A little over ten years ago I made my first Holy Land Pilgrimage. I concluded that it would be a once in a life time trip. Never say never. The opportunity presented itself to go on another pilgrimage in late October with the priests of my parish and a few parishioners. We were joined by other family and friends that wove itself into the group with six degrees of separation — practically everyone knew someone through some association. The trip was led by Franciscan Pilgrimages. The chance to travel among the companionship of friends and many other Franciscans was an easy sell for me.
What has not come easy is documenting my impressions in written form. Not only did I fail to take a writing journal, I managed to misplace my writing pen for a day. Last night I reread the excerpts from the journal of my first pilgrimage — the excerpts I posted here during Lent 2009. This trip was different — the Toys R’Us and McDonald’s were no surprise. I knew some of what to expect and yet some things had changed in ten years time. This time I was more inner reflective and less outwardly emotional. Things that moved me easily to tears ten years ago have aged and matured to a depth beyond tears. I watch — I listen — I absorb everything — I’m not distracted by the act of immediately committing my thoughts to paper. I’m still working on those thoughts — I did make random notes of things I don’t want to forget. I’m more conscious of the social and political issues. There was no wall around the occupied territory ten years ago. The calls to prayer from the minarets — I don’t remember from before.
Location — Location — Location
Franciscans in the Holy Land have it — location. Our journey began in Nazareth, where we stayed at their Casa Nova Nazareth — directly across the street from the Church of the Annunciation. A location that was just a brief stop on a day trip ten years ago became the view I saw outside my bedroom window for three nights stay. Our third night gave an opportunity to attend a holy hour at the Grotto of Mary. In Bethlehem we were to stay at their Casa Nova Manger Square — next to the Church of the Nativity. A last minute change had us at a nearby hotel instead. But, we had lunch at the Casa Nova Manger Square and spent quality time there. In Jerusalem, we stayed at their Casa Nova that is just a short walk from one of the entrances to the Holy Sepulcher Church.
I enjoyed the ‘urban-ess’ of this trip — much more time walking among the streets of the cities where we lodged.
It was difficult to return to work the first few days — wondering how my 9 to 5 in a cubicle was contributing to World Peace.
More thoughts another day.