Until my somewhat reluctant pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1994, I had absolutely no interest or desire to go the Holy Land. Now I cannot seem to get enough. Tomorrow I begin my 15th pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the second time accompanying HOPE teacher-pilgrims.
Three teachers from my St. Andrew-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School are going on this pilgrimage, which totally delights me. To know that they are partnering with three teachers from my beloved Latin Patriarchate School Beit Jala gives me HOPE that our partnering with the Catholic parish and school in Beit Jala will continue, even when I retire from being the pastor of St. Andrew next year.
At 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, May 28, there was a school Mass for the 6th, 7th and 8th graders, the students that Mrs. Bohlen, Miss Petrozzi and Mrs. Taylor teach. At that Mass I asked the students to send their teachers off with a blessing and a prayer, reminding them that their teachers are taking their prayer petitions with them to the Holy Land. That Mass was offered for the repose of the soul of Jabra Na’eem Sema’an, a twelfth grade student at the Beit Jala school. Jabra died just a few months before his graduation, after having made the best of his learning and his life, although he was afflicted with muscular-dystrophy since an early age, and spent his school days in a wheel chair. There will be an empty chair at his graduation. We live streamed the Mass, so that George Abu Dayyeh, his grandfather and also a teacher at the school, could hear one of our students try to pronounce Jabra’s name in the general intercessions.
One site I hope to visit is the archeological remains of the town of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, the birthplace of Mary “of Magdala,” that is, Mary Magdalene.
One hope I take is that I can feel myself being mothered by Isabelle, my earthly and deceased mother, and by Mary, the Blessed Mother.
I look forwarded to handing to Father Ibrahim Shomali, the pastor of the Catholic Church of the Annunciation in Beit Jala, the gift that my parishioners are giving to him for his school children. I look forward to celebrating Mass at the empty tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, encouraging my pilgrims to “name your dead – and – listen to hear your own name spoken by Jesus, as Mary of Magdala heard Jesus call her by name on the morning of his resurrection.” I look forward to leaving something behind in the tomb of Lazarus, as I imagine hearing the voice of Jesus calling me by name and calling me out of that thing that holds me back and has had me tied up as if in burial cloths, hoping that Jesus resuscitates me into a different way of living, in the same way that he resuscitated Lazarus.
Here at “With Open Doors” I will post photos and words, as I make pilgrimage with our teacher-pilgrims.