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Mount Carmel

Day 23

Dear Friends,

   The hateful hamsin continued blowing dust everywhere this morning. Monsignor Monforton arrived safely last night and was up for the 7 a.m. Mass in the garden of the Mount of Beatitudes guesthouse. After Mass, we had a brief breakfast, said goodbye to the people we’d met and got on the bus by 8:15. With the light brown chalky skies, we pulled onto Highways 65, 77 and a few others and arrived in Haifa by 10. Our first stop was the Carmelite monastery of Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) which crowns the heights of Mount Carmel. We viewed the city from the lookout across from the monastery and snapped dozens of pictures before heading into the church and monastery for a good time of prayer.

    In other years, we’ve been somewhat rushed, but because of our early start, we had a good bit of time to pray in the church, which has some wonderful artwork of some great Carmelite saints as well as the cave in which it is believed the Prophet Elijah hid from the wrath of Queen Jezebel.

   After buying our scapulars, ice cream, postcards and whatnots, we headed down the spine of the mountain, past Haifa University, past a large Druze village (last year’s men will remember a tense time when we were caught in a demonstration against police action). We then drove to the monastery of Murukah which marks the place of the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal (they lost) from I Kings 18. Nice chapel and very friendly Hungarian Franciscan (from the same province as Fathers Barnabas and Angelus from Holy Cross Parish in Detroit).

   After praying there a bit, we headed to a Druze restaurant nearby for schnitzel or felafel sandwiches – all of it very good. We then climbed back on our bus and drove to Herod’s great city of Caesarea Marittima, where St. Paul baptized Cornelius’ family and was later imprisoned before being taken to Rome (Acts 9 and 23-24). 

   The city has great ruins from our Lord’s time through the Crusader period. We remembered all of those who are persecuted for their faith and prayed for our benefactors and brothers at the seminary. Johnny then took us to a newer exhibit, with a short film on the history of the place. These films help make the sites come alive and this one was well done. We saw the ruins of Herod’s palace and the copy of the plaque found nearby which records a building built by Pontius Pilate, when he was governor.

   A short ride later and we arrived here at the Blue Bay hotel on the Mediterranean for a day off. 

   Tomorrow, we’ll join the university students of Rome who are praying in reparation for the abuse and scandal in the Church of the past years.   Thanks to Dr. Fastiggi’s e-mail telling us of the event, we’ll also spend the same time in Eucharistic adoration asking pardon and healing for all of those who abused or were abused.

 Praying for you and your intentions,

— Father Trapp and the Sacred Heart pilgrims

Day 22

This is the synagogue in Capernaum where Christians remember Jesus teaching. | Photos by Anthony Lezcano

This is where we had Mass by the Sea of Galilee. So beautiful!

It is in this church in Capernaum that Christians remember the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

A calm ride on the Sea of Galilee.

Dear Friends,

   We began with breakfast, sorting our tables out among the tables of the Germans (“Guten morgen!” with a smile) the other seminary students (from across the States) and the Italians (with their priest who cries in Italian, “I don’t speak English! God bless the seminarians!”). Along with the usual breakfast fare of olives and a few different kinds of cheese were the extra attractions of a lurid purple gelatin and jars of chocolate.

   After this nourishing meal, we boarded the bus in the morning heat and drove to Capernaum. Johnny gave us a good introduction to the site and we were able to have Mass near the water. This was particularly good for the seminarians because they: 1.) Could see the sea, the setting for the Mass’s Gospel; 2.) They were in the shade and could enjoy seeing me squint and sweat. 

   The Gospel was about Jesus telling Peter and the other disciples go out again for another catch of fish. It was a beautiful Mass and we then had a chance to pray more on the shore, or in the church, which marks the house of Peter, or the synagogue where Jesus healed the man in Luke 4. Over the wall is the pretty little Orthodox church of St. Mathew, which marks the site of the customs post where Mathew worked. I’m hoping we can go there tomorrow to see the church and the beautiful icons. According to our guide, this will happen if 1.) The Palestinian man who works there meets us — he will let Catholics in; 2.) We don’t ask the priest first; he’s not big on Catholics.

