Search      Language 
     

The RC Toolkit (Article)
It’s Good to Be Here (Article)
Dream Big (Article)
Me? An Apostle? (Article)
A Year of Daily Mass Homilies (Article)

Sunrise in Galilee, Sunset at Calvary
U. S. A. | WHO WE ARE | NEWS
A pilgrimage to Jerusalem is an unforgettable experience. Mrs. Mary Bell shares her impressions from her trip this spring.

Sunrise prayer service at the Sea of Galilee with Fr. John Solana, LC.
Sunrise prayer service at the Sea of Galilee with Fr. John Solana, LC.

May 31, 2008. Washington, DC. Some say it takes courage to travel to the Holy Land. Or maybe it just takes faith. To walk the dusty paths he trod, to see the lilies of the field, to touch the glittering waves of Galilee’s waters… for a heart of faith, these are experiences that bring the human side of our Savior closer at hand.

For the 28 pilgrims who touched down in the Tel Aviv airport on March 6th, their 10 days in Israel were packed with a wealth of new sights and experiences that brought their faith even more to life.

They were accompanied on their journey by two Legionary priests, Father Daniel Ray and Fr Juan Solana, the Chargé of the Holy See for the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Pontifical Institute. They were also accompanied by tour guides from the local area.

In the following interview, Mrs. Mary Bell shares some impressions and photographs from the pilgrimage. Read on to learn how President Bush encouraged her to go, why Dormition Abbey moved her to tears, and why she is planning to go back next year.

Tell us a little about yourself, Mary. What is your background?
In my younger days,
The Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center - where we stayed for 5 nights. It is a beautiful building owed by the Vatican and entrusted by Pope John Paul II to the care of the Legionaries of Christ.
The Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center - where we stayed for 5 nights. It is a beautiful building owed by the Vatican and entrusted by Pope John Paul II to the care of the Legionaries of Christ.
I was a Registered Nurse, with a Master’s Degree in Medical-Surgical Nursing. I taught nursing at Boston University. But after I married and had my first baby, I happily became a full-time mom. We had five children over 12 years, and they are now all grown, and we have seven grandchildren so far—hoping for many more!

Was there anything special about the timing of this pilgrimage in your life story so far?

Absolutely not! I had not ever thought of going to the Holy Land until my best friend from high school called and asked if we would be interested in going. I told her that I would happily go almost anywhere in the world just to spend time with her—but going to the Middle East might be asking too much!

When she called the second time, I asked her if we needed to decide so soon for a trip that was still months in the future.
This is the Jordan River near the place where we renewed our Baptismal Promises.
This is the Jordan River near the place where we renewed our Baptismal Promises.
Who knew what would happen before March of 2008?

But finally after I saw President Bush with the Franciscans at Capernaum, on January 11, 2008, and heard what he had to say about his visit to the Sea of Galilee, I decided that we would go. Coincidentally, we were at Capernaum just two months later on March 11. So you might say that I got the final nudge from President Bush!

What were you expecting from the trip?

I really did go with very low expectations. I was ready to be inspired, but I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by the experience!

What were some of your worries or fears about going to Israel?

My biggest fear was the security issue. I know that other people go to the Holy Land and survive, but I figured that we would likely not make it home alive. But I decided that if it were my time to go, what better place could I go from? I would have to get some extra points from God for having gone on a pilgrimage—even if it meant my
Mass at the Mount of the Beatitudes with the Sea of Galilee in the background and birds filling the air with their songs.
Mass at the Mount of the Beatitudes with the Sea of Galilee in the background and birds filling the air with their songs.
demise.

I was totally wrong in my fears. We had absolutely no problems with security at all. We could wander around the Old City of Jerusalem without a guide at any time of day and we never felt any threat at all. The Notre Dame Center is in a very safe location, and with people coming and going all day, it was very friendly and comfortable.

All in all, I realized after I got there that any fears that I had were unfounded. I would not hesitate to go back again.

