GusLloyd

Category Archives: Holy Land Pilgrimage

That’s a Wrap!

After finishing all of the blog posts from our trip to the Holy Land, I knew there would be a bunch of stuff that I didn’t have time to share. So I went through the nearly 1000 photos I shot and have picked out a few of my favorites from things we saw and experienced that you weren’t able to see in the original posts. I’ll give just a brief explanation of each. So glad we could take you with us!

Before

Before

After

After

These two shots we took on the Mount of Transfiguration. This is what it might look like if I underwent a transfiguration!

Gus and Michelle at Church of Transfiguration

Gus and Michelle at Church of Transfiguration

Church of the Transfiguration

Church of the Transfiguration

These two shots are from the Church of the Transfiguration – one outside, the other above the main altar upstairs…a beautiful mural.

View from Mt. of Transfiguration

View from Mt. of Transfiguration

The Mount of Transfiguration is one of the highest mountains in the area. To give you a bit of perspective, this shot is from near the top of the mountain, looking down on Nazareth. A beautiful view, indeed…

Annunciation grotto

Annunciation grotto

Inside the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth is a small grotto that is the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary lived. It is here where the Angel Gabriel came to announce to Mary that she had been chosen to bring the Messiah into the world. This small altar, which is inside a gated area, marks the spot. Pretty amazing, eh?

Renewing our vows

Renewing our vows

While we were in Cana, Michelle and I had the blessing of renewing our wedding vows. While I posted a picture of this momentous occasion on Facebook, I didn’t include one on the blog. Here is the happy couple. (Photo courtesy of Lino Rulli.)

View from hotel balcony

View from hotel balcony

When Lino and I recorded the radio show in Galilee, we did so from the balcony of our hotel, which overlooked the Sea of Galilee. While we described this location on the show a number of times, I never included a picture. This is what we saw while doing our radio shows. Nice work if you can get it!

Goats

Goats

At some of the locations where we were, there were sheep and/or goats roaming around. Being an animal lover, I had to get a shot of some of these cute little goats that were hanging around Magdala.

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is magnificent. Aside from Tiberias, which is a very modern city with plenty of high rise hotels and shops, much of the area probably looks much like it did during the time of Jesus. Here is one of my favorite shots of the Sea of Galilee.

American and Israeli flags

American and Israeli flags

Most all of the Christians that I know in the USA are great supporters of Israel. While we were on the Jesus Boat in the Sea of Galilee, our boatmates were all Americans, so they flew the two countries’ flags. I thought the shot of the two flags flapping in the breeze side by side was cool.

Dancing on the Jesus Boat

Dancing on the Jesus Boat

As it turns out, our boatmates were quite the dancers! Here’s a shot of the gang dancing around on the Jesus Boat. Big fun!

Caves at Shepherd's Field

Caves at Shepherd’s Field

I never knew that caves were so popular in the Holy Land, but they are…or at least they were. So the next couple of shots are of some of my favorite caves. The first is part of a small series of caves at The Shepherd’s Field, where the angels came to announce the birth of the Messiah on Christmas night. Lino and I actually spelunked through these caves.

Pater Noster cave

Pater Noster cave

The next cave is at Pater Noster on the Mount of Olives. It is in this cave that Jesus may have taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer – the Our Father.

Church of St. Mary Magdalene

Church of St. Mary Magdalene

As you stand atop the Mount of Olives, just below you can see the beautiful gold tops of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. The view from up there is truly breathtaking.

The Old City of Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem

Much of the Via Dolorosa winds through the Old City of Jerusalem. I don’t think it looked like this during Jesus’ time, but now it is a series of narrow walkways and stairs with small shops along both sides. If you ever make it to the Holy Land, the best time to go through the Old City is early in the morning, before the streets are packed with tourists. You may even find a bit of alone time to pray the Stations of the Cross.

So there you have it – our first pilgrimage to the Holy Land! Before we even flew home, Michelle and I vowed that we would return. I learned so much, and can’t wait to go back and learn and experience even more. I hope you found this blog to be helpful; that you felt as though you made the trip with us in some small way. Pray for peace in Jerusalem! Shalom!

Papal Mass in Bethlehem

We had an amazing day attending the Papal Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem. We arrived about 3 hours before Mass began. There was not a cloud in the sky, and though it was hot out, there was a fairly nice breeze throughout the morning and the humidity was very low. (That’s a real luxury for a Florida resident like me!)

