Frater Michael Brennan, O.Praem.

Wallking on Holy Ground

Frater Michael Brennan, O.Praem.

I am a member of St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin. I am embarking on this journey as part of my theology training for Catholic priesthood.



Middle East » Jordan » North » Amman October 14th 2015

Over the last two days we continued our journey through the wonderful country of Jordan. Yesterday we visited Mt. Nebo, the traditional site from where Moses first gazed upon the Promised Land, and the city of Madaba. Madaba is most famous for the mosaic map of the Holy Land on the Byzantine Church of St. George. Today, we visited the ancient cities of Amman and Jerash; these sites mark the final two stops on this two month journey throughout Turkey, Greece and the Holy Land. I have done my best to capture some of the sights, sounds, feelings and spirituality of this journey of learning and pilgrimage. As I come to the end of this journey, I find myself short on words. Thank you for allowing me to share a bit of this experience with you. ... read more
Madaba Church of St. George
Madaba Mosaic Map
Moses' view of the Promised Land

Middle East » Jordan » South » Petra October 12th 2015

Then the Lord said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound(1 Kings 19:11-12). This is the passage that came to mind while sitting atop one of the highest points of the ancient city of Petra. Exhausted from the intense heat and long climb to this high place, where the ancient inhabitants of Petra came to meet their gods, I was confronted with a refreshing gentle breeze and reminded of Elijah's "light silent sound." Perhaps most ... read more
Petra from across the valley
Valley of the Crescent Moon
"Treasury" of Petra

Middle East » Israel » South District » Be'er Sheva October 10th 2015

Today we visited Tel Be’er Sheva, or Beersheba as it is referred to in the Bible. According to Genesis 21, Beersheba was granted its name in commemoration of a covenant made between Abraham and Abimelech regarding a dispute over a well. Isaac and Jacob (Gen 26; 46) are also associated with the well at this site; it is no wonder here at the northern tip of the Negev Desert that the patriarchs are connected with a reliable source of water. Our ancestors in the faith have created many stories, dietary practices and rituals to remind us of the omnipresence of God in our lives. In solidarity with their efforts to remind us of God’s presence in our lives, I invite us to select one of our daily routines (i.e., brushing teeth, loading the dishwasher, making coffee) ... read more
Ancient & modern transportation captured in the same photo
The Negev
Etching of pharaoh Ramses and goddess Hathor


The Dead Sea is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy! This is the thought that came to mind as I laughed out loud to myself yesterday when first experiencing the phenomenon of floating in the Dead Sea. Truly one of the most relaxing experiences I have ever had. In the Gospels, there is an allusion to the disappointment of some that Jesus is not the revolutionary Messiah that would restore the Davidic kingdom. Within 40 years of life of Jesus, the first Jewish revolt against the Romans led to the burning of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The final battle between the Jewish rebels and the Romans took place at the breathtaking stronghold of Masada, which we visited yesterday. Masada is located atop of an isolated ... read more
Cave 4 at Qumran
Scriptorium at Qumran
King Herod's Palace at Masada

Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem October 7th 2015

I named this blog Walking on Holy Ground before beginning this blessed journey of learning, prayer and spiritual renewal. I thoroughly believe we have been walking on holy ground throughout this pilgrimage. This is illustrated just by looking at the pictures and scripture quotes included in today's post. However, each day I have come to realize more and more this holy ground is not the Heavenly Jerusalem that we will only encounter in the afterlife. The real Jerusalem (just like real life) is messy, complex, occasionally rude and even turbulent, yet incredibly beautiful and holy. Of the many lessons I have learned over the last month and a half, one poignant lesson is that all of us are walking on holy ground each day of our lives. The holy ground that God has blessed us with ... read more
1st Century Tomb; on Comboni Sisters' property in Bethany (Fellow pilgrim...not Lazarus)
Church of Bethphage; 5 minutes up the hill
Hurva Synagogue; Jerusalem

Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem October 4th 2015

Leaving from his home in Bethany, he traveled down the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley and through the city gates of Jerusalem. After visiting the local synagogue, he proceeded to Mount Calvary, where he spent the night praying and reading scripture. After these things, he journeyed through the Old City, ascending the Mount of Olives and returned home safely to Bethany the following morning. Although this sounds like a scripture verse, it is actually a description of my Saturday evening through early Sunday morning. For me, it was a sacred night spent in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. When I first arrived, I joined a few other pilgrims and the Franciscans for a beautiful procession commemorating the Transistus of St. Francis. At 8 pm the doors were sealed shut by a member of ... read more
Centuries Old Christian graffiti
Palestinian Flag
Israeli Flag

Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem September 30th 2015

In Jerusalem, while resting on the steps of the Western Wall plaza, I was suddenly reminded of my favorite Thomas Merton quote… "In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream...There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.... I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their ... read more
Sun Shining over Jerusalem
Shining like the sun
Shining like the sun

Middle East » Israel » West Bank » Jericho September 29th 2015

A Lesson in Time Today we traveled to Jericho; the ancient Natufian people first settled here over 10,000 years ago, before 8,000 BC. When archaeologist Tessa Wheeler excavated Jericho in the 1950's, she discovered evidence of 23 successive settlements upon this ancient tel. Today’s visit (and much of this journey through Turkey, Greece and Israel) has reminded my-American-self, who tends to think of history in years and decades, much of the world measures history in centuries and millennia. This discussion of time enables me to share a summary of the Biblical timeline we have been studying along the way. Numbers are rough estimates. Setting of Genesis Patriarchs (4,000 years ago) Exodus Event (3,500 years ago) Joshua & Israelites appearance in Canaan (3,200 years ago) Saul, David, Solomon & 1st Jerusalem Temple (3,000 years ago) De... read more
Along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho...
Ruins of Oldest Tower in the World
Various Settlement Layers

Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem September 27th 2015

I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” And now our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem. Jerusalem, built as a city, walled round about. There the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, As it was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. There are the thrones of justice, the thrones of the house of David. For the peace of Jerusalem pray: “May those who love you prosper!” May peace be within your ramparts, prosperity within your towers.” For the sake of our kin and friends we say, “Peace be with you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord, our God, I pray for your good (Psalm 122). I begin with the words of the psalmist, who is ... read more
Jerusalem Harpist
View of the Suq from above
Hustle and Bustle of the Suq

Middle East » Israel » Tel Aviv District September 25th 2015

We began the day by singing a few verses of a hymn based on Psalm 34:8. Taste and see, taste and see the goodness of the Lord, Oh, taste and see. This hymn was appropriately chosen because two of our three stops today were associated with breaking bread together. Our first stop was a Jaffa bakery that has been owned and operated by an Arab-Israeli family since the late 19th century. Besides serving good food, they also advocate for peace between peoples of this land. It is part of their mission to employ women and men of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. Great mission; great food! To read more about this wonderful business, click here: url=http://http/www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/a-historic-bakery-in-jaffa-produces-pastry-and-peace-zbcz1408.aspxhttp://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/a-historic-bakery-in-jaffa-produces-pastry-and-peace-zbcz1408.aspx/url... read more
Brother Barker breaking open the Scriptures...
Baptismal Font
Apse of Crusader Era Basilica




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