Looking back, what was the single most important grace that you received on your trip?

I’ve heard this so many times, but it actually did make a difference to walk where Jesus walked and touch the water of the Jordan River where he was baptized, etc. More than anything, it made Jesus more human to me.

Tell us about your experience of touching the rock of Calvary and visiting the tomb of the Resurrection. What did it mean for you in your spiritual life?

If we had been able to touch anything resembling the rock of Calvary, I would tell you about that experience. But of course, the rock of Calvary is covered with marble now with dozens of lamps burning around it—all
Fr. Daniel Ray, LC, leads us in a meditation about Jesus and the Sea of Galilee while we rode on a boat built to replicate the boats of the time of Jesus.
Fr Daniel Ray, LC, leads a meditation about Jesus and the Sea of Galilee during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.sponsored by the University of Sacramento.
emitting heat and soot into the church so that everything looks dirty and in need of a good cleaning. And the tomb is completely unlike what you would expect, so you have to look beyond that for the inspiration.

I will be the first to say that I was not inspired by all the Byzantine decorations in the churches. It is not my style to the point that it really disturbed me.

But I loved the simple little church of Pete’s Primacy and walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. And the Mount of the Beatitudes and the private Mass that we had there transported me to another level in my mind. I was astounded that I was actually there looking at the same lake where Jesus walked on the water.

The churches with their beautiful artwork meant more to me than any of the most significant places that have been completely robbed of their original appearance and feel.

As I said to one of my friends, the Holy Land is not Williamsburg! Since AD 326, no attempt has been made to preserve it in its original condition.

What was your experience of Galilee?

Galilee rocks! This area of Holy Land is surprisingly untouched. Miles of shoreline have not development at all. If Fr. John Solana gets his wish, there will be a new Notre Dame Center at Magdala for pilgrims to stay. That will be wonderful.

I liked every place that we visited in the Galilee area.

What was your experience of Nazareth?

The grotto of the Annunciation was very special. Since it has been venerated as Mary’s house since the first century, it is thought to be the actual place of the Annunciation. Thankfully, it looks and feels like a real place. It wasn’t hard to imagine Mary there when the angel Gabriel appeared.

They have recently built the largest church in the entire Middle East on top of Mary’s House. But it was done in such a way as to not destroy the original grotto. Our local tour guide was an Arab-Catholic from Nazareth, and the Church of the Annunciation is his parish church.

What was the place where you felt most moved and why?

On a completely personal level, the only place that
The grotto in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. It was here that the Word was made flesh.
The grotto in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. It was here that the Word was made flesh.
actually brought tears to my eyes was Dormition Abbey. This is the physical location where Mary is thought to have lived the last years before her earthly life ended. Now, of course, there is a large church on the spot. But in the basement chapel, there is a statue of Mary lying at rest. Above her head, on the ceiling, is a beautiful mosaic that shows Jesus holding a swaddled diminutive Mary in his arms. In a reversal of roles, the son takes his mother into his arms to welcome her into heaven. I’d never seen anything like this before. It comforted me to think of Jesus gathering my own mother into his arms when she finally died after years of living with a vacant brain due to Alzheimer’s Disease. For some reason, this just touched my heart.

And my second choice would be the olive trees at Gethsemane. They are as close to Jesus as we will ever be on this earth. Eight of them have been dated to have been alive when Jesus walked in Jerusalem. The Franciscans call them “the silent witnesses” to Jesus’ agony. Since they are living things, they seemed much more real than the marble walls and the hanging lamps.

What were some of the unusual contrasts that you noticed in the Holy Land?

I was pleasantly surprised to see the Orthodox Jews in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem walking along just as comfortably as anyone else. There were Christians carrying replicas of the cross of Jesus, Jews with their Orthodox clothing, and Muslims in the marketplace all getting along just fine.
Another contrast that I was not prepared for was the lush greenery of the Galilee area. I thought Israel was mostly a desert, but Galilee reminded me of Ireland with its verdant hills.