Papal Stage/Altar

Papal Stage/Altar

The stage on which the altar was set had a very interesting mural. It featured the previous three popes who had visited the Holy Land, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Check it out.

Banner

Banner

All around the square were banners which depicted the sufferings of the Palestinians and juxtaposed them with the sufferings of Christ. Here is the one that was to the left of the altar as we were looking at it.

Papal Helicopter

Papal Helicopter

The Holy Father flew into Palestinian territory directly from Jordan. Here is a shot of the crowd as the helicopters carrying the Pope and his entourage flew over Manger Square. If you look closely in the sky, you can see a couple of helicopters.

Sniper

Sniper

Security was very tight everywhere. Snipers were stationed atop the buildings all around the square. Also there were plain clothes security men throughout the crowd. I know because there were a couple of very burly guys with earpieces standing near Lino and me throughout the Mass. I figured they were keeping an eye on Lino.

Banner with Sniper

Banner with Sniper

I thought this next show was a study in paradox. Directly above this huge banner featuring the Pope, the Palestinian president and a peace dove was a sniper. Peace through automatic weapons, I suppose.

Pope in Popemobile

Pope in Popemobile

Eventually Pope Francis made his way into Manger Square in the popemobile. As reported, Pope Francis rides in an open popemobile with no bulletproof glass. The Holy Father was about 15 feet in front of me, but it was very hard to get a good photo of him. I had my camera on rapid fire, and this was the only decent picture I got. If you squint, you can see Pope Francis making his way through the crowd.

Pope Francis Opening Prayer

Pope Francis Opening Prayer

I managed to get a few decent shots of Pope Francis during the Mass.

Pope Francis Homily

Pope Francis Homily

Here are pictures of him doing the opening prayer, the homily and during the consecration.

Pope Francis Consecration

Pope Francis Consecration

 

 

 

 

 

Palestinian Nuns

Palestinian Nuns

When I’m in crowds with my camera, I love to take random shots of people. The rest of the pics are just slices of life from the crowd at the Papal Mass. Enjoy!

Mother and Son

Mother and Son

Nun with Hat

Nun with Hat

Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter

Choir

Choir

Man at Papal Mass

Man at Papal Mass

Woman 2 at Papal Mass

Woman 2 at Papal Mass

Woman at Papal Mass

Woman at Papal Mass

Holy Ground

Today our pilgrimage took us to Holy Ground. I have to admit, this is all quite overwhelming. Not only trying to keep up with our amazing guide, George, and take in all of the information that he imparts, but also being in the moment at the places where our Lord lived and died. I suspect it is going to take a long time for me to even begin to process all this…a lifetime, I’m guessing.

Entrance to Holy Sepulcher

Entrance to Holy Sepulcher

We started early this morning making our way to the Holy Sepulcher. Sepulcher means “tomb.” This is the place where Jesus hung on the cross, was buried and rose from the dead. Imagine! Here is the entrance to the Holy Sepulcher. From the outside you really wouldn’t know that anything so earth shattering is inside.

Washing Stone

Washing Stone

The first thing you see when you walk in is the Washing Stone. This is the stone that was used to lay the body of Jesus after He was taken down from the cross so that the body could be washed and prepared for burial.

The Washing Stone

The Washing Stone

As you can see, the stone is pink. It is very smooth, and very aromatic. It has a beautiful, sweet smell. Pilgrims will come to the stone and either touch it or kiss it. Another tradition is for women to take their scarves and rub them on the Washing Stone. This leaves the sweet fragrance on their scarves. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would ever wash that scarf again, so that I could keep the aroma around forever!

Entrance to the Holy Sepulcher

Entrance to the Holy Sepulcher

With this being our first trip here, I’m not sure if there is any particular order of things that people see when they visit the Holy Sepulcher. If you want to see things chronologically, then you would visit Golgotha, the Washing Stone and then the tomb. We did things a bit differently. After the Washing Stone, we went directly to the Holy Sepulcher, or tomb of Christ. With such a small group, our guide was able to get us to the front of the line and go see the tomb of Christ immediately. As we sort of rushed to the front of the line, I really wasn’t sure what was happening, and wasn’t really prepared, whatever that may mean, to go in. Here is the entrance to the Holy Sepulcher.

