Pilgrimages

We walked out the door of the hotel at 3:30 AM and we carried our crosses along that Via Dolorosa. We all touched the top of Calvary before we had Mass where Jesus hung bleeding for our sins. It’s a good thing we started early this morning because by 5:00 AM the church was already packed!

We took a tour of the Holy Sepulchre, came back for breakfast, did a very nice tour of the Holy Shroud Exhibit, and then to the Western Wall. Lunch at Rossini’s and a free afternoon and a visit to the Tomb of Jesus. We had a great dinner on the roof of Notre Dame looking out over the city. Enjoy a great day with us!

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We started the day with Mass at Gethsemane. The homily was exceptional and you can see/hear it here. From there we went to the top of the Mount of Olives to visit the cave where Jesus taught his disciples to pray the Our Father. It is also from here that Jesus ascended into heaven.

Then to lunch at Ramat Rachel Kibbutz bbefore visiting Mount Zion. We talked about and prayed at the Upper Room before going to St. Peter in Gallicantu where Jesus was tried by the High Priest and imprisoned over Holy Thursday.

We returned back to the Notre Dame where people had a couple hours to regroup and rest before dinner. Great day!

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Since we are on the Mount of Olives today I thought I would address a common concern.

One of our past pilgrims wrote to me expressing an apparent contradiction in the Bible about what I had said in Israel. The wording in the two verses below is what caused the confusion.

Acts 1:12  “[After the Ascension] they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.”

Luke 24:50–51  “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.”

So, did Jesus ascend into heaven from the Mount of Olives or from Bethany?

Church of Pater Noster

On pilgrimages, I take my groups to the top of the Mount of Olives to the Church of Pater Noster (the “Our Father”) where Jesus taught his disciples to pray in “the Grotto of the Teaching” — a cave beneath the front of the church. It is here that the oldest traditions inform us that Jesus was raised into heaven. Here Constantine built a church in the early 300’s. Here we celebrate Jesus’ departure and pray the Rosary’s 2nd Glorious Mystery of the Ascension.

Muslim Chapel of Ascension

There is a Muslim mosque five minute’s walk away (called the Chapel of the Ascension) that most Protestants visit but I don’t patronize Muslim sites and don’t accept this as the authentic place of the Ascension.

No one knows the exact square inches where his feet left the ground. But the Church of Pater Noster has the oldest tradition, is on the Mount of Olives and very near Bethany.

If we had had the time, and there was not the big wall separating Jerusalem from Bethany like it does Jerusalem from Bethlehem, in a few minutes we could walked into Bethany from the the top of the Mount of Olives. We used to walk people there to go into the tomb of Lazarus. That is how close Bethany is to the top of the Mount of Olives.

However, I can’t do that with groups anymore because there’s a big wall that keeps us from walking from the Mount of Olives into Bethany.

Bethany is on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives about 2 miles from Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. At the time of Jesus there was nothing on the Mount of Olives but olive trees (even until the late 1800’s, see picture black and white picture from about 1900). If you left from Jerusalem, heading to the Mount of Olives, it was perceived you were headed to Bethany.

 The picture shows that even until the turn of the 20th century there was nothing outside the old walls of Jerusalem. That meant there was just trees and open space between Jerusalem and Bethany. Bethany, though not seen on this map, was on the Eastern slope of the mount.

The other two maps show the proximity of Bethany, the the top of the Mount of Olives and the short distance from the walled city of Jerusalem. Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  He obviously saw no contradiction in referring to both places as the general location of Christ’s ascension.

It is easily explained this way. First, some suggest that he went as far as Bethany to say good-bye to the family he loved – Lazarus, Mary and Martha, then came back to the top of the mount and departed to heaven. However, there is no need to stretch things that far. Being on the eastern slope of the mount, Bethany is virtually on the Mount of Olives, especially from the perspective of Jerusalem.

If someone asks me where I’m from, I always say “Detroit.” But those who have been to my house know I really live 40 miles east of Detroit in Ypsilanti. But since no one knows where Ypsilanti is – I say “Detroit.”

If there is nothing but trees and bare land on the Mount of Olives and you’re heading east from Jerusalem, people would say you are going to Bethany. Jesus left Jerusalem and went over toward Bethany to ascend into heaven.

So if the geography is understood there is no conflict. Scripture can be trusted.

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Israel Day 4: Capernaum, Boat Ride, St. Peter’s Fish, Visitation and Jerusalem!

