Mary. The mosaics in this church were magnificent. Some of us spent our holy hours down in the crypt chapel, where I found it to be the noisiest. Oh well, that was my sacrifice of the day.
Phil, Dave C., and I walked through the streets of the Old City, where it was packed all throughout the marketplace. Phil and I ventured into the New City, where it was empty, because of the Jewish Sabbath. Tonight we have a barbeque with the sisters at Notre Dame. Tomorrow we will visit Ramallah. God bless.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Claustrophobs Beware

We visited St. Peter in Gallicantu again. When we were there the first time, I did not visit the lower levels, which have caves and cisterns. We prayed Psalm 88 in the place where it is thought Christ was held before seeing Caiaphas. Mass was celebrated in the lower church, where there were exquisite icons of St. Peter. I really liked the one behind the main altar depicting him weeping after denying Christ. What inspiration St. Peter gives me, turning back to Christ after denying Him. Fr. Byrnes gave us some practical suggestions on how to love.
Afterward, we walked over to the Tunnel of Hezekiah. It was built about 4,000 years ago, as I know it, to get water from the top of the hill down to the bottom. Six of us braved the experience. This tunnel, a quarter-mile long, travels 100m under the city. It is tight and extremely cramped in places. Only one person wide, there is no turning back once you enter. There are no lights, and a strem of water flows the entire time. At different points, the cold water was halfway up our thighs. Brrr!!!! I am claustrophobic, but braved the tunnel. At different points, I wanted to panic but remained calm. The group of kids behind us were extremely noisy, banging, screaming, and splashing. The group in front of us was extremely slow. It took about an hour to walk the entire thing, but it was well worth it. The steep climb back was a struggle, but the effort was cured by some icecream at the top! I am the site coordinator for tomorrow: the Cenacle. I spent my holy hour today preparing for it, reading and praying about what I am going to present.