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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Holy Land Pilgrimage 2014
Pilgrims walk in the footsteps of Christ

Deb Bauer in Jerusalem
RC consecrated woman Deb Bauer gives a meditation.

By Sherwood (Woody) Jones

On Friday, March 7, 2014, a group of 43 pilgrims assembled in the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv to begin a pilgrimage to the sites of many of the major events in the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Led by a group of Legionary priests, brothers, and Regnum Christi consecrated and lay members, the pilgrims and their leaders joined their guide, Rami, for a life-changing journey in the Holy Land, to walk in the footsteps of Christ.

The leadership team included Fr. Simon Devereux, LC; Fr. James Perez, LC, Regnum Christi consecrated woman Deb Bauer, Br. Christopher Tappel LC, Br. Christopher Daniels LC, Phil Liquori and Candy Nesbit.

The group first gathered at the Beatitudes Guest House on the Mount of the Beatitudes in Galilee -- home base for the next three days. At that night´s Mass in the chapel, Fr. Simon told the pilgrims to be “flexible” in their expectations and to expect many graces, including a unique message that God would impart to each one.

Daily bus trips to the various sites had a similar schedule: in the morning, the group boarded to an enthusiastic rendition of the song "Jesus, it´s a
Fr. Santiago Perez in the Church in Cana.
Fr. Santiago Perez LC talks about cross in marriage while in Cana.
Beautiful Day," followed by the Regnum Christi morning offering and a meditation from one of the priests, brothers or consecrated leaders. As time permitted, the group prayed the rosary, so the atmosphere was decidedly spiritual throughout.

On many occasions there was a little “comic relief.” Br. Christopher offered his “killer mimicry” of some of the team leaders (and the repartee among pilgrims -- especially Rami and Phil -- was priceless.)

The first day included a visit to the Church of the First Miracle in Cana, where Jesus transformed water into wine at the intercession of His Mother. Here pilgrim couples renewed their wedding vows, after Fr. James gave a short meditation on the importance of the Cross, signifying sacrificial love, in married life.

From there, the bus took pilgrims to Nazareth, where they experienced the Church of the Annunciation. Following an enlightening orientation by Rami on the archaeological excavations of Joseph´s house and its significance for understanding Jesus’ background, the pilgrims went into the church for Holy Mass, concelebrated by Legionary priests, including those from another pilgrimage group -- Fathers Daniel Ray LC and Anthony Sortino LC. Here the pilgrims meditated in a profound way on the meaning of Our Lady´s "Yes" to God, as well as their own efforts to imitate this openness to God´s plan in their lives. Also, following the homily, the consecrated women renewed their vows in a very edifying ceremony.

That afternoon, the group traversed up Mount Tabor to the Church of the Transfiguration. A meditation given by one of the Fathers helped the pilgrims to relate the meaning of the event that took place there to their own lives -- the message being a meditation on who Christ is for each of us, how strong our belief in Him as God is, and our own need
Consecrated renew vows in Holy Land
The RC consecrated women renew their vows at the Church of the Annunciation.
to be transformed and to do what He wants us to do.

On Sunday, the pilgrims travelled to Capernaum, to the house of Peter, where the meditation given emphasized how the healing of Peter´s mother-in-law summarized all Jesus´ human activity of teaching and healing.

Just across the walk lay the remains of a synagogue where Jesus likely had taught many times. Rami pointed out the unique architectural features of the synagogue -- a Hellenistic, Jewish style not to be found elsewhere in Judea.

The pilgrims then sailed on the Sea of Tiberius on a replica of Saint Peter´s boat, noting how this body of water was the same as it had been in the time of Christ. Deb Bauer gave a meditation focusing on the meaning of the tempest on the sea, and how Jesus is always present, even in the storms of our lives.

The Church of the Primacy of Peter was next on the route, where the pilgrims meditated on Jesus´ love for Peter and for us, and our need for His grace to lead us to live good lives.

One of the highlights of the pilgrim experience came next – a visit to the Magdala Center, where the Legion of Christ is constructing a magnificent new pilgrimage center on the site of the town of Magdala, the home of Saint Mary Magdalene. Fr. Juan Solana, LC, rector of Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center and of the Magdala project, presented the new chapel there. Those who had seen the bare shell of the chapel the previous year were amazed at the beauty and quality of the substantially completed and visually stunning chapel.

Fr. Juan discussed how the side chapels illustrate particular themes in the life of Our Lord, and how the columns in the foyer are inscribed with the names of the holy women of the Bible. He said one column is left blank, awaiting inscription of the names of the women of the current time.  He also showed the group the nave of the main church and the altar in the shape of Peter´s boat.  On the walls are striking icons of the twelve apostles and Our Lady.

Then Fr. Juan, Fr. Simon and Fr. James concelebrated Holy Mass for the pilgrims.

The following day, Monday, began with a mini-retreat about the human need for Jesus´ touch to heal and transform, to give new life and identity. Then the pilgrims returned to Magdala where the group was given a meditation on the “gaze of Christ.”

Following, the pilgrims went to the archaeological site near the chapel, where Fr. Juan Solana explained the importance of the discovery of a first century synagogue, one of only seven such early synagogues in the world, likely a site of an early Christian church as well.

