Catenian Association Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a day to day reflection – by David Gale
On Thursday 12th April 2018, under the Spiritual Directorship of Canon Stephen Maloney of the Liverpool Archdiocese, Jenny and I, together with pilgrims from all over the country, commenced our journey to the Holy Land. We had looked forward to a pilgrimage here for many years and we were not disappointed.
On arrival at Tel Aviv we took an Israeli registered coach, and our tour guide for the duration of our stay was a Palestinian Christian. Travelling in an Israeli registered vehicle allowed us freedom of movement across the Palestinian – Israeli border, which we crossed many times during our stay.
Day 1: On the first day we visited Tiberias and went to the Church of Beatitudes. This is where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. Mass was held in the open air Amphitheatre at the Primacy of Peter. After this we took a paddle in the Sea of Galilee and lunch of Peter fish. We enjoyed a boat ride on the Sea and when the engine was switched off, we drifted for several minutes in prayer and reflection. Everyone agreed it was a very moving experience. Then a visit to Capernaum completed a very memorable first day.
Day 2: By minibus we visited Mount Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration, and in the afternoon we visited the site of Jesus’ first miracle at Cana. During Mass at Cana Church we in the congregation renewed our marriage vows and received blessing for our families.
Day 3: This was our last in Nazareth and we celebrated Mass in the Basilica with local Catenians and their families who had organized a picnic. This proved to be a very sociable occasion and enjoyed by all.
We then had a four night stay in Bethlehem. Our hotel was situated near the Nativity Church in the centre of Bethlehem.
Day 4: First was Mass at St Catherine’s Church. This was followed by visits to two local projects in aid of Palestinian Christians and supported by the Friends of the Holy Land. These were:
School of Joy: a school for all ages who would otherwise receive little or no education. We were able to see the children at work in their classrooms.
Martha’s House (St Martha): a ‘drop in’ centre for Palestinian Christian women, mostly widows, who meet at the centre daily for social interaction and support.
These projects are supported by The Friends of the Holy Lands (FHL). Contributions also come in from The Catenian Association and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. The FHL is continually in need of financial support.
After lunch, we drove to Shepherds’ Field where we sang While shepherds watched… , before entering the nativity grotto. We returned to the Church of the Nativity, where with some difficulty, crept to the site of the manger and the Star of Bethlehem. This was followed by a tour of the town of Bethlehem and an opportunity to do some shopping.
Day 5: After a short journey, we returned to Israel and Jerusalem and went to St Anne’s Church and the nearby Pool of Bethesda. We walked along the Via Dolorosa and experienced how it must have been for Christ struggling on the ‘Way of Suffering’. We found it a very moving experience. The afternoon was free to visit the bazaars and markets of Jerusalem but unfortunately, the Wailing Wall was not open to visitors while we were there. We then returned to Palestine and our hotel in Bethlehem.
Day 6: After breakfast we returned to Jerusalem. The day began with a visit to the Pater Noster Church and a view of the Holy City from the Mount of Olives. We followed the Palm Sunday route and visited the Chapel of Dominus Flevit situated on the Western slopes of the Mount of Olives. Mass was celebrated at the Basilica of Gethsemane, followed by a visit to the Church of All Nations (Church of Gethsemane) and we had a quiet period seated next to the Garden of Gethsemane (unfortunately there was no admission to the Garden).
Day 7: We travelled to Jericho and after Mass at Bethany Church visited the Baptismal site on the River Jordan. There followed a trip to the Dead Sea with a choice of lunch or a brief opportunity to float in the Dead Sea. We decided to float, enjoyed the experience and were pleased with our choice. One has to visit and experience all that the Holy Land has to offer. For us it has really made the New Testament readings come alive! Everyone agreed that one of the highlights of the tour was Mass held in the open air on the shores of Galilee. We believe we have more to see, so would look forward to returning sometime in the future.