   After Mass, we drove to the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. While the church at Capernaum uses the latest in modern technology and style, the new Church of the Multiplication was built around the same time in the style of a Byzantine church of the sixth century. 

   After our stop there to confirm Mass for tomorrow, we began our ascent up the valley past the now drained Lake Hula, through Qiryat Shemona (today was the day to test the bomb shelter system throughout the country) in the shadows of Mount Hermon to Caesarea Phillippi, where St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And, this is where Jesus told him that he was the Rock on which the Church would be built and that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. A great spot, with clear springs that are part of the system that leads to the Jordan River.

   We drove up past the Druze village, past Nimrod’s castle, from which the first assassins ventured forth, past apple and cherry orchards, to the outlook that shows the current Syrian fields and the way to Damascus. 

   We came to Magdala (home of Mary Magdalene) and had some good Peter fish for lunch. Johnny said it’s like tilapia. I think this was a bit generous. Not a bad fish, but nothing next to Great Lakes perch. Or whitefish. Or pickerel …

   Stuffed once more, we dragged ourselves to the bus and drove to Ginnosour where we met our boat. Binh said it reminded him of the boat on which he left Vietnam many years ago. Clad in wood, it sailed out onto the waters into the northern part of the Sea of Galilee. We read the passages about Jesus walking on the water and calming the sea. We then had some time for quiet prayer. The captain decided what we really needed was some American gospel music, including Elvis Presley singing “Amazing Grace.” I gritted my teeth when it started because I’d asked that we be spared this stuff, but I found it moving, despite myself. 

   We are now back at the guesthouse, thanking God for air conditioning that works and preparing for Evening Prayer.

Praying for you and your intentions,
— Father Trapp and the Sacred Heart pilgrims

Day 21

It is in this beautiful Grotto that we remember the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary. | Photos by Anthony Lezcano

Father Trapp celebrates Mass in the Church of the Annunciation.

Dear Friends,

   Once more, I got carried away, wrote a long email and then lost it because I’d taken too long to write! So, somewhat more briefly, we began the day on the towering heights of Mount Tabor, the mount apart from Matthew’s Gospel. Those of us on the south side of the building began the day somewhat better – the guys on the north side had a barking dog all night long and the loud bells throughout the night.

   We all were fortified by good Italian coffee and drove down the sharp turns on the way down the mountain. We prayed the rosary on the way through the valley and were in Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown for Mass. What a great experience – to be in the place where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and Jesus was conceived. In the beautiful grotto, there is a sign that says in Latin, “the Word of God became flesh here.” A group of Salesian nuns joined us for Mass and we all made a not-bad choir.

   We were fortunate to have an hour of prayer in the basilica. We then were able to go to St. Joseph’s church, the synagogue-church and a few other sites. After lunch, we drove to Cana and remembered Jesus’ first miracle in the pretty Latin church there. On the front porch, an ancient Italian friar was being peppered with questions – to his very evident delight – by a very spirited and vocal group of kids who were waiting for their catechism class. We prayed and visited the church, saw the church of St. Nathaniel and then came here to the Mount of Beatitudes.

Praying for you and your intentions,

 — Father Trapp and the Sacred Heart pilgrims

Day 19

Dear Friends,
   As we walked out of the guest house, our driver, Waheed appeared wearing a winter coat — there was a stiff breeze and it was cool. We boarded our bus and headed north and east, past the growing suburbs and into the hills and valleys to the north We soon left the territory of the tribe of Judah and entered the tribe of Benjamin’s area. 

   As we drove along, we passed not far from where the ancient sanctuary of Bethel stood. We were also entertained to read about the origins of another ancient town — it is the site where the she bears attacked the 42 children who made fun of the prophet Elisha’s bald head. 

