January 30, 2018
“Have fun in the Holy Land!”
This constant refrain rang in my ears for several months before we were to depart. I didn’t put much thought into it at the time, but this exhortation has proved to be simple and sound advice, and it has allowed me to reflect on the enjoyable experiences of the pilgrimage thus far.
Our first Saturday daytrip took us to Ein Karem, the small town where John the Baptist was born and the place where the Visitation took place. On that day, we also visited the monastery of John the Baptist in the Wilderness. While there, a couple trusty cam-mates and I were directed by one of the sisters to go up the hill further, not knowing what we’d find. It turned out to be a small church holding the tombs of Zechariah and Elizabeth. By choosing to follow this bit of advice, we were graced with the opportunity to pray at the place where John the Baptist’s parents are buried. Having only a few minutes to get back to the bus, we raced down the hill, grinning and laughing at our unexpected luck.
On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself going on little adventures with a couple of guys after a long day of class. These excursions usually result in us finding gelato or a cappuccino (often both), getting lost, and finding a new way back. These are the times when I’ve gotten to enjoy being with my brother seminarians. Having fun requires an openness to the unexpected and a willingness to explore the unknown.
This pilgrimage has offered experiences of profound prayer and challenging obstacles. It has also been a great way to get to know my brother seminarians better and spend quality time together. The journeys to holy sites are enriched by sharing the experience with my classmates. I can say confidently that I’m having fun in the Holy Land.
By Michael McAndrew, Archdiocese of Dubuque
Photos by author