Share something that you learned that was totally new for you.

I was not expecting the fantastic artwork in many of the churches. But of course, then I realized that most of my favorite places were churches designed by
The ancient olive trees of Gethsemane are the "silent witnesses" to Christs agony. Eight of them have been dated to show that they are more than 2000 years old so they would have been there as Jesus prayed.
The ancient olive trees of Gethsemane are the "silent witnesses" to Christs agony. Eight of them have been dated to show that they are more than 2000 years old so they would have been there as Jesus prayed.
Barluzzi in the 1920s-1950s.

The Basilica of the Agony is one of the most impressive churches that I have ever seen. It is built over the rock that is venerated as the rock that Our Lord leaned against as he prayed that the passion be taken from him. Almost everyone in our group said that they felt something there that they had not felt anywhere else. For one reason, we had a beautiful Mass at that church and were able to pray just a few feet away from the rock. We could reach out and touch it during the Mass.

We were so fortunate that our Legionary priest who was traveling with us was able to say Mass for our group in these very special places. I almost felt sorry for the other people (tourists) who were not part of our group. At the Rock of the Agony, a woman stood right behind me but outside of the railing and wept during the whole Mass. She did take Communion from Fr. Daniel, and she spoke to him after Mass, so I hope that she was comforted by his words.

What did you learn from the experience that the other pilgrims on your trip shared with you?

Part of the whole experience was spending time with other pilgrims. We were a very diverse group, coming from all parts of the country and from all ages and backgrounds, but my husband and I found that we had never been with such a nice group of people.

On a personal level, I found that most of the people were a lot holier than I am. I admired them for that, and was convinced that I should probably pray more myself.

Would you like to go to Jerusalem again?

Yes, now I have to go back to The Holy Land! I’ve learned so much since my return that I wished I had known while I was there, that now I want to go back and see the same things with a new background of knowledge.

What would you recommend to someone who is thinking about doing the pilgrimage to the Holy Land?

Try to read something about it before you go. I will admit that I was pretty much totally ignorant about the holy places that we were going
The Church of Dominus Flevit (Our Lord Wept) on the spot where Jesus wept as he looked over Jerusalem. The altar is situated so that the priest looks over the city as he says Mass.
The Church of Dominus Flevit (Our Lord Wept) on the spot where Jesus wept as he looked over Jerusalem. The altar is situated so that the priest looks over the city as he says Mass.
to see. I went basically to see what I could see!
When I returned from the pilgrimage, I looked at everything differently. I spent hours doing research to learn more about the significance of the holy places. I relived my pilgrimage many times over.

If I had read a book like the one I made upon my return home BEFORE I went on the pilgrimage, everything would have meant more to me. I would not have been such a wide-eyed tourist seeing and hearing things for the first time. I would have been prepared to be a spiritual pilgrim.

For more information about the Holy Land book, readers can contact Mary Bell by going to her webpage: http://www.mycmsite.com/marybell

At the upper right corner of the website, click on "Contact Me" to reach Mary Bell and request the link to see the preview of the Holy Land book. Since this is just a preview, you must remember that the actual book is 11” wide, so that in the book, the text is clearly legible and the pictures are larger than they appear on the screen. If you look at the preview, you will get an idea of the places included on the pilgrimage, but you will not be able to read all the information that has been included in the book.

*        *        *        *        *

To find out more about upcoming pilgrimages to the Holy Land, contact:

Cecilia San Miguel
Corporate Travel & Pilgrimages
Integer USA
Business Division
2112 Queensberry Road
Pasadena, CA. 91104
Phone: (626) 372-9365
email: csanmiguel@integerusa.com
          sanmiguel1cecilia@yahoo.com


PUBLICATION DATE: 2008-06-02


 
 


Follow us on:   
Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.


Do you wish to addSunrise in Galilee, Sunset at Calvary to your favorites?
Yes   -    No