Tag Archives: Holy Land

Lord, save us!

9 Aug

But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand.

Peter sinking 03

For the Christians in Iraq, who are given the choice between being killed, converting to radical Islam, paying a penalty tax, or fleeing their homes and belongings — may the persecution stop immediately and forever, let us pray to the Lord …

Lord, save us!

For the people who share the Holy Land as their home, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians, particularly the suffering in Gaza — may the prayers and efforts of people of goodwill lead to lasting safety and justice, until peace prevails, let us pray to the Lord …

Lord, save us!

For the people of China suffering and recovering from the earthquake — may help arrive and hope be restored, let us pray to the Lord …

Lord, save us!

For those whose lives are in turmoil, and for those struggling to discern the movement of God in their lives — may their hearts be full of gratitude and trust, let us pray to the Lord …

Lord, save us!

Peter sinking 02

Lord, save us!

 

my three teachers

21 Jul

0 Three Teachers 14182509429_11c56653c4_b

Abby, Christy and Sharon, you honored me by accompanying me to Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Having known you as teachers in our parish school, it delighted me for these fourteen days to travel, eat and pray with you in the Holy Land. It was like I was taking you home to meet my people, especially in my beloved Beit Jala, and to see the land in which I grew up, in Christ, that is. I wanted you to have an experience as life-giving as I have had. I wanted you to come to love the land and love the people as I much as I do. I knew that each of you would meet a partner teacher and be her house guest for two nights. I was confident that you would be in loving hands in her home and in her care. But a tiny part of my soul was a bit nervous about how things would be for you. I knew you had seen a photo of your partner-teachers, and had corresponded by email with them. But the father-worrier in me wanted to know for sure that you would feel comfortable, loved and safe.

0 Three teachers DSC_0648Myrna, Niveen and Sally, however much I would thank you would not be enough. As the teachers from St. Andrew came off the bus in your church yard, you embraced Abby, Christy and Sharon, as if they were your long-lost sisters who had finally come back home. After just a few moments, you whisked the teachers away. They were in your arms, in your hands, in your cars – and they were gone. Then I left for two days, wondering how things were going, and hoping that each of you would bond with the teacher that you took home and to school with you. When I returned to pick up Abby, Christy and Sharon to move on to Jerusalem. I got my answer. The smiles on the faces of all six of you were proof and evidence of the friendship and solidarity that was built up in less than 48 hours.

Myrna, Niveen and Sally, I cannot ever thank you enough for what you have given to Abby, Christy and Sharon. They are better teachers, better women and better Christians because of you! You are also “my three teachers” now, too. I owe a debt to you that I cannot repay. But God can repay you. I will remind God often of my debt to you, and will ask God to pay you back for what you have given to the teachers from my school – and to me. May God continue to bless you, your families, your students and your homeland. Keep hope. Stay holy. Remain happy. Be brave.

 

okay, get together for a picture

16 Jul

On our HOPE (Holy Land Outreach Promoting Education) pilgrimage, our photographer-pilgrim would call out a command, to which we would all dutifully respond, “Okay, get together for a group picture.” After a while it was shortened to, “Group picture!”

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on Mount Nebo at the Memorial to Moses

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in Beit Jala with partner-teachers and their parish priest

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in the Kidron Valley after praying the rosary

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meeting Bishop Shomali at the Latin Patriarchate

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at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre after praying the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa

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at our final and farewell dinner in Jerusalem

 

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?

 

 

 

no longer a reluctant pilgrim

4 Jun

Keep Hope and Be Hope cover

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.

bless Sharon John, Abby William and Christy Earl

31 May

On May 28 at our St. Andrew-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School Mass for the 6th, 7th and 8th graders, we blessed three of our teachers who are making pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

blessing of teachers

We give you thanks for those who teach us along the way.

We give you thanks, O God, for those who teach us about you.

We give you thanks, O God, for those who teach us about right and wrong, and what it means to be Christian and what it means to be Catholic.

We give you thanks, O God, for these women who are spiritual mothers to all of their students.

And as they set out on their pilgrimage to the Holy Land, O God, we ask that you bless Sharon John, Abby William and Christy Earl. Keep them healthy. Keep them safe.

On this pilgrimage, O God, may they keep hope within themselves and be hope for someone else.

Draw them ever and ever more closer to yourself, O God, through your son, Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit. We give you praise now and forever. Amen.

12 to 11 to 3 to 0

8 May

In the heat of June the pilgrim-teachers whom I will accompany to the Holy Land will want to walk where Jesus walked and to see what Jesus saw.

There are some ancient steps that Jesus would have walked twice on what we call “Holy Thursday,” once when he went down from the Upper Room on his way to Gethsemane, and once when he was taken from Gethsemane back up to the House of Caiaphas. Twice that night he would have walked through the Kidron Valley where he would passed some tombs, once with eleven of his disciples and once with none of them.

If  the weather, the schedule and the authorities permit, the pilgrim-teachers and I will pray the rosary, as we stand near the tombs in the Kidron Valley. For the prayer I have written a set of mysteries of the rosary: “The Agonizing Mysteries.” The surest way for me to see the errors in the text is to publish it, for as soon as I hit the “publish” key to post, I will see the errors of my ways. It happened all the time. So, here goes. Publish makes perfect!

Rosary in the Kidron Valley

“The Agonizing Mysteries”

Jesus is in the Upper Room.