Christ's Tomb

Christ’s Tomb

When I entered the Holy Sepulcher, I was completely overcome with emotion. This is the place where the body of Jesus lay, and where He was resurrected. Imagine it! The tomb is actually very small – only three or four people can fit in at one time. I knelt down and put my hand on the tomb and began to cry, saying, “Thank you, Jesus!” While wanting to be in the moment, there is also a tension that exists because you know that so many others are waiting just outside to experience this as well. So we said a quick prayer, snapped a couple of pictures and left the tomb – hopefully changed forever!

First Century Tombs

First Century Tombs

Upon leaving the Sepulcher, our guide took us to a small chapel off to the side where there are other tombs. These are the type of tombs dating from the first century. Bodies would be placed in these tombs and left for a year. After they decomposed, the bones would be removed and put into an ossuary, a small box for bones, and placed in a cemetery.

From the tomb it is a short walk up some stairs to go to Golgotha.

Golgotha stone

Golgotha stone

The word means “Skull Place.” This is the place where they put the cross on which hung Jesus. Many people think that they dug a hole in the dirt to put the cross. Not so. It is a big rock formation. It is all now encased. The first photo is just to the right of where the cross of Christ was.

The Foot of the Cross

The Foot of the Cross

Just to the left of the glass encased stone is the place where the Cross of Christ was put. Each pilgrim can bend down, put their arm into a hole and touch the place where hung the Cross. The blood of Jesus would have dripped into this indentation in the rock. The magnitude of the moment is overwhelming. As I placed my hand in and touched, I was literally breathless. It was difficult to even take a breath. I just kept repeating, “Thank you, Jesus!” A moment I will never forget.

Room of Golgotha

Room of Golgotha

To give you a bit of perspective, here is a photo of the room of Golgotha. As you can see, it is not very large. Pilgrims line up, and each one is given a moment to touch the stone formation. So powerful!

Upon leaving the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, we walked the Via Dolorosa – backwards. The Via Dolorosa is the Way of the Cross, where Christ walked to his death. Since we started at the tomb, it made sense for us to walk Via Dolorosa from finish to start.

On the Via Dolorosa

On the Via Dolorosa

We wound our way through the Old City, with narrow streets and now many shops. At certain places along the way, you’ll see markers for each station of the Cross. At some of the stations are chapels and churches. We peeked inside many of them, but to keep on schedule, we couldn’t spend much time in any one place. Perhaps when I come back, I’ll be able to share more from these wonderful sights.

Cave on Mount of Olives

Cave on Mount of Olives

Our next stop was the Mount of Olives. This is where Jesus would often come with His disciples. The first place we visited was Pater Noster. This is Latin for Our Father. It is here that Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. As we’ve seen throughout our pilgrimage, the folks of that time hung out in caves quite a bit. Here is the cave on the Mount of Olives where Jesus may have taught the Our Father.

Our Father Plaques

Our Father Plaques

Of course, the Our Father has probably been translated into nearly every language known to man. Here there are 100 huge plaques with a translation of the Our Father. This really gives one a sense of the universality of the Christian faith!

View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

From here we made our way to the top of Mount of Olives. The view from here is spectacular! You can look out and see all of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. Of course, it looks very modern now. But in the time of Christ, it would have been much less dense with buildings and no paved roads (at least not like we have them today), etc. This is place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem as He looked out over the city. Today the view is simply breathtaking.

Ziziphus Christi

Ziziphus Christi

One of the most interesting things we found at the Mount of Olives was the plant that was used to fashion the crown of thorns worn by Jesus during His passion and death. It comes from a tree/bush called Ziziphus Christi. At Easter time its branches are long and malleable, which would make it possible to make it into a crown. Just looking at the thorns gives you a better understanding of what it must have felt like for Jesus to have these on His head.

 

Entrance to St. Peter Gallicantu

Entrance to St. Peter Gallicantu

Our next stop was Caiphas’ House. This is where Jesus, after being arrested, was put on trial and held overnight until He was taken to Pontius Pilate. On this site sits the Church of St. Peter Gallicantu. Gallicantu is French for “The Rooster Sang.” This is where Peter denied Jesus three times. It is also the place of the dungeon where Jesus stayed awaiting his transport to see Pontius Pilate.