   The sky was bright blue and the white stone villages on the tops of the mountains shone in the sunlight. We made it to Taybeh, the biblical city of Ephraim, which welcomed Jesus before His Passion. We were greeted, as in past years, by Father Raed the pastor. He had two other groups to meet that morning and another Australian group arriving in the afternoon. He told Father Byrnes and me that he tried to keep to one foreign language a day. Father is a local personality and a gifted man — he teaches philosophy at the seminary once a week, has founded a local Christian radio station, built a house for the elderly, a guesthouse and a cooperative for local crafts. 

   After our welcome, Father left us to greet a group of pilgrims who were foreign workers from Dubai and the Qatar. We prepared for Mass. The visiting group had a boy of about 10 years, named Jason, who had brought his alb and vesture to serve the Mass. The parish altar servers, like servers throughout the world, set him up and had him lead the procession across the sanctuary. His eyes were as wide as saucers as he led the group, obviously not having a clue as to what he was doing. He kept on moving until one of the locals grabbed his cassock so that he would join in the genuflection. The little evil altar servers had conspiratorial smiles. It is good to see that human nature is the same across the world. 

   The altar servers made their way across the sanctuary to the priests’ sacristy, where we had managed to behave slightly better. In addition to Father Byrnes, Father Raed and myself, there was the pastor of the group from Qatar and a priest from a new movement.

   We all processed out of the sanctuary as the parish choir belted out the opening hymn. A Rosary sister played the beautiful melodies and the kids sang throughout the Mass with full-throated energy. Later, Father Raed said that they aren’t as good as the kids in the Sistine chapel choir, but you don’t fall asleep either.

   We celebrated the Mass of Pentecost and Father Raed was full of pentecostal fire as he preached away. The congregation was very attentive and I wished I could have understood what he was saying. On the other hand, just being there with the Word of God proclaimed and preached was a good thing — in whatever language.

   After Mass, we had a chance to see the parishioners a bit better, including three or four little boys about 5 years old who were dressed up in Franciscan habits. Father explained that on the Feast of Saint Anthony (June 13), they put on these robes and then wear them at Mass until the next celebration of the Feast. There was also at least one little girl dressed up like the Blessed Mother, in honor of her month, May. A couple of the older men wore their kaffiyas during Mass, but without the black rope, which is similar to not wearing a hat in the west.

   We visited the site of the ancient church and a very old house where Father explained some of Jesus’ parables using old implements and the house itself to make the parables more understandable. He is part lecturer and part stand-up comedian and is worth listening to.

   We had a very good meal in a restaurant overlooking the town and then drove back to the Mount of Olives.

Praying for you and your intentions,
— Father Trapp and the Sacred Heart pilgrims

The Upper Room

Day 18

Inside the Church ad Coenaculum, the church built up to the Cenacle, or room where the Last Supper was held (and Thomas met the risen Christ, and Jesus gave the peace and power to forgive sins and the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost). | Photos by Anthony Lezcano

This is a picture inside the Cenacle, where Christians remember the Last Supper.

Dear Friends,

Today is our last day of visiting Jerusalem and we began a little after 7 with a trip back to Mount Zion. We were scheduled for the 8 a.m. Mass and arrived a little early. We had an orientation to the site from the time of Jesus to the present. At 8 o’clock, the French friar welcomed us into their beautiful garden and we prepared for Mass in the Church ad Coenaculum, the church built up to the Cenacle, or Room where the Last Supper was held (and Thomas met the risen Christ, and Jesus gave the peace and power to forgive sins and the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost). That Upper Room is now a place where we can only pray privately. It had been turned into a mosque and now the Israelis try to keep it as a secular space.

Anyway, we had Mass and Father Byrnes called us to the full vision of priesthood – offering the Mass and doing all the other pastoral and practical things a priest needs to do to live out the sacrificial nature of the priesthood. After praying the rosary mysteries of the institution of the Eucharist and Pentecost, we split up and prayed all over the city until we met our driver.

