Holy Land Pilgrimage

The Land of Mary

February 11, 2019

Everywhere we go we see the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In Bethlehem she might be confused with the protagonist in the drama of Christ’s birth – his coming into the world is so tied to her cooperation in this great work of God.

Nazareth provides the stage for Mary’s history-changing “Yes” to God at the Annunciation, and also offers a glimpse into the hidden life of Jesus when Mary, the first disciple, was both student and teacher of Our Lord.

Jerusalem is the stage for the final chapter in the story of Mary’s love for Jesus that goes even to the cross.

Of course, these are major moments and churches that highlight Mary, but she is present at every single holy site we visit – even the legion of gift-shops that crop up around holy places have realized that visitors want things to remember Mary: icons, pictures, a thousand rosaries, olive wood statues.

Being from Wisconsin, it makes me think of the ever-present Packers: they’re there at the grocery store, there’s a large “G” flag flying at a house, people always wearing jerseys and shirts – it’s an inescapable reality. Substitute your local sports team and you’ll get the same picture.

In a similar (and, to be clear, much better) way, Mary is inescapable in this land. Almost like the paths she walked can never forget how the best of humanity passed by long ago: memory is strong when the event is so wonderful. I think also people have wanted to remember Mary: the faithful want to be close to her, and pilgrims want to be reminded of her presence and intercession.

For me, praying the Rosary has been very powerful here: meditating on Jesus’ life alongside Mary as I visit the places these mysteries actually occurred. I don’t think, however, that someone has to be here in the Holy Land to achieve this closeness with the Lord, just the opposite. To meet Jesus requires only the Rosary we already have and the willingness to meditate with Mary on the great mysteries of our faith. Come and be pilgrims with us.

Sam McCarty

Diocese of LaCrosse, WI


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