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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Day by Day in the Holy Land
Snapshots and testimonies from an international 8-day pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Galilee.

group shot Jerusalem
The international pilgrimage group with Fr Michael Mullan, LC,

The following pilgrimage chronicle was written and compiled by Karen McDonald, a Regnum Christi member in the United Kingdom.


Friday, 18th June 2010, twenty-three pilgrims comprising Regnum Christi and non-RC members from 6 countries, met in Tel Aviv, Israel amidst great excitement, to embark on a week’s pilgrimage in the Holy Land, led by Dublin-based Fr Michael Mullan LC and our guide Sami from New Gate Tours, Israel.

J.R.  (teenager):  “I witnessed many important holy sites, where the tour guide not only gave the historical facts, but also referenced the Bible at each location, which complemented our spiritual guidance.  All this has raised many positive questions, inspiring me to read the Bible and better understand the roots of my faith.” 


We woke up to a bright sunny day in Tabgha Pilgerhaus overlooking the stillness of the northern part of Sea of Galilee, and set off for our first Mass at the Mount of Beatitudes, where our Encounter with Christ began, and where the first of many daily sermons, meditations and reflections by Fr Michael were given, which helped us to enter into the moment. 

We were transported through five more holy sites, which included Tabgha (multiplication of fish and
karen and maria teresa
Karen and Maria Teresa on the Sea of Galilee.
loaves), St Peter’s Primacy (where Our Lord asked Peter 3 times if he loved Him), Capernaum (also known as the Village of the Comforter, where Jesus lived and consoled people after being rejected in Nazareth), the Sea of Galilee (where we took a boat to orientate where many of the miracles took place), and finally to the Jordan River (where we renewed our Baptismal vows).  After dinner that evening, we all went down to the shore of the Sea of Galilee at the bottom of the hotel garden, and after praying the Rosary we had a singing practice with Fr Michael, which resulted in much laughter!

H.S:  “St Peter’s Primacy – It struck me when Christ asks ‘How much do you love Me?’ that the love which we are all capable of giving Him now, in this moment, is enough for Him.”

K.M:  “A week in the Holy Land with Fr Michael Mullan and our erudite guide, Sami, opened a visual Bible and brought to life both the Old and New Testaments in such a way I felt I received many insights into how Jesus lived, worked and suffered for us to reach salvation.  Through the journey, I saw how many of our daily struggles and emotions He experienced and how if we remain Christ-centred, He will always remain beside us with love, forgiveness and understanding.  We must remember to be ‘poor in spirit’ so that ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Gal 2:20).”


We shuttled with mini-vans up to Mount Tabor to meditate on the Transfiguration, which was truly overwhelming.  We moved on to the Annunciation Basilica for Mass, and after visiting the Holy Family Church and the Synagogue, we arrived at Cana and renewed wedding vows and special prayers for those unmarried
vows in cana
John and Helena renew their vows in the church of Cana in Galilee.
in our group.  Sami was very gracious and invited us to meet his family and refreshments in his home since he lives but a stone’s throw from the church in Cana. What a treat to know a real, practicing Catholic Arab family, probably dating back to the times of the first Christians!

E.E-R:  “After this inspiring experience, my journey to the house of the Father will be filled with the certainty of knowing how much He loves me, the peace of feeling Him next to me and the joy of finding Him and doing His will in our ordinary lives like the Family of Nazareth.”


The day began with a prayer again and another hymn practice on the bus, ensuring we knew the hymns for Mass in Mt Carmel.  After a great lunch, we arrived at Elijah’s cave, and then from here we left the area of Galilee onto Caesaria Maritima, where we heard how great and influential the Roman period was and of Herod the Great building this seaport city named after the Caesar. It was also the spot St. Paul was tried before going to Rome.

B.R  (teenager):  “This trip has taught me something new and surreal:  The reality of God.  Not only is the Holy Land a place of religious tourism but it is also a really holy place of pilgrimage that transforms hearts.  A very beautiful thing.”

Then we officially began the second part of the pilgrimage, heading on a two-hour coach journey to Jerusalem, which would have taken Jesus five days to reach on foot, and arrived at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre, now run by the Legionaries of Christ.  Leaving the ministerial region of Jesus’ life, we were now ready to follow his salvific road, one which would transform our prayer life in
preaching mt precipice
Fr Michael reading Scripture on Mt Precipice in Nazareth. According to tradition, the townspeople of Nazareth wanted to throw Jesus off of this cliff.
the future. 

