PILGRIMAGE TO HOLY LAND: MAY 11-23, 2018
We, the 41 Brothers under the leadership of Rev. Bro. Mariannan, the Provincial Superior of Trichy, gathered at MSC, Bangalore, on 11thMay 2018 to go on a pilgrimage to Holy Land. It was arranged by the National Council for the Brothers up to 1997 batches who did not visit Holy Land so far. On 11thand 12thMay, we had input sessions by Fr. Joy Philip Kakkanatt, CMI and Fr. Raymond. These sessions gave us an orientation and some information about Holy Land. During the very inaugural session, Bro. Mariannan emphasized that this was a pilgrimage to discover the historical Jesus and not a tour. With such an attitude, we had to participate in it. We also had some guidelines given by the travel agent.
On 13thMay, we left Bangalore by Oman Airways and reached Amman (Jordan) via Muscat. By the time we reached our hotel, it was time for dinner. So we had bath, dinner and rest.
Each day of our pilgrimage started with 15-20 minutes of prayer animated by different Brothers. We also spent a few moments of personal/collective prayer in every place that we visited. On 14thMay, we visited the place where John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod. In the afternoon, we visited Mount Nebo from where Moses saw the Promised Land and died. We also had a view of the Promised Land from there. We visited St. George’s Orthodox Church, at Madaba, and St. John’s the Baptist Church.
On 15thMay, we went to Israel by road, crossed the north border and arrived at Nazareth and visited the Church of the Annunciation, St. Joseph’s Church and Mary’s well in Nazareth and Cana. We stayed at Nazareth.
On 16thMay, we visited Mount Tabor, River Jordan, re-baptized ourselves and had lunch with Peter’s fish. Then we visited the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Mount of Beatitudes and the Chapel of Peter’s Primacy. We also sailed the Sea of Galilee during which we had 15 minutes of prayer recalling Jesus sailing the Sea of Galilee with his apostles, the tempest and how he calmed the turbulent sea. It was a very emotional moment.
On 17th, at Haifa, we saw the shrine of Stella Maris (star of the sea) and Elijah’s caves where the Carmelite Order began. We proceeded to Bethlehem and visited the shepherds’ field, the Milk Grotto, the Church of Nativity and spent the night there.
On 18thMay, we began our visit with EnKarim, the Visitation Church. Then we came to Bethany, visited the tomb of Lazarus and the Church of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. After the visit, we left for Jericho and Mount of Temptation. After lunch we visited the Kumran Caves, then we went to the Dead Sea for a bath. Then we returned to the Hotel for Night stay in Bethlehem.
On 19thMay, in the Old City, we saw St. Ann’s Church, Bethsaida Pool, Via Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross), Golgotha, the Church of Holy Sepulcher and the empty tomb of Jesus. We saw, on Mount Zion, David’s tomb and the Upper Room. After lunch, we visited the Mount of Olives. We saw the Church of Ascension, the Pater Noster Church and the Garden of Gethsemane and ended the day with some shopping.
On 20thMay, we visited the Western Wall (Wailing Wall). It has been the center of Jewish learning and memory of Jerusalem Temple for more than 2000 years. This is the only fragment of the Great Temple to survive the Roman destruction. The Divine Presence has never departed from the Western Wall, the Jews believe. The prophet Isaiah called the Temple a “house for all nations”. It is a universal centre of spirituality, it stirs the thoughts and emotions of Jews and non-Jews, and energizes the inner connection between the individual and God. It is the most sacred structure of the Jewish people. It is believed that if you pray fervently for any intentions there, it will be granted. Then we travelled to Egypt by road through the desert, in the evening we reached the hotel, in Sinai. After dinner, some of us climbed Mount Sinai. It was an original experience.
On 21stMay, we travelled to the Monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mount Sinai. Then we proceeded to Cairo crossing the Suez Canal that is 192 km long, the longest man-made canal. The tunnel road is built under the Red Sea. The Suez Canal connects Asian and African continents. En route, we also visited Marah (Bitter Water) where Moses got potable water for the Israelites in the desert. In the evening we reached Cairo and spent two nights there.
On 22ndMay, we visited the Pyramids of Egypt, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Pyramids are tombs of kings, queens or their daughters. They are about 4500 years old. We also visited the Holy Family Church, the hanging Church, a Jewish Synagogue, perfume and papyrus factories. We had cruise and dinner on Nile River.
On the last day, 23rdMay, we checked out of the hotel by 10.30 am. Then we saw the Museum in Cairo where we could see hundreds of old mummies. Then we had lunch and some time for shopping. After dinner, we proceeded to the airport in Cairo to fly back to Bangalore via Muscat. All of us reached back Bangalore safely on 24thMay afternoon. The present Catholic Churches (fifteen of the famous Churches in Israel) were rebuilt by the Franciscan Capuchins. They were designed by Mr. Antonio Barulucci, an Italian architect.
We are thankful to Rev. Bro. Clement Kandulna, the Chairman of the National Council, and all the Members of the National Council for having given us the opportunity to have a pilgrimage to Holy Land. Special thanks to Rev. Bro. Mariannan, the Provincial Superior of Trichy, and to Bro. Shine Alex for the meticulous planning and execution of this pilgrimage. We are also grateful to Bro. Mathew Panathanath, Bro. Dhanaraj and Bro. P. T. George for our food and accommodation in Bangalore prior to and after the pilgrimage. We are also thankful to each one of the Pilgrims for the cooperation, fraternal feeling, faith sharing and companionship that we enjoyed during the days of pilgrimage. May the spirit of the pilgrimage last in us in the days to come!
Bro. T.T. Mathew, SG
(On behalf of the group)