|I will fast forward to my most recent trip in my Progress while it is still
fresh in my mind. In May of 1999 I went on a trip to the Holy Land which was led by Father
Mitch Pacwa. This was a hard, intense trip but well worth it.
The group I traveled with visiting the Pool of Bathesda.
Click on the picture for a larger view to see everybody in detail.
Father Mitch Pacwa
| Father Mitch is a Bible
Scholar and our group was his 33rd trip. Father conducts these tours from his
teaching job a Catholic University during the Christmas vacation and as the
school year ends. Father Mitch taught at Loyola University for a number of years
and now is at The University of Dallas which is also a Catholic University. He
knows his job well and worked very hard to give us all the details.
When we arrived in Jerusalem Father had a Mass. As he began, he made a
statement that no one in Jerusalem receives Communion in the hand. He went on to
say that the Catholics in Israel cannot believe that Americans would take the
Body of Christ in the hand. Everyone accepted that. I couldn't help but wonder
and I am still curious about how many in our group continued this practice after
they got home.
The first place we visited was the Garden of
Gethsemane. Father said
that there are two places to consider about the Agony of Jesus Christ in the
Garden of Gethsemane. The first is a cave that we visited next to the tomb of
the Blessed Virginia Mary. This was the Cave of the Olive Press. This is where
the eight apostles remained while Jesus, Peter, James and John went a
"stone's throw away" to pray. It is also the scene of Jesus' arrest.
I was very anxious to visit The scene of The Agony In The Garden, which is
the first decade of the Sorrowful Mysteries.
This has become my favorite meditation, especially when I read the Diary of
Blessed Faustina that Jesus asked her to meditate on HIS ABANDONMENT. I'm able
to experience a sense of the sorrow He must have felt and it also helps me to
cope with my feelings of abandonment by my family and or my friends.
|The second is located across the street. It is the
an enclosed grove of olives trees and the Church of the Agony. the olive
trees reproduce themselves and one is 2000 years old.
Garden of Gethsemane
Church of the Agony
Stone at Gethsemane
Mass at Gethsemane
| The stone on which Jesus
prayed is inside of the Church that has been built in the Garden. I kissed
that stone. It is in an enclosed area in front of the altar.
This was a Friday May 21 which was the feast of the Pentecost for the Jewish
people. The traffic was light because they may not light a fire and the engine
in a car is considered fire. They have a low birth rate, 1.4 per family. The
Orthodox have more children. Tomorrow, Saturday will be the Sabbath, as you
know. Father Mitch said that he likes the Sabbath because it is peaceful. Friday
is the Muslims Holy Day and so this day was particularly peaceful. This is the
way it was with Catholics on Sunday before the Malls.
Please understand that I'm writing from my notes and the printed information
from Father or his assistant, a tour guide who is a Muslim. I enjoyed watching
the chemistry between them. Great respect for one another.
There is a 200% tax on automobiles In spite of the high tax there are a lot
of cars, especially since the Russian Jews are coming to Israel since 1990.
The men with knit yarmulkes go to the synagogue but then they go home and
have a bar-be-cue. Not so with the Orthodox who live a more simpler life. They
do not cook on the Sabbath.
We learned that there is very little beef in Israel but plenty of pork. They
call it "white beef". A rabbi said that there are no pigs on the land.
This is true because they are raised on platforms in Israel.
We visited the places according to ticket availability and that seemed to
depend on scheduling of other tours.
We went to the wailing wall on a Sunday because during the Sabbath it is very
crowded. I enjoyed that visit.
| The security is tight, however once we passed the
atmosphere is very relaxed as you can see from the picture
of Susie seated between two Israeli soldiers.
Susie with the soldiers
Susie was the pet of the
group. She traveled with her mother and brother who is a sports news anchor from
As we walked through the huge square heading to the wailing wall a young
female Israeli guard came out of her little shelter, came directly toward me. I
stopped because it was apparent that she wanted to communicate with me. She
lifted the St. Benedict crucifix that I was wearing and tucked it into my blouse
in a respectful manner. On leaving I mentioned the incident to Father Pacwa and
he said "oh yes, I meant to ask you to do that and forgot."
Jerusalem was destroyed 17 times. Each time it was rebuilt because it has a
good supply of water.
|The Ascension Chapel on the Mount of Olives is a twelfth century octagonal
Crusader chapel. Mass can be celebrated here only on Ascension Thursday, but
pilgrims can pray here on any day. The picture shows the exact spot from
which Jesus ascended to heaven.
Driving in Jerusalem is very dangerous. We were told that if you can drive in
Israel, you can drive anywhere. Gas is four dollars a gallon. The reason for the
high cost because it is imported from Arabia. But they cannot sell it to Israel
as they do to us. They sell its to Holland and Israel buys it from Holland.
Driving on the road I was fascinated with seeing a herd of goats on the left
side of the shepherd and the sheep on the right. It was like seeing scripture in
action. That on judgment day the good, being the sheep will be separated to the
right, and the bad, being the goats will go to the left.
My picture from the bus
| I managed to snap a picture
from the bus, but only barely.
Father pointed out Palestinians wearing Black and the type of embroidery
according to tribes.
The tomb of Lazarus was an interesting spot. It is still there. The
steps down to the tomb. The stone steps show wear as expected, a person must
exercise extreme caution. Once in the tomb as the picture shows, it is possible
to stand up. I thought to myself, " I can understand why Jesus
called out - Lazarus Come Out!"
The tomb of Lazarus
As we rode to the next point, Father would tell us some interesting things.
As we drove to Jericho he told us that the average walk would be 5 miles a day.
From Jerusalem to Jericho it is about 20 miles which is 4 days. They went on the
route of the water. Jesus was in Jericho when Lazarus died.
Mount of Temptation
|The Mount of Temptation In Jericho. In the picture it is the middle of
the three mountains, with the squared top.
To see that was a moving experience
contemplating the fast of Jesus for forty days and the devil attempting to tempt
Jesus by giving him a glimpse of all the physical wonders of the world.
The Jordan River. In the picture, Joan Martin (my roommate) and I are
standing in the water.
Joan and I are standing in the Jordan
This is believed to be the area where Jesus was baptized
by St. John the Baptist. The river extends from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead
Sea. In the Old Testament, the Jordan is the last physical barrier separating
the Israelites from the Promised Land. Father Mitch warned us repeatedly not to
get any of the river water in our mouths because of the contamination. In fact
he suggested that our Hotel Room will give us water fit to drink from the Jordan
River. Father blessed the water that some of the pilgrims took but asked them to
mark it with a warning "DO NOT DRINK". We were blessed with the water
from the Jordan River.