Archive | June, 2014

the agonizing mysteries in the Kidron valley

30 Jun

Our group of HOPE pilgrim-teachers did something in June that no other group has ever done. Others may have prayed the rosary in the Kidron Valley, but no one has ever prayed the “Agonizing Mysteries.” They were composed for this pilgrimage and prayed for the first time with these pilgrim-teachers. 

Rosary 01 14409975484_a1ab011c93_b

The First Agonizing Mystery: Jesus is in the Upper Room.

The Second Agonizing Mystery: Jesus passes through the Kidron Valley the first time.

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The Third Agonizing Mystery: Jesus is in Gethsemane.  

The Fourth Agonizing Mystery: Jesus passes through the Kidron Valley the second time. 

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The Fifth Agonizing Mystery: Jesus is in the house of Caiaphas. 

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The complete set of reflections for the “Agonizing Mysteries” is found in a previous post: “12 to 11 to 3 to 0

        • 12 to 11 to 3 to 0

crumble this wall

29 Jun


O God, you sent your Son to break down the barriers between us, to bring reconciliation between peoples.  Make good on your intention and satisfy your desire that all divisions cease and all separations end.

When we build walls, teach us to want bridges. As we put up fences, move us to open gates.

Bring security and safety to your people on both sides of this wall. End the sadness and the frustration on both sides. End the hated and the violence from both sides. Give freedom of movement to all and bring an end to all humiliation.

In due time tear down this wall of mistrust and fear, this barrier to peace and justice.

O God, crumble this wall.Rob at Pope Wall

and so was …

28 Jun

On Saturday, June 14, in Bethlehem, right next to the Manger Square Hotel in which I was staying, the new ice cream shop of the Custody of the Holy Land called “Il Cantico” had its grand opening.


The mayor of Bethlehem was there …

ice cream grand open me too

and so was …

ice cream store grand opening


inside homebound luggage (4/4)

27 Jun

Shhh. Don’t tell Amanda or Matt.

It is their wedding gift.

nativity set 01

It is from Bethlehem. I carried it home myself.

It is olive wood. All wrapped up are shepherds and sheep, kings and a camel, a donkey and a manger.

When Amanda was very little, and before her brother Cody was born, she saw everything in terms of a mommy, a daddy and a baby. When she saw deer, it was a mommy, a daddy and a baby. If she saw cows in a field, it was a mommy, a daddy and a baby. Everywhere she looked, there was a mommy, a daddy and a baby. She always saw her own stable, safe and secure life reflected elsewhere – everywhere.

This gift is for Amanda and Matt. It is for their first Christmas together. It is … yes, you know what it is. It is will be so much fun for me to tell her that it is from Bethlehem itself. It is for their new home together. In this “stable” scene there is the promise of safety and security for them – in Jesus born among us and through Jesus living within us. 

In this olive wood Nativity set there is “a mommy, a (foster) daddy and a baby.” We will now wait to see how long it takes after their wedding until we get word that there will be in their home a mommy, a daddy – and a baby!

inside homebound luggage (3/4)

26 Jun

Erin and John now have a daughter. Jonah now has a sister. Her name is Rosemary Grace.

On my “must do” list for the Holy Land was to find and bring back a gift for Rosie to give her for her birth and at her baptism.

Rose. Mary. Grace. Hmm.

Rose-ary. Good idea.

Mary, full of Grace. Good prayer.

It was easy to decide and to find.

Rose Mary 01

The rosary is made of rose petals. Perfect for the “rose” and the “Mary” parts of Rosemary Grace!

Rose Mary 02

Mary and Joseph, the baby and the donkey are made from olive wood. Perfect for the “Mary” and the “grace” parts of Rosemary Grace!

The rose-ary and the olive wood are from Bethlehem.

Rosemary Grace is from Miami Township.

It will all come together on Labor Day weekend, when we baptize Rosemary Grace as we pour the water, and when we pray a “Hail Mary, full of grace” as we hold her.

inside homebound luggage (2/4)

25 Jun

The jar of apricot jam was the item in my luggage that would have caused the most alarm to airport security and would have been cause for a search. It was solid and cylindrical. A jar of apricot jam can do no harm, but something that shape can.

