Final Chapter – Pilgrimage 2022/3
January 9, 2023
“When one door closes, another opens.” – Alexander Graham Bell
This was my feeling when the airplane door closed as we headed to the Holy Land for the beginning of our pilgrimage. When the door opened again, many of us had little clue as to what we were going to encounter over the next seven weeks, but thanks be to God for an amazing experience that none of us will soon forget.
We started our pilgrimage by visiting the different sites in the area of Bethlehem. One of the most moving experiences of my life happened within the first few days of the pilgrimage, when as a class, we were able to visit the Church of the Nativity and adore at the very spot where Jesus was born of flesh and came into our world. I was overcome with emotion on several occasions, just thinking about how fortunate I was to be there. We were also able to visit other places, like monasteries, different sites with ruins that dated back to the time of Abraham and Moses, and spend time in contemplation and prayer over different passages in the Bible that link to the places that we were visiting.
Doors of encounter and opportunity continued to open for us as we shifted our focus to the hometown of the Holy Family in Nazareth. We visited the Basilica of the Annunciation, and the Church of St. Joseph, built overtop of what is believed to be the homes of Jesus’ mother and foster-father. The Church of St. Joseph held special significance for me as I am a seminarian from a diocese named after this great Patron.
We then headed north to the Sea of Galilee, where we entered into our canonical retreat in preparation for upcoming ordinations. During this retreat, we passed the days in silence and contemplated the Gospels – particularly the call and life of St. Peter. Like Peter, each of us is personally called by Christ, who is preparing us to be “fishermen” for the sake of His Kingdom (see Luke 5:10).
The last door of our pilgrimage opened to the Holy City of Jerusalem, where we experienced many of the places Jesus spent the final part of his earthly ministry. I had the opportunity to stay overnight in the Holy Sepulcher, and pray at the Tomb of Jesus, which was another moving experience. To kneel before the place that Jesus was laid after He was taken down from the Cross was profound.
This pilgrimage wasn’t just about visiting different sites and spending time in prayer, but also the opportunity for us to encounter the people that live in these areas. We were able to talk to many shopkeepers, parishioners from both the Latin Rite and Eastern Rites, college students, tour guides, and everyone in between. We learned how Christians need our support and prayers in order to face the many challenges that mark daily life in the Holy Land. While many people – Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike – earnestly strive to live in peace and harmony – this balance is still wanting in a landscape marked by political, social, religious, and racial tensions. Please continue to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” and all the Holy Land.
Our group returned to Mundelein this past weekend. We are grateful for the past seven weeks abroad, yet all of us overjoyed to be back in the United States. Now that our Holy Land pilgrimage door has closed, we look forward to the next adventure the good Lord has in store for our class. Please keep us in prayer as we begin another academic semester at Mundelein, followed by Diaconate ordinations in the spring/summer months. God Bless!
“Behold. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” – Revelation 3:20
By: Ryan Mau
Diocese of San José