Hole to the dungeon

Hole to the dungeon

When you enter the Church, there is hole you can look down into and see the dungeon where Jesus stayed. The prisoner would have been lowered through this hole by a rope that wrapped under his armpits.

The Dungeon where Jesus stayed

The Dungeon where Jesus stayed

The dungeon is a very small room. It would have something of a holding cell. Only a handful of people can fit in. As you’ll see, there is a small lectern in the room. Here is where people can read from the Scriptures or lead songs or prayers.

Reading Psalm 88

Reading Psalm 88

I have had many moving experiences and highlights during this pilgrimage. This is the place where one of those highlights took place. If you know me at all, you know that I love to read from the Scriptures. I do it every day on my show, in my personal life and even on some Sundays at Mass. Our guide asked if I would read Psalm 88 while in this dungeon. My friend, when my life is over, this is going to be included in the highlight reel of my life. What a privilege to read aloud from the Scriptures in a place where Jesus was! If you’re not familiar with Psalm 88, read it and you’ll see why they leave it in the dungeon.

We’re going to take a “rest day” next to get ready for the final push of our pilgrimage, the visit of Pope Francis. Know that I am keeping you in prayer in this holy place. Shalom!

 

 

 

A Day of Prayer

A pilgrimage should be a time of prayer. Sometimes this is much easier said than done, especially in a place like the Holy Land where there are often huge crowds. You sometimes have to rush in and out of places to make room for the next pilgrim(s). Today was a day of intense prayer for me, as we made our way into Bethlehem and beyond. I have to admit that I am getting very little sleep, and we’re moving at what sometimes seems a breakneck pace. I’m loving it!!

Herod's Tomb

Herod’s Tomb

Bethlehem is in Palestinian territory here in Israel. Before we made our way into Bethlehem, we stopped at Herod’s Tomb. This is a pretty large mountain that was actually man made. Herod was a very paranoid king and wanted to build himself a fortress. So he actually enlisted over a thousand men to move a mountain from one spot to another. Inside this mountain is where he built his fortress. The importance of this place is that when Jesus talked about having faith enough to move a mountain, He was talking about something that had been done by Herod. But faith in Jesus can make it easy!

Shepherd's Field

Shepherd’s Field

Next we went to Shepherd’s Field. This is the place where the angels came to announce that a savior had been born. Of course, they announced it to a bunch of shepherds who were out with their flocks. Shepherds did not have a great reputation in those days. Yet God chose to deliver the message of the birth of the Messiah to them first. He chose to give the message of the birth of his Son to the poor first.

Inside the cave church

Inside the cave church

An overriding theme of our day today was caves. These shepherds stayed in caves, for a number of reasons. First, the caves offered some protection from the heat of day, and they were warmer during the cold nights. Second, the caves offered protection from the wolves and other wild animals that roamed the countryside looking for sheep to chow down on. When you go to Shepherd’s Field, you get to go into these caves. The ones in the upper part of the property now have benches, exhibits and in one, an altar. Even still, you know you are inside a cave.

Caves of Shepherd's Field

Caves of Shepherd’s Field

On the lower part of the property are a series of rough caves, some connected by tunnels. It is very dark and tight in these tunnels. But did we have a great time spelunking through them! Warning: if you’re claustrophobic, you may want to avoid this part of Shepherd’s Field.

 

 

Milk Grotto

Milk Grotto

Next we made our way up to the Church of the Nativity. But before we went into that church, we went through Manger Square, where Pope Francis will be saying Mass on Sunday. Passing through Manger Square, we went up a side street to a place that I had never heard of before, the Milk Grotto. This is the place where Mary took the baby Jesus to nurse him, thus the name. It is a nearby cave that would have been cleaner than the cave in which Jesus was born.

Mary nursing Jesus

Mary nursing Jesus

In the Milk Grotto are some icons and images of the Blessed Virgin nursing the baby Jesus that I had never seen before. They are strikingly beautiful, and I found myself very moved by them. It was in the Milk Grotto that I had a most profound moment of prayer.

 

 

Icon of Nursing Mother

Icon of Nursing Mother

There is a chapel in the Milk Grotto where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. As I knelt down to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, I was overcome with emotion and began sobbing uncontrollably. The Blessed Mother was speaking into my heart about how much she cared for all mothers, and especially the mothers in my life – my wife, my mom and especially my sister, Nancy. Nancy is under hospice care and is living with Michelle and I. Nancy is a mom who lost a son a few years ago. Mary let me know that Nancy is in her loving care, and she will lead her to Jesus at the proper time. I can barely type this as I am again overcome with emotion. Please pray for Nancy.

