Holy Land Pilgrimage

Lunch in Bethlehem

January 19, 2018

After a tour of the Church of the Nativity and Milk Grotto in Bethlehem, we had some free time to explore the city and grab some lunch. A group of us decided to grab lunch at a restaurant that offered al fresco dining. With the temperature in the upper 50s and the sun shining, it was a great move. Accustomed to those brutal Chicago winters, none of us could hardly believe that in the middle of January we were having lunch outside and enjoying every minute of it.

Still recovering from adjusting to the time difference, many of us just sat there enjoying the beautiful view of the city while others enjoyed the free wi-fi that the restaurant offered. As I sat there enjoying the fresh air, and listening to everything going on around me, I finally realized that I was in Bethlehem – the place of Christ’s birth. I was no longer at Mundelein Seminary trying to balance a full course load with other responsibilities but instead in the place where Joseph and Mary traveled to give birth to Jesus Christ.

As I sat there with this realization, I began to watch the other people dining at the restaurant and people walking on the sidewalk. Some people were arguing with one another over the blare of car horns from the nearby street while street vendors were peddling their goods. Everyone seemed oblivious to what happened over 2000 years ago just a few yards away. As I pondered on this, I began to think that perhaps Bethlehem was always like this and has never changed. Sometimes we get images in our minds of what a place should look like which can be completely incorrect. In my mind I always imagined Bethlehem to be a quiet, peaceful place. On this Tuesday afternoon, my eyes were opened and I was able to see the true city of Bethlehem.

By Matt Federico (Diocese of Saginaw)

Photos by Declan McNicholas (Diocese of Gary, Indiana) and Tom Heathershaw (Archdiocese of Dubuque)

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