Saturday, March 17, 2007


Jerusalem! What can one say about Jerusalem? Today was again spent in the Holy City. Morning on the Mount of Olives, and the afternoon on Mount Zion. We battled other tour groups and jockeyed for space but everything went wonderfully well.

We started later today so everyone got to sleep in (ha ha!). Actually we started at 8:30 AM on the bus and drove to the top of the Mount of Olives. We visited the Pater Noster where our Lord taught his disciples the Our Father and where the early Christians celebrated the Ascension. The Ascension Chapel nearby is another site venerated as the place of the Ascension, but it is a Muslim mosque so this time we went to Pater Noster.

Praying the Our Father under the trees and thinking of Jesus teaching it to the disciples in a pastoral setting was quite special.  

There are several things that always stand out as highlights for pilgrims. One of them is riding a camel. You could hear squeals of delight and laughter as the camel rocked back and forth to stand up and to settle back down. Everyone seemed to have a great time riding the ship of the desert. You will see a bit of this adventure in the video clip.

The walk down the steep and narrow road used on Palm Sunday took us to Dominus Flavit. The name comes from the Latin translation of the shortest verse in the Bible “Jesus wept” (Jn11:35). The church is shaped like a tear drop and is the source of the classic picture from Jerusalem of the Eucharist within the black grated metal window design looking over the walls of the Old City. Pictures were taken by all. 

From there we continued down the road of the Triumphal Entry through very crowded streets arriving at the Garden of Gethsemane. We arrived just in time for Mass inside the Church of All Nations, otherwise called the Church of Gethsemane. We all sat around the rock where Jesus prayed and sweat great drops of blood. Very moving.

I shared how this garden was related to the Garden of Eden. In one garden the first Adam was under a tree of life that brought about death; in the Garden of Gethsemane the Last Adam was at a tree of death that brought about life. And, it was not the physical suffering which weighed heavy on our Lord as much as the suffering caused by the Holy One of God taking on the weight of the sin of the world – he who knew no sin became sin for us. 

A short bus ride brought us back to the Notre Dame Center where we ate lunch and rested for a bit. At 1:30 PM we were on the road again, this time to Mount Zion.

The Church of Dormition was our first stop—the place where Mary fell asleep or died. After that she was assumed into heaven. Everyone loves this German Dominican church especially the basement with the statue of Mary asleep surrounded by wonderful artwork. My favorite are the three holy women above her: Eve, Miriam, Jael, Judith, Ruth, and Esther. Janet loves the mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe and I the mosaic of the Pentecost.

How can you describe a visit to the Upper Room? Let’s try with two descriptions: chaos and profound. Groups compete for space and decibel levels. Pushing and jostling, straining to hear and limitations on time. Our headphones were indispensable at this site.  

It was in the Upper Room that Jesus instituted the new Priesthood, the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pentecost took place here as did the return of Peter from prison. I had a lot to share here and we pray the Mysteries of the Rosary related to the Eucharist and Pentecost.

More could be said, but I’ve written too much already. Then on to St. Peter in Gallicantu where Jesus was tried by Caiaphas the High Priest and beaten and mocked. He was kept here over night in a cistern prison. It was also where Peter denied Christ, which is what the name means “Peter and the Cock Crow.” Everyone also walked on the old Roman Steps where Jesus walked as he was led to the house of Caiaphas. 

Two hours to rest and talk with pilgrims in the coffee shop before heading back to Bethlehem for a special farewell dinner hosted by my agent Raji Khoury of Shepherd tours. We will get home not too late. The mayor of Bethlehem joined us for dinner and welcomed us to his city.

The dancing! You had to be there to believe it! The Arabic music cranked up on the sound system, and off they went! It was delightful and fun was had by all.

In the morning, about 20 pilgrims will stay back in Jerusalem while the other 80 will jump on the buses again to visit Masada, Qumran, the Dead Sea, and have lunch in Jericho. More soon! Stay tuned!