Holy Land Pilgrimage

Unity in Prayer

March 14, 2020

There are so many amazing sites we are visiting with such deep historical, scriptural, and spiritual meaning. There are new experiences, or new re-experiencing, every day. This is now my 6th visit to the Holy Land and I still find new discoveries or places to visit. I also remember and re-experience places and people from previous visits. The opportunity to re-visit holy sites has been a great blessing. There is so much to take in, to remember from scripture, and to reflect on at each site. Last week, some of us attended a public Holy Hour and Procession for prayer at Gethsemane on Thursday, then a Holy Hour just for our group of Seminarians on Friday, and then our group had Mass there on the following Tuesday.

The opportunity to return two or three times to a Holy Site allows this newer and deeper experiencing and reflection. Some pilgrim groups visit a Holy Site once for 5 minutes and then onto the next site. There is so much to take in and reflect on, especially if it is the first – and maybe only – visit. Returning a second or third time (or more) allows taking in the environment and then going deeper in reflection and prayer on the significance of the site and relating to that in prayer and reflection. Many pilgrims have shared these experiences with me, and I have noticed it myself.

Just like reading scripture passages, each visit is remembering previous visits and also a new experience. At Gethsemane, there was new reflection on the scripture passages regarding Jesus praying in the garden; re-imagining that night of Holy Thursday and translating it to how it is remembered in parishes; and always new prayer intentions, especially with all that is going on here, in Italy, back home, and in so many places across the globe.

We have met so many people here through pre-arranged visits and through spontaneous encounters and conversations. Their stories are profound and inspiring, as is their faith and resilience. We will be returning home soon, Lord willing. My thoughts and prayers will continue for those who will continue to live here in the broad spectrum of experiences and difficulties they live in their daily lives. In a small way, I am experiencing a similar uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring – and what returning home will be like – as they experience daily and have experienced for most of their lives. They have offered their prayers for me and I offer my prayers for them. Prayer unites us, connects us, sustains us, and helps us to support each other in solidarity. Prayer also, of course, unites us more with God, opening us more to reliance on Him and to perceiving the movements of the Spirit within us. In the words of Jesus as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that Thursday night so long ago, prayer helps us to recognize and say, “Father, not my will, but your will be done.”

Let us continue united in prayer, praying for each other, and praying for all.


Christopher Landfried
Archdiocese of Chicago


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