After lunch, which was good, we have had time to pray. Some of us went along the hill to Bethphage to pray and others have remained here. Tonight, it’s postcards and more postcards.

Praying for you and your intentions,

— Father Trapp and the Sacred Heart pilgrims

Mount Zion

Day 17

The Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. This church is where we remember Peter denying Christ three times. | Photos by Anthony Lezcano

Dear Friends,

   We are back at the guesthouse after several hours in the city. We began with a trip to Mount Zion, to St. Peter in Gallicantu, where Jared gave a good summation of the site. We went to the Belevedere, the look out point and saw a particularly good view of the Hinnon Valley and City of David and the Kidron Valley.

   We began in the upper church with its bright mosaics and stained glass. Among those depicted are saints who were former thieves and prostitutes, showing the redeeming power of Jesus’ love and His victory in the saints. We then walked by the second level where a group of neocats were setting up for Mass — they are known for their protracted homilies which at times — as in today — bump out other groups who are waiting for subsequent Masses. This doesn’t bother us. Not at all. Not a bit.

   We then visited the lower level where we saw what was or what was like the prison where the apostles were held and where Jesus was held. It’s clear that this is an ancient site where Christians have remembered Peter’s denial and repentance as well as Jesus’ being held in Caiphas’ house before being brought to Pilate on Good Friday morning. Whether it happened here or some ways up the hill isn’t known, but a good spot for prayer it is.

   We also saw the staircase or road on which Jesus and the apostles descended after the Last Supper. We had time for some very good prayer.  We then had Mass in the upper church as our sisters and brothers continued singing and praising away in the lower chapel. Being large-hearted people, we barely noticed. Really. It hardly mattered.

   We then marched down the hillside to the excavations in the City of David. Father Byrnes gave a stirring explanation of the site, including the walls that might date from the time of King David, the palace from which David ruled, the walls of Nehemiah and other sites. We plunged into the dark and most of us walked through Hezekiah’s tunnel. We met up again and continued walking up the hill to the square in front of the Western Wall.

   A good day to pray and reflect on the Lord’s love and our own call to love others.

 Praying for you and your intentions,

— Father Trapp and the Sacred Heart pilgrims

This is the place in the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu where Christians remember Peter denying Christ three times and then weeping.

Day OFF

Day 16

Dear Friends,

   Yesterday I e-mailed a friend and explained that we were going to have a day off today;  he responded saying that every day has sounded like a day off. Fair enough. Not exactly tough duty.

   But, fraternity works better when there are spaces and times away so we split up today. Some of us got up for the 6:30 a.m. Mass in the Holy Sepulcher. Others of us left the guesthouse at 9 a.m. Some of us yawned our way out of our rooms much later. Days off are good.

   We, the sisters, children and the vicious mosquitoes are no longer alone. A large group of English pilgrims arrived last night and were off at an early hour this morning. God bless them, we barely heard them when they left. I am hoping the mosquitoes like the English and move from my room. 

   This morning, I had the chance to get a much-needed haircut and to visit the lovely little church of Bethphage, which is just down the road from here. The church is in a relatively isolated spot and so doesn’t get the huge crowds which the churches on the other side of the Mount of Olives receive.  After praying in the still church near the rock with its 800-year-old frescoes, I was able to visit the ancient tombs behind the church, which the custodian, Fakri, was good enough to allow me to see. One of them is from the time of our Lord and still has the round, millstone-like stone that originally sealed it. I’m hoping we can all go there in the next few days.

   Our time in Jerusalem is drawing down. Ryan leaves tomorrow morning to begin a program in Battle Creek which begins next week. We’ll have our farewells tonight as he leaves at 2 a.m. tomorrow. The rest of us will have two more days in Jerusalem, mostly on Mount Zion, a day in Taibeh, then most of us head to the Galilee, as Father Byrnes returns to duties at Sacred Heart. 

Praying for you and your intentions,
— Father Trapp and the Sacred Heart pilgrims