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placeholder September 19, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 16   •   Oakland, CA

Tourists and Christian pilgrims visit the tomb where it is believed Christ was buried inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. For the first time in 200 years, experts have begun a restoration of the Edicule of the Tomb.

Holy Land pilgrimage is unique and unforgettable

Rev. Lawrence D'Anjou

Not long ago I wrote about the upcoming pilgrimage arranged through The Catholic Voice to the Holy Land. In that article we learned about some of the extraordinary destinations planned for this February 2017 trip. Here I want to continue where I left off and explain what happens after we leave Galilee and move on to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

But first, I have to say again that a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is truly unlike any travel destination in the world. It isn't that the Holy Land is especially beautiful (much of it is desert) or that it boasts some of the finest cuisine in the world.

No, that's not why people travel from all over the world to visit this land, which is about the same size as the greater Bay Area. No, it is because, among all the places in the world, Almighty God chose this land to unveil His plan of salvation for all humanity. That plan's unfolding spans 4,000 years; begun in the land of Abraham, the prophets and Jesus. This is what makes a Holy Land pilgrimage completely unique and unforgettable.

On Day 5 of our pilgrimage we will move south from the Sea of Galilee. We will stop at the Jordan River where we will renew our baptismal promises. From there we will visit the ancient city of Beth Shean — one of the "10 cities" or Decapolis — to see the city's ruins dating to the First Century BC. From there we go along the route Jesus followed from Galilee to get to Jerusalem.

We will visit the oldest continually habited city in the world: Jericho (which is also the world's lowest: - 846 feet!). We will also visit the place where Jesus was led after his baptism to be tempted by Satan and which is home to an extraordinary chapel built into the mountainside. From there we go up to Jerusalem, our base of operations for the remainder of our pilgrimage.

Jerusalem, the holy mountain where Abraham and his son Isaac built an altar to the Lord. Where the angel stayed the hand of Abraham and where "God provided the lamb" (see Genesis 22:8) in his own son Jesus who was crucified just outside the ancient Jerusalem city gates.

Jerusalem — this is place where salvation was wrought! It is a place of emotion, of amazing historical events, and of great hope.

One of the things I continually marvel at is how this holy and ancient city lives in relative peace as the spiritual home of the world's three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I have to believe that this greatly pleases God — that these children whom all claim Abraham as their spiritual father manage to live together in His City in peace.

A new day sees us traveling across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives. We will look out over Jerusalem from an ancient olive garden where Jesus knelt to pray before his betrayal. We continue this day of drama and remembrance with a visit to the New City of Jerusalem and to Yad Vashem, the memorial to the victims of the holocaust. Concluding this day, which happens to be the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes, we will visit the site where Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth and where she proclaimed the Magnificat and sang the praises of God.

This pilgrimage has so many amazing destinations. There are many more to come when you read the next and final installment of our Holy Land pilgrimage journey. I would like to note here that each day during our Holy Land pilgrimage we will celebrate Holy Mass together. Holy Mass, the center of our Catholic faith life and the font of all the Church's blessings, will be celebrated in some of the most memorable locations from Jesus is life and ministry. We will be truly graced to share our Communion with Jesus in Word and Sacrament as we trace his footsteps in the land where he lived, died and was gloriously raised to life again.

(Father D'Anjou is pastor of St. Raymond Parish, Dublin. The Catholic Voice is sponsoring a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with him.)

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