M.C:  “Encountering Christ in the Holy Land, walking where He walked, seeing mountains, valleys, seas that He saw, will mean that every Mass, Rosary and meditation on the Gospel will mean so much more on a deeper level than before.”


We had a spectacular night-time view of Jerusalem given by the Vice Rector, Fr Eamon Kelly LC,  from the roof-top of the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame, giving us a beautiful 360 degree illuminated tour of Jerusalem´s churches, buildings and the various routes walked by Jesus. This was a great preparation for our first day in the environs of the city.

Our first day in the environs of Jerusalem, we visited Shepherds’ Field, where Fr Michael’s Bible reading and meditation reminded us that every shepherd knows his flock like no other, is the only one who can find lost sheep, food and water in desert land, and that Christ is our shepherd and our trust should remain solely in Him.  We thus agreed Fr Michael was our “sheep dog” – constantly rounding us up and ensuring we are remaining Christ-focused and keeping our mind and souls with a clear vision for salvation.

G.P-B:  “Encountering Christ in His own land
three women garden of olives
Three blood sisters, Maria Teresa, Carla, and Gladys, in the Garden of Gethsemane.
helped me recognize the good shepherd we all need to follow, through deeper prayer and meditation of the mystery of His gift to us in Calvary.”

The Milk Grotto, where Mary suckled Jesus in the privacy of a cave, which turned milk-white when several drops of her milk spilled to the floor, produces a powder, which has resulted in many miracles relating to those having problems conceiving, and many cancer cures, by adding some of the powder to water and drinking at intervals. Fr Michael celebrated Mass in the Chapel of St Jerome in the crypt of the Church of the Nativity. We enjoyed a “Christmas lunch” in Bethlehem, in a restaurant filled with Christmas decorations, as is the case in most of Bethlehem, in keeping with it being the birthplace of Our Lord.  The Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, designed by Antonio Barluzzi, is where Mary came to when Angel Gabriel told her of Elizabeth carrying child, and where the Magnificat in many different world languages are displayed on tiles outside on the walls.  “Blessed is he/she who listens to God”, which is the fruit of all those who listen to the Word.

M-T.R:  “An enriching Holy Land experience,
in holy sepulcher fr michael
Fr Michael celebrates Mass at an altar next to Calvary in the Holy Sepulcher.
walking in sacred places, was like entering into the Bible.  I hope I can share the many graces I have received with those back home, and be a witness of forgiveness and charity, which have new meaning now.  The most powerful experience for me was praying at the rock in the Church of Gethsemane.”


We had a Mass at Calvary at 6 a.m., before the visitors crowded into the Holy Sepulchre.  To find oneself upstairs kneeling at the foot of the Cross, and descending to the sweet rose-scented stone slab where He was anointed after He was taken down from the Cross, and then kneeling at the tomb in which He was laid for three days, was quite overpowering. 

B:  “After this week, I take in my heart that Our Lord speaks to us in the silence – the great gift of receiving His love that fills up an emptiness in one’s heart.  This great Regnum Christi family pilgrimage was full of spirituality and silence. ‘In the silence, I will speak to your hearts.’”

After a sustaining breakfast, we entered into the Passion of Christ through the Stations of the Cross along the streets of central Jerusalem in the Via Dolorosa, to experience a very moving morning following in Jesus’ footsteps, vividly imagining what He has done for each and every one of us, and feeling a new sense of deeper understanding.

L.C:  “Even though I had seen the Holy Land in photographs and documentaries, being at the sacred sites have been
walking streets Jerusalem
On the streets of Jerusalem, walking the Via Dolorosa.
an experience that is truly heavenly, for no words or pictures can express the touches of God in your heart.  The place which affected me the most was the site where Our Lord was crucified; being at the foot of the cross was for me the summit.  It helped me understand the meaning of true love.  Without the cross, we would have never known how much we are truly loved by God.  This and more I take in my heart, and hope to share with those I meet.  Thank you, Lord, for the gift of our faith, hope, and love.”

In the afternoon, we visited Mt Zion, which is the home to the Church of the Dormition Abbey, where it is said traditionally that Mary ended her earthly pilgrimage.  The Cenacle, where the Last Supper took place, was a powerful visit, and where we appreciated Our Lord giving us the eternal gift of the Holy Eucharist, the sacraments of Holy Orders, Confession and Confirmation.  Fr Michael shared some of his personal experiences of his priestly ministry, and very interesting insights into the importance of the Eucharist, and the importance of the many sacraments we have been given.

