Holy Land Pilgrimage

From Every Nation, Race, People, and Tongue

February 10, 2022

In the Holy Land I was quickly aware that, for the most part, I cannot understand what is being spoken around me. Here in the Holy Land the two main languages are Arabic and Hebrew.

On the evening of the feast of the Presentation of our Lord, I found myself standing at the church of St. Catherine (next to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem) just as Mass was about to begin. The faithful started to gather at the back of the church as they held lit candles. Then the priest began the liturgy with a prayer and the sprinkling rite. That Mass was being celebrated in Arabic. I was only there up until the first reading started, but standing there in the back hearing the mass being celebrated in a language I could not understand made me feel a sense of spiritual consolation. I felt this sense of gratitude for being Catholic. It was paradoxical I could not understand a single word, and yet I knew exactly what was going on. I am halfway across the globe, yet I felt at home in that same mass I have seen celebrated all my life. It was a more profound realization of the Church being Catholic, that is universal. The Church is for all people; God calls every single person to be part of His Church, to be more like Him. No matter their race, sex, religion, or age, the Church is for all. Similarly, in Nazareth we attended a Sunday mass, also in Arabic, at the Basilica of the Annunciation!

From these experiences I would like to share two things that came to mind. The first is the importance of remembering that as Catholics we are called to pray as Catholics. What I mean by this, is that we are called to realize the fact that the Church is greater than our parish boundary, diocese, or even country. Thus, our prayer should reflect that. For example, if I pray for a certain person who is going through a difficult situation, a helpful practice could be to also ask God for all those around the world who might be going through something similar.

Secondly, to recognize that God is always near no matter where we might be. As the collect prayer for the 5th week in Ordinary time says, “In your mercy and loving kindness no thought of ours is left unguarded, no tear unheeded, no joy unnoticed.” God transcends everything, he is always near to us, we can always talk to God no matter where we are or what we are doing.

The language of God is Catholic, universal, and this realization should make us rejoice along with the rest of the Universal Church to praise God for his goodness.

Alan Soto-Hopkins
Diocese of Tucson

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