There was evidence of a search into my luggage, but the jam and the jar made it home with me, a little later than I arrived, due to a quick shift of flights but not as quick shift of luggage, but nonetheless safely.

The jam is from Beit Jala, an area in the West Bank of Palestine, known for its apricots. The jam was from a Palestinian friend and family, a people known for their hospitality and generosity. It is being treasured, one taste at a time, for it brings me back to my beloved Beit Jala and back into the hearts and homes of my friends. It all tastes so good!

Notice the seeds in the jam, not really the seeds but the kernels from within the seeds. The apricot seed has a soft and sweet kernel. When added to the jam, the kernels  give a bit of a crunch and a hint of almond nut flavor.

Homemade and handmade, the gift of friends – sweet!! 

apricot jam


inside homebound luggage (1/4)

24 Jun

My first try with a VinniBag worked, let me say, deliciouly.

Taybeh beer 01

The only brewery in the Palestinian West Bank is in Taybeh, near Ramallah. The brew makers are a Christian family, whom I have come to know over the years of visits back and forth to the Holy Land. One day, while the HOPE (Holy Land Outreach Promoting Education) teachers were busy at their partner schools, I had a day to be about on my own with two other non-teacher pilgrims. We set out on the road to Emmaus and on the road to Taybeh. The hour at the brewery produced a tour and a beer in Taybeh – and eight bottles of beer for me to bring home for that “special occasion” yet to be determined.

Taybeh beer 02

Four varieties are in the collection that made it safely home in my suitcase: golden (light), amber (regular), dark and the yet-to-be marketed “white” with a twist of citrus.

Taybeh beer 03

The beer is not yet imported in the United States. Taybeh brewery is waiting for the label to be approved by the U.S. for import into the country. So, I will be careful with my present inventory. I have not decided if guests are to be treated to the Taybeh brew. I might just make my way through white, golden, amber and dark – and do a second round. With my drinking habits these eight beers will last me at least eight months!

flamingoed for 65

20 Jun

The flamingos in my yard reminded me and informed every passerby that it was my birthday.

65 01

I am now a Medicare Man!

How could I possibly be 65?

The bracelet and tag from Good Samaritan Hospital tells me that it is so.

65 03

did Jesus know/learn how to swim?

19 Jun

In our fourteen days together there were a few times when I could “steal” a few moments for myself, away from and without the teacher-pilgrims. In these not-too-frequent and much-appreciated minutes I could be a pilgrim myself rather than help them be pilgrims.

On our last morning in the Holy Land, I spent an hour alone, walking up a sweat along the Sea of Galilee. A question came from within me, probably because I thought of how pleasant it would be to take a dip that morning and probably because I did not learn how to swim until I was 35 years old.

The question about Jesus is simple enough. The answer is either satisfying or troubling, depending on whether you find  the question itself satisfying or troubling.

When I got back to our Tabgha Pilgerhaus, a German guesthouse for pilgrims, I sat down on a wobbly plastic chair as each of its four uncertain legs tried their best to wiggle into a place in the rocks of the shore, at this “beach access” which is as good as one finds into these waters.

I sat down and recorded my question. At the end there are twenty seconds of soothing water sounds that might give you time to respond to the question, however troubling or satisfying it might be for you:

Did Jesus know how to swim?





yummy or yucky?

7 Jun

9 yummy or yuckyHOPE Pilgrimage 2014

June 5 – June 6
Picking up some mom’s role in my life, “the girls” (my two sisters) sent me my yearly poem, not as terrible as mom’s, but close, on my 39th anniversary of ordination. They also gave me mom’s pre-pilgrimage warning, “Don’t ride any of those busses!”

Mom couldn’t come to the airport, but the other “Izzy”did. She was born on the date of my mother’s death and named Isabelle and called Izzy, just like my mom, even though I did not even know her mother and even though her mother did not even know my mother existed, when little Izzy was born. This Izzy came to the airport to see her grandmother off, but, after hugs and photos with her grandma, had an extra hug, from her, and vicariously, from my Izzy, too. Izzy likes stuffed animals, so she asked her grandmother to bring back a stuffed Jesus for her. When she was told that this might not be possible, she said, “Well, then, bring me a stuffed Mary holding Jesus.” I’ll see what we can do for her.