 

Michelle at the Door of Humility

Michelle at the Door of Humility

After leaving the Milk Grotto, we made our way to the Church of the Nativity. The main church is actually run by the Greek Orthodox. The inside of the church is undergoing major renovation. To get into the church, you have to go through a very small opening. It is referred to as the Door of Humility, because it is so small that most people have to lower their heads to get in.

 

 

Tiled floor

Tiled floor

Once inside the church, you begin to get a sense of history and awe. On the main level of the church you will find openings in the floor that expose a mosaic tiled floor dating from the fourth century. This is an original part of the church that was built by St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine. Be sure to look, but don’t step down!

Cave of the Nativity

Cave of the Nativity

Next you make your way under the main altar of the church to a cave. Yes, another cave! This is the cave where Christ was born. When most people think of the birthplace of Christ, I think they think of a barn or a stall. Nope. Jesus was born in a very small cave. Nowadays, the cave is cramped and very crowded, with pilgrims moving in and out constantly. As you make your way down the steps into the cave, it gets very hot and a bit smelly…sort of like when Jesus was born I suppose!

Birthplace of Christ

Birthplace of Christ

Once inside the cave, you get to see the very spot where Christ was born. It is inside a 14-point star. Everyone gets an opportunity to bend down and touch the spot and, if you’re lucky, to get a picture or two. Imagine how many people touch that spot every day, and how many times it has been touched over the centuries!

 

Baby Jesus

Baby Jesus

Right next to the Church of the Nativity is St. Catherine’s Catholic Church. If you have ever seen Midnight Mass from the Holy Land on TV, it was broadcast from this church. Inside St. Catherine’s is the Baby Jesus that they take out and put into the creche on Christmas. Here is that little Baby Jesus.

 

The Wailing Wall

The Wailing Wall

We left Bethlehem and made our way back to Jerusalem for our final stop of the the day, the Wailing Wall, also called the Western Wall. I knew this was going to be a highlight of the trip. The Wailing Wall is where people of faith have been coming to pray for thousands of years. The first five courses of stone date from the time of Jesus. People often write their prayers and put the pieces of paper into the crevices of the wall. Every week someone cleans out the papers and burns them.

Praying at the Wailing Wall

Praying at the Wailing Wall

My moment at the Wailing Wall was certainly one of the most moving moments of our pilgrimage. As I prayed at the wall, I want you to know that I was praying for you. Touching that wall really gives the feeling of a special connection to God. Thank you for praying for us on our journey, and know that I will continue to pray for you. Shalom!

 

The Rock

Today was a day of transition for us. Having spent the last couple of days at the Sea of Galilee, it was now time for us to make our way back to Jerusalem. So we packed our bags and set out to make the journey back south. Before we left the northern region of Israel, there was one more place we had to visit, Caesarea Philippi.

Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi

This is the place where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” After getting a number of replies, Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then says to Peter, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.” He then gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom. Catholics believe that here Jesus established the office of the papacy. I’ll let you do your homework as to all that that entails. One wonders why Jesus chose Caesarea Philippi for this occasion.

First, as you can see from the photo, this is a place of rock. At the time of Christ, there was a temple built to the god Pan right up against this giant rock formation. The next picture shows what this probably looked in the time that Jesus brought the disciples here and conferred the keys to Peter.

Temple of Pan

Temple of Pan

This picture is on the site. So what Jesus was saying was kind of like this: The pagans have built their church on on this big rock here at Caesarea Philippi. But you are Peter (which means “Rock”) and upon this rock I will build my Church. So while this big pagan church will someday crumble and fall, even the gates of hell shall never prevail against my Church.

 

Gus and Lino at Caesarea Philippi

Gus and Lino at Caesarea Philippi

It really takes on a whole new meaning when you see where this happened. The temple was actually built right in front of the mouth of a large cave where people would sacrifice goats and throw them into the water in the cave. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to have a picture with The Catholic Guy at the mouth of this cave. (No, I didn’t throw him in the cave.)