  • The disciples ask Jesus, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
  • The disciples go off, enter the city, and find it just as he had told them it would be.
  • They prepare the Passover.
  • As they recline at table, Jesus says, “One of you will betray me.”
  • Peter vehemently replies, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all speak similarly.
  • While they are eating, he takes bread, says the blessing, breaks it, and gives it to them, and says, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
  • He takes a cup, gives thanks, and gives it to them, and they all drink from it.
  • Jesus gets up from the table, takes off his outer garments, and ties a towel round his waist.
  • He pours water into a basin and begins to wash their feet.
  • Then, after singing a hymn, they go out to the Mount of Olives.

Tombs-in-the-Kidron-Valley

Jesus passes through the Kidron Valley the first time. 

  • Jesus had seen these tombs many times, but tonight, in the full moon, they look different and feel different.
  • He feels the dust at his feet, the silence of the night, and the darkness in his soul.
  • Jesus thinks about that only son of that widowed woman who was being carried out of their town to be buried. (Luke 7:11-18)
  • How he steps forward, touches the coffin, and says, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”
  • Jesus thinks about that twelve year old only daughter of that synagogue official who died in her bed. (Mark 5:21-43)
  • How he takes the child by the hand and says to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
  • Jesus thinks about the brother of Mary and Martha who had been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:1-44)
  • How he cries out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
  • How the dead man comes out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face wrapped in a cloth. “Untie him and let him go.”
  • It crosses through the mind of Jesus that he could run over the Mount of Olives to Bethany to hide at the home of his friends, or to escape safely into the desert beyond. 

Jesus is in Gethsemane. 

  • They come to a place named Gethsemane.
  • “Sit here while I pray.”
  • Jesus begins to be troubled and distressed.
  • “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.”
  • Jesus advances a little, and falls to the ground.
  • “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”
  • He returns and finds them asleep.
  • “Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
  • Judas, one of the Twelve, his betrayer, had arranged a signal with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.”
  • All the disciples leave him and flee.

 Jesus passes through the Kidron Valley the second time. 

  • Jesus had called twelve disciples who walked with him for three years.
  • From the upper room Jesus comes down the ancient steps with only eleven of those disciples, and comes to the garden.
  • As he enters deeper into the garden of the olive trees with only three, he leaves even them behind, and he goes deeper into agony.
  • Betrayed, abandoned and arrested, Jesus walks into this valley of death again, this time with none of his disciples – zero of the twelve – from 12 to 11 to 3 to zero.
  • He looks toward the city to see the gate of his entry on the donkey and to hear the hosannas of the crowds waving the branches of palm.
  • He spots the top of the temple of sacrifice rising above the outer wall.
  • He remembers going with the devil to the pinnacle of the temple, that corner of the wall, and being tempted to tempt God by jumping.
  • The women are nearby, the ones who promised to stay with him and remain for him, no matter what.
  • He thinks of his mother, her embraces, her assurances and their conversations.
  • At one and the same time he feels alone and he feels God being with him.

steps Peter Gallicantu

Jesus is in the house of Caiaphas. 

  • Those same steps that he had walked down just a few hours ago in front of his disciples – they feel different to his feet as the guards push and pull him up the steps.
  • They take him to the house of the high priest, Caiaphas.
  • In front of everyone Peter begins to curse and to swear, “I do not know the man.”
  • Immediately a cock crows. Peter weeps bitterly.
  • They condemn him as deserving to die.
  • They spit in his face, blindfold him and slap him.
  • They lower him into the dampness of the prison pit for the night.
  • The words of the psalm, memorized and stored in his heart, move to his lips, “Lord, the God of my salvation, at night I cry aloud in your presence. My soul is filled with troubles. I am reckoned with those who go down to the pit. My only friend is darkness.”
  • His words, “You must take up your cross and follow me,” come back to haunt him.
  • He longs for the touch of his mother and he feels her absence.

 

with “Jesus” and @JamesMartinSJ – in Milford

8 Apr

Jesuit Renewal Center James Martin book

We are with “Jesus” at a “Jesuit retreat house near Cincinnati, Ohio” (page 226 of “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” by Father James Martin, S.J.) – our Milford.

Christmas peace be with you!

25 Dec

At Midnight Mass we prayed this prayer:

“That our Holy Land partnership with Annunciation Church and School in Beit Jala will help replace their despair with hope, their fear with security, and their humiliation with human dignity. We pray to the Lord …”

change the route of the wall

30 Apr

JERUSALEM – The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land issued a press release following the verdict last week favoring the construction of the wall of separation in the Cremisan Valley. The appeal called for a change in the course of the wall according to the route of the ‘green line’.

Holy Land Bishops Ordinaries

Communiqué:

A few days ago, an Israeli court in Tel Aviv issued its verdict on the Cremisan Valley issue, endorsing the previously decided path of the wall separating the convent of the Salesian Sisters who run a thriving school and at the same time includes the lands of 58 Palestinian families from Beit Jala to the area of the Israeli settlement of Gilo.

We are frustrated by this unjust decision that invokes the need for security of Israel but also the difficulty of changing the route of the already built portion of the wall, which makes us a fait accompli. Note that fait accompli cannot become the source of a new law. 

This is why we join all those who work for peace and justice. We ask to change the route of the wall along the “Green Line”. We hope that this will take place in the Supreme Court.

We remind Israeli decision-makers that the expropriation of lands does not serve the cause of peace and does not strengthen the position of the moderates.

With our prayers for peace in the Holy Land, on the basis of mutual respect and international legitimacy,

His Beatitude Fouad Twal
Latin Patriarch of Jérusalem
Président of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land