Saying a fond farewell to Magdala, the group traveled to Kursi, the site of Jesus´ exorcism of the man possessed by the demons that entered a herd of swine and rushed over a nearby cliff to drown.

Next the group went to
Mass in the cave of St. Jerome
Mass in the Cave of Saint Jerome under the Church of the Nativity.
Tabgha to visit the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves, and then they traveled down an interior highway to Bethlehem, where they made a visit to the Holy Family Orphanage, home to many abandoned Palestinian children. The younger children seemed to sense the motherly love of many of the women in the group, especially.

The group retired to the Notre Dame Center, home for the next five days, where the Legionary priests celebrated Holy Mass in the strikingly beautiful chapel.

On Tuesday morning, the pilgrims visited the archaeological site of the Herodion, fortress palace of King Herod outside Jerusalem. The guide described the theological situation at the time of Christ in Judea. From there the group went to Bethlehem, to the Church of the Nativity. The Mass of Christmas was celebrated in the Cave of Saint Jerome, underneath the church, with a profound homiletic meditation on the love of God for all of us. The pilgrims then visited the Nativity grotto, bending low to kiss the silver star, which represents the place of the Savior´s birth.

After an early wake-up Wednesday morning, the pilgrims came to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for Mass at the Tomb of Our Lord at 6:00 a.m. While the two priests offered the Holy Sacrifice in the inner chamber, the pilgrims crowded into the outer chamber, going in pairs into the inner chamber to touch the slab. An atmosphere of deep piety prevailed in the crowded chamber, and Holy Communion was received with great reverence. After breakfast, the group went to pray at the Church of Saint Ann, and the birthplace of the Blessed Virgin Mary, now located in the Church crypt, before proceeding to the Church of the Flagellation, to commence the Way of the Cross.

The pilgrims then began the most intense experience of their visit – the Way of Cross on the Via Dolorosa. They carried a wooden cross in teams of four from station to station, while the group sang hymns and listened to a meditation on each station. The Way of the Cross ended in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, after which the pilgrims were able to visit the sites of Jesus´ crucifixion, anointing, burial and resurrection, all located under the massive domed roofs of the church.

The weather had turned cold and rainy, so the group was given a free afternoon. Some stayed at Notre Dame while others went to the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu to meditate on the condemnation and imprisonment of Our Lord. On the walk back to Notre Dame, the pilgrims’ spirits were not dampened as they gratefully sang again "Jesus, it´s a Beautiful Day.”

The Mount of Olives and Mount Zion were the location of Thursday’s trek, as the pilgrims visited the Church of the Ascension, on the site of Jesus´ ascension into heaven, followed by a profound visit to the garden of Gethsemane and the Church of the Agony (also called the Church of All Nations) to touch the rock on which Jesus sweat
Mass at Gethsemane.
Mass at Gethsemane in front of the rock on which Jesus prayed and sweat blood.
blood. After a briefing on a site with a panoramic view of Jerusalem, the group went to Dormition Abbey, honoring the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In front of the life-sized representation of Mary’s dormition, the group sang a heartfelt Salve Regina. Members of Regnum Christi renewed their commitments before the altar of the Holy Spirit in the crypt.

Next came a visit to the Cenacle (or upper room) where the group sang "Come Holy Ghost" before leaving to make the short walk to Saint Peter in Gallicantu. There the group proceeded to the crypt and lower portions, where the dungeon had housed Jesus on the night of Holy Thursday. Everyone experienced intense emotion at a reading of Psalm 88 and meditation on Our Lord´s passion and love for us all.

That evening, pilgrims enjoyed a special dinner served on the splendid rooftop restaurant of Notre Dame.  High spirits and a feeling of immense gratitude for the many stages of the journey prevailed.

On Friday, pilgrims traveled to Bethany for Holy Mass at the Church of Martha and Mary. Then they traveled to Jericho, the oldest city in the world, to ascend to the Mount of Temptation, where Jesus spent the forty days of fasting and was tempted by Satan. The group saw a panoramic view of the desert, and visited the Dead Sea, where the intrepid swam in the salty waters.

That night everyone participated in a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration at Gethsemane, in the Church of the Agony.  Another group joined the pilgrims for this intense time of prayer, and many members of both groups took advantage of the opportunity for confession with the Legionaries.  At the end of the hour, one of the Franciscan custodians unexpectedly suggested a Eucharistic Procession (all agreed) around the garden´s ancient olive trees before returning to the Church for Benediction. The pilgrims left with a feeling of profound closeness to Our Lord. To cap off the night, some pilgrims visited the Western Wall for a time of prayer.

Saturday the group departed for home. Some had the chance to revisit the old city one more time. One pilgrim went again to Dormition Abbey to thank Our Lady for her intercession for a successful pilgrimage.  He said he could not help but notice the “universality of our faith” at the variety of pilgrims at the site -- Mexican, Brazilian, German, American -- each group having its own character and reaction to the image of Our Lady fallen asleep.
Having deeply experienced on this pilgrimage the love our Lord has for each of us and our union through His death and resurrection, the pilgrims returned to the United States with joy-filled and grateful hearts for the immense gift they had received.

Click here for a video of the pilgrimage on Facebook.



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