February 17, 2019

Mass at Capernaum is always a great way to start the day. The readings are from the Gospel of St. John chapter 6 “ Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood.” Fr. Dan’s excellent homily here. I give my talk There entitled “Defending the Eucharist.” From there we get on a boat and voyage out […]

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Beatitudes, “You are Peter (Rock),” Golan, Multiplication, Peter’s Primacy and more

February 16, 2019

Mass and prayer at Mount of Beatitudes. Homily at Beatitudes here. North to Banias (Caesarea Philippi) where Jesus appointed Peter as Royal Steward of his kingdom (Matt16). Druze lunch and driving through the Golan Heights. Drive near Syrian border with profound explanation of situation in Middle East by Amer. Back to Sea of Galilee to […]

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Israel Day 2: Transfiguration, Cana and Nazareth

February 15, 2019

We have 2 priests, 8 deacons and 1 Catholic Radio Personality – Teresa Tomeo! What a line up for this amazing pilgrimage. This was our first full day and what a blessed day it was. Three Rosary Mysteries prayed on site today. We started with Mass on top of Mount Tabor – the Mountain of Transfiguration. You […]

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Israel Pilgrims Arrive to Join the Jordan Group

February 14, 2019

Since I was with the Jordan group crossing over from the other side, I was not able to get a lot of videos and pictures from the group coming in fresh to Israel. But all of them arrived safely and in good shape and had a quick dinner and a Mass and are now sound […]

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Jordan 5: Authentic Baptismal Site of Jesus, Mass on the River, North thru Jordan, Crossing into Israel

February 14, 2019

Today we visited the queen of the pilgrimage sites in Jordan and the 5th and final one. We drove down from the mountains of Amman and Madaba to the lowest place on the face of the earth which is the Jordan Valley. It is 1,250 feet below sea level. We arrived at the Jordan River […]

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Mount Nebo and Moses’ Death, John the Baptist’s Beheading at Fortress Macherus and more

February 12, 2019

A fantastic 2nd day. We started out at Mount Nebo where the children of Israel looked over into the Promised Land for the first time in over 440 years. It was here that Moses was denied entrance and died. What a wonderful Mass here celebrating St. Moses. Homily here We visited a mosaic factory and […]

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Jordan Day 2 Northern Mountains, Anjara, Elijah’s Birthplace, Jerash, Jabbok River and more

February 11, 2019

After a good nights sleep everybody is fresh and ready to go. We start by heading north for an hour and a half up into the mountains of Jordan. At this point we’re only a short drive across the border to the sea of Galilee and then Israel. We start at one of the five […]

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Everyone Arrived Enthusiastically in Amman Jordan, Ready to Discover this Biblical Land

February 10, 2019

Everyone arrived safely and in good spirits with no glitches at the beautiful and modern Queen Alia Airport in Amman Jordan. We are excited to show these excited pilgrims our favorite biblical and Catholic sites in this amazing country. In 2000 Pope St. John Paul II designated five sites as pilgrimage sites. We will visit […]

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Discovering the Place of Paul’s Shipwreck on Island of Malta on the Feast Day!

February 10, 2019

You would not have wanted to be with St. Paul today because February 10 is the Feast Day of the Shipwreck of St. Paul on Malta. I have been on ships in the Mediterranean many times and I make a practice each time of going out on the deck on a stormy night and imagining…. […]

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Our Brand NEW 2019 Irizar Mercedes Bus in Israel!

January 30, 2019

Wow! What a modern technological and elegant beauty! Beats the camels of olden days. Nothing but the best for our pilgrims!

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What is A Pilgrimage and Why Do Catholics Do Them?

January 28, 2019

Popular pilgrimage guide Steve Ray, a Baptist who became Catholic, reflects on how he came to understand the Catholic idea of pilgrimage, compared to the way he understood religious travel as a Baptist. Steve shares a bit about what pilgrimages can do to help bring to life aspects of the Bible and Church history, and […]

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UNESCO Adds the Baptismal Site of Jesus to the World Heritage Sites

January 13, 2019

Happy Feast Day of the Baptism of Our Lord! Since we will be at the actual site of Jesus’ baptism in two weeks with a bus full of pilgrims, I thought I would share this post again. This is an exciting development which helps establish the authentic baptismal site of Jesus. With the involvement of UNESCO […]

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Pilgrimage & Islam

January 12, 2019

My attorney friend Bob Sullivan wrote this after a cruise with us and a trip to Israel. Interesting observations by an astute observer concerning the heart of Islam, pilgrimages and us. ************************************ Last Christmas, my wife Carmen and I hopped on an airplane and flew to the Holy Land. We were extremely excited. It was […]

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