 

Jordan River headwaters

Jordan River headwaters

Finally, this site is part of the headwaters of the Jordan River. It always amazes me that rivers start out so small and become something so great. But I believe that is what God desires for us. We start out so small, but He wants us to become something so great. Let’s keep learning and growing and become all that God desire us to become!

We spent the rest of the day making the long drive back to Jerusalem. I’ll check in from there next! May God bless and keep you on your journey!

 

The Sea of Galilee

 

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee

What an amazing day in the Holy Land! We spent the day around the Sea of Galilee. This is the area where Jesus and the Apostles spent the bulk of their time. There is so much to see in this region that we decided to stay for a couple of days. Even then we won’t even come close to seeing everything we want to see.

First Century Synagogue

First Century Synagogue

Our day started off with a visit to Magdala. This was the place where Mary Magdalene lived. Recently, a first century synagogue was discovered. Since this was an area that Jesus hung around, one can assume that at some point Jesus may have been in that little synagogue. It is amazing to think that you are in a place where Jesus may have walked. A real WOW moment, indeed.

Another amazing discovery here is a home – a home of someone well-to-do. It is believed that this may be the home of the synagogue official, perhaps a man named Jairus. Jairus’ story is very near and dear to Michelle and I, and upon seeing a small chapel dedicated to Jairus in the Magdalene Spirituality Center, I was brought to tears. Below is a picture of what may have been Jairus’ house.

Jairus' House

Jairus’ House

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mount of Beatitudes

Mount of Beatitudes

Our next stop was the Mount of Beatitudes. This is where it is believed that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. It is very lush at the top of the mountain, with beautifully maintained gardens, a church and retreat center. There are beautiful views of the Sea of Galilee. So far on the trip we have been able to have some fairly private time at each of the sites, avoiding most of the large crowds. This was definitely not the case at the Mount of Beatitudes. It was very crowded, with pilgrims from around the world visiting. One thing you’ll notice when visiting Israel – there are tour buses everywhere!

 

Capernaum

Capernaum

Next was a short drive to Capernaum. This was where Peter lived and it was Jesus’ adopted hometown. There is now a large modern church built atop what may have been Peter’s home. Much of the town of Capernaum has been excavated and it is fascinating to see how folks lived in the first century.

One of the neatest things about Capernaum is the synagogue. If you’re familiar with John 6, you know that it was in the synagogue in

Capernaum

Capernaum

Capernaum Synagogue

Capernaum Synagogue

Capernaum that Jesus gave the Bread of Life discourse. On the site are the remains of a synagogue from the fourth century, built on top of the synagogue where Jesus gave the Bread of Life discourse. Here are some pictures of the synagogue and surrounding area.

 

Everywhere we go there are Scripture passages that go through my head. While in Capernaum I’m naturally reminded of the Bread of Life discourse. But I also thought of when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and when the paralytic was lowered through the roof of a home so that Jesus could heal him. You can really picture these stories ?happening when you’re standing near where they really occurred. It is truly an awesome feeling.

Lino and Gus at Primacy of Peter

Lino and Gus at Primacy of Peter

I’ve always felt a great spiritual closeness with St. Peter. That’s why the next place we visited was so special. There is a sign on the side of the road which says “Primacy of Peter.” Turns out that this is the small beach where Jesus, after the resurrection, asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” This has always been one of my favorite Scripture stories. So while I was on that beach, I felt myself repeating over and over Peter’s response to the Master – “Lord, you know that I love you.” A tearful moment, indeed.

Jesus Boat

Jesus Boat

Finally, to wrap up our day, we took a ride on the Jesus Boat. The Sea of Galilee is filled with boats that are filled with tourists taking about a one hour ride on the Sea. Our boat had just a few people in it, all Americans. Of course, the Scripture passage that comes to mind is that of Jesus walking on the water. But you can also imagine Peter and his brother, James and John and the others out doing a little fishing. When I first saw the Sea of Galilee, I thought is was rather small – just a decent sized lake, really. But when you’re actually in a boat, it seems much larger.

All in all, it was a wonderful day filled with moving experiences. Soon we’ll be heading back to Jerusalem. Something tells me I’ll have a lot more to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Very Busy Day

Our day in the Holy Land started with Mass this morning at Notre Dame Center. When we left there, we began to make our way north to Galilee. While on the way, we stopped at many places and experienced a lot of things. Here’s a brief rundown for the day.

