Yes we are home safe, sound, and in high spirits from the pilgrimage of a lifetime. The trip home was grueling but everyone made it in one piece. The hardest part of the day was saying goodbye to our Boston pilgrims when we parted in Boston.
Our last day in Israel was a memorable one and began with a very moving visit to the national museum dedicated to the horrific story of the Holocaust. Yad Vashem, which translated means, never forget, is both an indoor and outdoor museum. The entire experience of the museum is to educate the people and world that what happened during the Nazi Regime must never happen again to the human race. The museum put faces and lives to the statistics of the holocaust. The most moving part of the experience for me was the building dedicated to the many beautiful and innocent children that lost their lives. May the voices of those children remain always in our hearts.
Our next stop was to the hillside town of Ein Karem where John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth and Zechariah (Lk 1:5-25). We read Scripture and visited the Church dedicated to the great prophet who proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. The ancient Church that was funded by Queen Isabella of Spain was very beautiful. The Spanish tiles and Spanish influence were very obvious. As we descended the narrow streets of Ein Karem - Issac pointed out the next Church we would be visiting. It was a bit of a climb, 120 steps, but most of our pilgrims opted to climb the big hill in order to see where Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth. We were rewarded by the beautiful Church that awaited us at the top. It was here we read about the visitation in St. Luke’s gospel (Lk 1:39-56). The site was a beautiful oasis of gardens and worship.
On the way down we visited Mary’s pools and reflected on our Lady walking throughout this lovely mountain town.
We loaded the bus and headed to the town of Abu Gosh, or as it was once called, Emmaus. Here we stopped for lunch and then took the bus to a Church built by the Crusaders. Very few of these Churches remain standing today because of subsequent conquerors that seemed to enjoy destroying every building of their conquered. The amazing Church, which was saved because of its perfect acoustics, is now home to the Dominicans. It was here that we prayed, sang and read the post Resurrection story of Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35)
We then travelled to Our Lady of the Ark Church to celebrate our last Mass of the Pilgrimage. It too was a beautiful Church. The feast day of our Lady and here we were in a Church dedicated to her. At the start of the pilgrimage we entrusted our care to Mary and it was so perfect that we ended on her feast day. She took very good care of us.
One more Church to visit, which makes the total 30! This Church was in the beautiful coastal town of Joppa. We hear of Joppa in Acts chapter ten where Peter has a vision from God about the Gentile community. It was in this town that we gathered for our last supper. It was, of course, delicious.
The pilgrimage was an amazing experience for all of us. It is hard to put into words what we saw, heard, touched and felt. It was a gift from God and it is now the time for us to reflect on the many things we experienced. I wish to thank Brian Kenny for doing such a beautiful job compiling the blog every evening when the only thing any of us wanted to do was crash! He did a beautiful job. I also thank Peter LaPlaca who took most of the pictures you saw on the blog. He has a few more to share since he took 1400 of them. And finally I thank God for this experience in my life as one of his priest. May God bless all of you for journeying with us to the Holy Land.
With Peace,Fr. Rick
Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Museum, one of the 1,500,000 Jewish children killed in the Holocaust.
Yad Vashem, memorial containing ashes of victims for each death camp, where relatives can come to mourn their families killed in the Holocaust.
The Canticle of Zechariah at the birthplace of St. John the Baptist
Church donated by Queen Isabella of Spain with birthplace of St. John the Baptist in a crypt below.
Ein Karem, where Mary journeys to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
Stunning mosaic of Mary visiting Elizabeth.
Resting before descending the 120 steps down.
Mass at Our Lady of the Ark, Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Our Lady of the Ark-Mary stands atop the Ark holding the Bible and baby Jesus while baby Jesus holds the Eucharist.
Sunset over Tel Aviv
Isaac shares final stories of life in Joppa during Biblical times and ancient Greek mythology.
Our farewell dinner in Joppa with 23 different items, fabulous!
Final farewell to Isaac, the best Tour Guide in Israel, and Osahma, the best driver in Israel.