J&S:  “The Holy Land was a spiritually enriching experience.  I praise God for enabling my family to enjoy this trip together.  The prayer time at the Garden of Gethsemane was the most rewarding time for me.  When I get back to my country, India, with this experience, I will continue my ministry as a Bible
wailing wall men side
A view of the men's side of the Wailing Wall.


Our first visit of the day was to the Wailing Wall, where the men separated for a peaceful half-hour away from the ladies!  We followed tradition and wrote our petitions on paper and scoured the wall for a hole in which to place them.  It was particularly busy due to a Bar Mitzvah.  Sami then took us to the thirty-acre precinct of the ancient Hebrew Temple, dominated by the Dome of the Rock.

The remains of the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus performed a healing, were discovered while excavations were made on the grounds of St Anne’s Church.  Visiting the birthplace of the Virgin Mary in the Church of St Anne was striking on arrival with some beautiful Gospel singers in the famously acoustic Church.

We were very blessed on the trip to find Fr Branigan Sherman in Jerusalem, and were delighted when he joined us for a few days, offering additional guidance to pilgrims.  Both priests celebrated Mass in the morning in the Church of Gethsemane, and then we all returned to the Gardens of Gethsemane later that evening for 15 minutes private prayer in the Gardens, which is rarely made possible, before having a Holy Hour inside the Church, along with confessions with both priests.

Gethsemane was one of the many highlights of the trip for a number of our pilgrims, who were able to imagine how Jesus must have felt in the Gardens, contemplating on what He had been sent to do for us, and asking God if the cup could “pass him by” if it were the Father’s will.  It is something with which we can all identify in our own struggles and crosses – how often we ask God to remove our crosses, and how difficult at times it is to add “if it is Your
Fr Michael preaching on mountain
Fr Michael preaches at Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives.

M.C:  “Having just completed my first pilgrimage to the Holy Land following in Jesus’ footsteps, my intention when I arrive home in California is to try to improve my walk with Jesus in my life.  My most spiritual moment, if I had to pick, was at the Garden of Gethsemane at the rock where Jesus prayed before His Passion.  I really felt the pain and suffering He went through, and I will remember that forever, especially when praying my daily Rosary.  What a journey, what a joy! Thank you, Jesus, for Your love.”

J.H:  “Being at Calvary, where Christ was so cruelly crucified, brought home to me that whatever pain and suffering I have is absolutely nothing and that I should offer it up to Him.  Also, the Words of this shepherd of Christ (Fr Michael Mullan) have helped to bring peace to my heart.”


A day outside of Jerusalem began by seeing Lazarus’ tomb in Bethany, the Mount of Temptations, and the Monastery at the top, which we reached by cable car. We were reminded of the constant battle against temptations in this world when we don’t trust God’s timing, and these three basic roots:  Fear, money, and doubt.
We had a beautiful drive to the Jericho area and the Dead Sea, and most of the pilgrims covered themselves in mud and floated in the Sea.  Jericho dates back almost 12,000 yrs, claiming to be the world’s oldest town, and also the lowest, being 1200 ft below sea level.  We also saw a sycamore tree. Not only was this the type of tree Zacchaeus climbed before he was miraculously cured, but as we also learned, it has the ability to rejuvenate if the trunk is burned. Sami added that even when we seem to be spiritually dead, with the help of the Holy Spirit and dying to ourselves, we have the ability to rejuvenate.

K.S:  “A highly recommended pilgrimage for anyone interested in a better understanding of politics and religion, their relationship with God and how to become a better person.”

After dinner, Fr Eamon Kelly LC gave a fascinating talk on the Shroud of Turin in the Museum at the Notre Dame Centre.  This talk was scientific and historical as well as spiritual.  The high point of the talk illustrated how the shroud has holographic characteristics, the image standing away from the cloth:  a phenomena which we can barely replicate today on such material, let alone in earlier centuries, leaving one with a perception of authenticity.


For anyone who would like to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land or elsewhere in the world, either as individuals or part of a group, please contact New Gate Tours who will organise the whole trip for you in a highly professional manner, and will connect you with a Legionary of Christ priest if you are not travelling with a priest. 

Contact:  Javier Leuchter, New Gate Tours
Tel:  +972 (2) 627 9111
Website:  - English version of the web site to be completed end of July 2010.

You can also contact the Notre Dame Centre in Jerusalem for accommodation, situated in a very central and convenient location to the Holy Sepulchre, etc.




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