My first “forget” was the ribbons I had cut into 18 in pieces, two for each pilgrim, to be tied to our suitcases for easy identification, when our bags come around the conveyor belt at baggage claim, at least we hope they all show their happy faces and make our faces happy.

It looked like we were going to have our flight from D. C. delayed, and a visit to the gate agent seemed necessary to see if could still make our connection at. D.C. for Dubai. Two pilgrims offered to go as back-up. I said that we could hold off on the threesome, until I found that reinforcements were needed, “Let’s play good cop, bad cop – and terrorist! Oops, not a could choice of a third word at an airport.

For our first prayer together before boarding our first plane, I had pulled off my “Hat’s Off to the Spirit” blog post: the Holy Spirit prepares us, anoints us and sends us, in our meekness and in our weakness.

Flight to Dubai was real long, a long 13+ hours. I thought of a good reason to live in the Middle East: I wouldn’t have to make the flight back to Milford. The extra fee for an aisle seat with no one in front of me, that is, with lots of room for my legs to stretch out, was worth it, but the flight was still long! Especially bad so was the so-called breakfast. I chose the turkey and cheese sandwich over the vegetarian option. Jonah, the son of the daughter of friends of mine, would not have had any hesitation answering the question that is asked often of him at table, “Jonah, yummy or yucky?” The last time I flew to the Holy Land, I was mysteriously bumped up to first class. Now there was a breakfast. Oh, what a difference a curtain can make in an airplane.

On the flight a chatty, chatty, chatty row-mate said, among the many, many, many things he said, that he studied all the religions of the world, and he concluded with, “When it comes down to it, they are all the same,” I was disappointed in myself that I did not have a good 30-second airplane, Pope Francis-type response, to say something about what they say about God is different, and about Jesus in particular, and about what they say about relationship with God is different. Maybe by the next time someone offers that same conclusion about their study I will be ready to do a quick advertisement and recommendation for Catholicism.

From the air on arrival in Dubai we saw what someone said was the tallest building in the world. “Downtown” Dubai looked very small from the air, and totally surrounded by extensive, rough desert. Cutting through the desert was a huge highway, was it four or six lanes, each way. Crying out loud, in the desert, how is that for “a highway for our God?” If only for me and my pilgrims God could cut through to us that way by way of the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, possibly using a fourth and fifth lane: the land and the people. May we also find our swift and safe way to God using the same 4, 5 or six lanes.

When I get the email-photo from Christy, I can show you something from the Dubai duty-free store that I could suggest that the people of St. Andrew can give me as a parting, retirement gift.

I was disappointed that I could not get a Dubai Starbucks gift mug for my friend, Paul. The Starbucks was in the other terminal! That was a disappointment for me. What was not a disappointment was the coffee and pastries at the “Costa” coffee counter with Cathy and Judy, enjoying “A” day with kindergarten teacher Michelle: Cathy with the “airplane” figure stenciled in cinnamon on top of the foam in her cappuccino, me with an “apple” custard muffin, and Judy sawing that she was sitting on her “a word that we do not type in polite company.”

We have laughed about how terms like “riding shotgun” and “photo bomb” sound different in the Middle East.

What a treat it was to have our friends Hanan and Ranim (and her fiancé Amer) meet us at the airport when we came out into the welcome area. Ranim is one of the Palestinian 8th grade students who visited us in Milford ten years ago. She is now 23 and graduating from medical school this month in Jordan. She and Amer drove an hour and a half to the airport just to greet us and spend ten minutes in our company before we had to get on the bus and get everyone to the hotel. It was late and we had spent 26 hours on our journey here. My second “forgot” was that I did not think of the gifts that I had in my suitcase for Ranim. But I will see her parents in Beit Jala, so I can leave them with her mom and dad. Hanan, a doctor of another kind, is a professor at the American University of Madaba. Hanan came to Cincinnati last October with the group of educators from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. She will come for dinner with us at the hotel tomorrow night, and take everyone out for hooka afterwards.

My goal on this pilgrimage is to help provide for each pilgrim what each one desires or needs: that place, that photo, that gift. I must remember to tell all of them tomorrow that they can be selfish for two weeks. The group is filled with caretakers. This time can be a time for them to be appropriately selfish for fourteen days.

Provide for each, that picture, gift, place – that is my goal.

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