Earlier this year Seminarian Michael Trail made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the other 3rd year theologians and some faculty. Walking in the footsteps of Christ, Michael was able to deepen his understanding of Scripture and God. Read the interview below.
Robert Mixa (RM): Can you explain your pilgrimage to the Holy Land?
Michael Trail (MT): As part of the formation program at Mundelein Seminary, the third year students have the opportunity to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land to spend some time seeing the Holy sites and to dive more deeply into Scripture. Jesus is a historical figure and so it is important to have the opportunity to see firsthand the places where our Lord lived and ministered.
RM: Were you free from class?
MT: We divided our time between classes and visiting pilgrimage sights. Classes and the pilgrimage sights were mutually enriching – most of what we were discussing in class we would see soon afterward. We had professors from the seminary come with us and they were a great resource for us.
In addition to courses in Scripture we had several lectures and seminars on Ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. In the Holy Land, religion is ever-present and very much at the forefront of life. Jews, Christians, and Muslims share the same space and several sites share a significance in their religion. An example of this is the Temple Mount; Christians, Jews and Muslims believe that the stone where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac on is on the mount. The Temple – the holiest place for the Jews where the Ark of the Covenant was stored – is on this mountain, and Muslims believe that this is the place where the Prophet Muhammed flew to heaven. One site, significant to all.
Since this is the reality throughout the Holy Land it was important that we learn about the dynamic that takes place between the different religion.
RM: What was the daily schedule like?
MT: We would begin our day with Lauds and Daily Mass. After breakfast we would then either have class or go out on a trip to a pilgrimage site. We had class three days a week and the other three days we would travel. On each day (both class days and travel days) we would be done by 12:30/1:00 PM. We would then have the afternoon to catch up on studies for the next day’s classes or we would have time to the city where we were staying.
On Sundays we would have Mass at a Church or with a parish community and we would have the remainder of the day free as a day of rest.
RM: What was the most memorable site for you, and why?
MT: What stuck out to me most was the fact that I was standing in the same spot and walking in the same places as the Lord did and to be at places where important moments of salvation history took place was very profound.
One site that was particularly prayerful was the grotto at the Church of the Nativity. During the day it was so crowded with pilgrims and it was difficult to pray, but we had the opportunity to spend a holy hour in the grotto after the church closed due to the kindness of the Franciscans who have custody of the church. They allowed us to spend the evening in the grotto free of the crowds and groups.
It was such a power experience to sit in the place where the Lord was born. The Ignatian spiritual exercises calls for the individual to put themselves in the scene of the Gospel. Doing this spiritual exercise in the place where the Nativity of the Lord took place enhanced my prayer and I received a beautiful moment of grace and peace that I have been able to go back to since that moment and still receive consolations from that moment of prayer. I could see Mary holding the child Jesus in her arms with St. Joseph looking lovingly at Jesus with the caring eyes of a father.
RM: Did your experience in the Holy Land help you see things with new eyes?
MT: During my pilgrimage to the Holy Land I read the Scripture with new eyes and my thirst to know and read the Scriptures deepened and intensified. St. Jerome calls the Holy Land “The Fifth Gospel.” What he meant by this is that in the four Gospels in the Bible you get to know and understand different facets of the life of Christ. Being in the Holy Land allows for an even deeper understanding and encounter with the Lord not just through the Scriptures, but also by being in the same place as the Lord.
RM: Is there anything else that you would like to share?
M I would like to thank everyone for their prayers and support for me and my classmates as we journeyed throughout the Holy Land. Many people followed our blog as we posted daily our experiences. If you missed our blog you can see it at to see more of our day-to-day life and experiences.
I would like to thank everyone for their prayers and support for me and my classmates as we journeyed throughout the Holy Land. Many people followed our blog as we posted daily our experiences. If you missed our blog you can see it at 2015mundeleinpilgrimage.blogspot.com to see more of our day-to-day life and experiences.