Zacchaeus Tree

Zacchaeus Tree

It all started in Jericho. I learned a couple of things about Jericho today. First, the city is 10,000 years old. Amazing! People have been inhabiting it for 10,000 years. Second, the name Jericho means “city of the moon.” It sits in a valley and when the moon hits it, it illuminates the area like nowhere else. While we were in Jericho, we saw the very tree that Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus. Amazing that that old tree is still around!

 

Mount of Temptation

Mount of Temptation

Next was a visit to the Mount of Temptation. This is place where Jesus went to fast and pray before He began his public ministry and did battle with Satan. From now on when I go through my Lenten practices, I will remember this place where Jesus put a whooping on Satan and remember how small my temptations really are!

Lino's Temptation

Lino’s Temptation

 

Since we were at the Mount of Temptation, I figured I would tempt Lino. Do you think he bit?

 

 

 

 

Mama's Boys

Mama’s Boys

Next up, the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. When you go inside the church, you will see a small grotto sectioned with an iron gate. Behind the gate is a small altar in the place believed to be the childhood home of Mary. Amazing! Inscribed in Latin is Verbum Caro Hic Factum Est, which roughly translated means “The Word was made Flesh here.” Imagine that this was the spot where the Angel Gabriel came to Mary to announce that she would give birth to the Son of God. Another WOW moment. Outside the church is a beautiful statue of the Blessed Mother. Above you can see a picture of the two Catholic Channel Mama’s boys!

Finally, we took a trip to Cana, the site of Jesus’ first miracle. He changed water to wine at a wedding. When you go to the church in Cana, one of the things they do regularly is to renew wedding vows for couples. Michelle and I did just that, after nearly 34 years of marriage. It was one of the most moving moments of our trip so far. Please pray for all marriages!

 

 

It’s a Small World After All

Well we made it to Israel! Our flight out of Tampa was delayed again and again until we thought we were for sure going to miss our flight to Israel. God’s timing is again perfect! We made it to JFK in the nick of time to board the flight to Tel-Aviv. Unfortunately, Michelle’s luggage didn’t make the trip with us. Oh well…small potatoes. We would rather the luggage miss the flight than us.

We spent the first night in Jerusalem. As we walked through the Old City, we made our way to the Holy Sepulchre. As I was walking toward the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre, I noticed someone dressed like Jesus standing there. This is where it gets cool. I said to Michelle, “I think that’s James (aka The Jesus Guy). James is an old friend who has dressed and lived like Jesus for the past 23 years. He’s been on Seize the Day and had dinner in our home. Michelle replied, “No way! We’re 6000 miles from home.”

As you may have already guessed, it was indeed James! We reconnected with him and invited him to have dinner with us in the Old City. Talk about the work of the Holy Spirit! Seems old Walt Disney was right after all – it is a small, small world!

Here are pictures of our hotel and our chance encounter with James.

Notre Dame Center

Notre Dame Center

Lino, James and Gus

Lino, James and Gus

The First Sign

God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good!

This morning Michelle and I were running around packing and making final preparations for our trip to the Holy Land. When you’re a homeowner, you want to make sure that everything is in good working order before you leave. Our two boys will be home, as well as my sister, Wendy, and, of course, Nancy.

As we were checking our water system just minutes before leaving, my son John discovered a leak in our chlorinator. It was leaking directly onto an electrical plug which is never a good thing. We moved into our home about a year ago. As God would have it, the previous owner had the spare part that I needed to fix the unit. Had he not left it when he moved, I would have been up a creek without a paddle! I could never have gotten that part on short notice, and certainly not within minutes of leaving for the airport. It took me about 10 minutes to fix the problem, and now we can leave knowing that everything is OK.

Funny…God knew a year ago that I would need that obscure part on this very day. I’m taking this as the first sign that we are in for a very special trip! I’ll check in from Israel soon!

Come to the Holy Land with Me!

Pope Francis will be visiting the Holy Land May 24-26. Before the Holy Father gets there, I’ll be making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and sharing my trip with you. Lino Rulli and I will be visiting the sites where Pope Francis will be, along with many other sites throughout the Holy Land. I’ll be sharing my experiences on Seize the Day, and right here on my web site!

I hope you’ll come back for regular updates on our travels as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Pray for me, and know that I will be remembering you in my prayers in the Holy Land. Our journey begins May 19. See you then!