A man looks out over the Jazreel Valley from Mount Precipice in Nazareth, Israel. The hill, believed to be where Jesus was led to after being rejected in Nazareth (Luke 4: 29-30), is the start of the Gospel Trail. The 37-mile-long trail follows the paths that Jesus is believed to have taken en route from the mount to Capernaum. It includes stops at Mount Tabor, Kafr Kanna, the Horns of Hattin, Mount Arbel, Magdala, Tabgha and the Mount of Beatitudes.
The Holy Land. Unlike any other travel experience!
Rev. Lawrence D'Anjou
The Catholic Voice is organizing a new pilgrimage. I had the privilege of participating in a previous pilgrimage to Fatima, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and Lourdes and Paris last October.
Another pilgrimage this October will be going to Rome and various holy sites in Italy. This new pilgrimage will be in February 2017 and the destination is the Holy Land. I am privileged to be its spiritual guide.
We'll be traveling with Unitours and Belinda Lewis Held. Belinda coordinated our previous trip to Portugal, Spain and France and I have to say, she was terrific. For example, a number of us wanted to hike a bit of the historic Camino de Santiago in Spain, which was not on our itinerary. Belinda went the extra mile to arrange for this and we enjoyed a 2-mile walk along the famed Way of St. James the apostle.
In February 2017 we will be traveling to the Holy Land. There is simply no other travel destination like it. This is the "Promised Land" that God gave to Abraham and his descendants as a perpetual heritage. It is the cradle of the Judeo-Christian faith. It is where the prophets and Jesus himself walked. It was, and still is, a place of great intensity and spiritual fervor.
Some people are dissuaded from making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land because of the unrest there. There are tensions, but the Holy Land has perhaps the most advanced public safety security network in the world. And though there is no guarantee that our travels will be without incident (travels anywhere have some inherent risk), the locals in the Holy Land are quite invested in keeping the millions of tourists to the Holy Land each year satisfied and coming back for more.
The itinerary for this pilgrimage takes in some of the most sought after Holy Land destinations. After arriving we will go directly by bus to Tiberius on the shore of the Sea of Galilee to rest. Our first day has us traveling to the spectacular Mediterranean coast and the ancient city of Caesarea Maritima. Named after the Roman Emperor of the time, it was built to welcome and impress him on his visits to Palestine. It boasts an ancient chariot racetrack (picture Ben Hur) and an amphitheater that still functions today.
From there we will go to Mount Carmel with its amazing view and its history of the "showdown" between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of the pagan god. From there we will visit Nazareth and the site of the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary and later visit the location of Jesus' first miracle at Cana in Galilee.
I will never forget waking up to see the sun rising over the Sea of Galilee on my first trip to the Holy Land. It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life.
In Galilee the next day we will take a morning boat ride across the sea to Capernaum. This is where Jesus made his home after being rejected by his home town of Nazareth. In Capernaum we will visit the synagogue where Jesus quoted the Isaiah's prophecy about a year of favor and famously declared, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21).
We will visit the memorable spot where Jesus preached the Beatitudes and visit the town of Tabgha where Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes to feed the 5,000. That busy day will be completed by a visit to the site of Jesus' Transfiguration and the celebration of Holy Mass in Magdala.
Maybe now you can see that this pilgrimage will be an extraordinary one. There is much more for us to experience, but not enough space here to share it. Next time we'll hear about the many other fascinating destinations planned for this very special pilgrimage. Perhaps you can join us!
(Father Lawrence D'Anjou is pastor of St. Raymond Parish, Dublin.)
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