Holy Land Pilgrimage

Entering the Enclosed Garden

February 5, 2020

This afternoon I had the opportunity to visit the Convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Gardens near Solomon’s Pools. To arrive there, we meandered along typical streets of storefronts, and then all residential streets, when finally the beautiful and majestic convent appeared as an architectural stand-out, rising above a small valley and seemingly carved into the side of a steep, cliff-like hillside across from us. Also known as Hortus Conclusus, or Enclosed Gardens, once the gate was opened by a Sister for us to enter, we crossed a bridge over immaculately maintained vegetable and flower gardens and arrived at the Church. There was a group of 30 pilgrims from various parts of Mexico waiting there for Mass. After Mass, a couple greeted me, and upon learning that I lived in Chicago and attended Mundelein Seminary, they shared that they have visited relatives in Chicago and have visited the Seminary! They especially remembered the lake and campus.

Later we were invited to join the pilgrims for hospitality by the Superior of the House. From the very cold Chapel, where all were wearing winter jackets and scarves, we entered a large, cozy living room, and encountered the aromas of freshly brewed coffee and freshly baked pastries, a crackling fire in the fireplace, and the warm smile and welcome of the Superior, Sister Rosa.

Sister Rosa shared some background about the surrounding area and the Convent, where written records date back to the 11th century. In the present day, the area is a completely Muslim village. The Convent serves as a retreat house, especially for religious, and also receives pilgrims from all over Israel and the world.

What especially caught my attention, and my heart was Sister Rosa’s joy and passion in sharing her faith and vocation and the Gospel message with pilgrims. She beautifully shared how the Sister’s presence and joyfully lived example of the Gospel has attracted so many of their neighbors to bring their children to the nursery school… and to ask about Jesus! Their presence and example of a simple life, lived joyfully and in caring for others, draws villagers to ask and naturally seek a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ, from their own curiosity. Though it is the Convent of the Enclosed Garden, all are welcome to enter, and many encounter Christ…within the walls, within the Sisters, within themselves.

Finding this Convent and its history and beauty, and Sister Rosa’s testimony in words and example, are among the many amazing experiences and blessings that I have encountered daily while here in the Holy Land. Each day seems to bring new adventures, new experiences, new encounters, and many new blessings. Thanks be to God.


Chris Landfried
Archdiocese of Chicago

Blog Home
Blog Archive
2018 Archive
2019 Archive
2020 Archive
2021 Archive
Blog Archive

Subscribe to receive pilgrimage updates