Blogs from Jerusalem, Jerusalem District, Israel, Middle East


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 » 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 » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem September 24th 2015

Since I last wrote, we have returned from the Galilee. On Monday's return journey, we renewed our baptismal promises at the River Jordan and later visited the Crusader Fortress at Belvoir, the ancient city of Bet She’an and the ruins of Bet Alpha Synagogue. On Tuesday evening a few of us attended a beautiful Yom Kippur service at Hebrew Union College. For the Jewish people, this is the most solemn feast of the liturgical year; I was moved by the presence of G-d among those gathered. Yesterday was a classroom day and in the afternoon I had the opportunity to Skype with some of the sophomores at Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay. When I finished these Skype sessions with Mrs. Stanczak’s theology classes, I experienced a natural high. It reminded me how much I truly ... read more
III Station: Jesus Falls the 1st Time
IV Station: Jesus Meets his Mother
VIII Station:  Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem September 13th 2015

The bright sun bursting through the clouds; the heat of the day just beginning; walking through the hustle and bustle of the marketplace (al suq); carts passing to and fro; people coming and going; toddlers crying; children laughing, calling out, riding bikes; the aroma of freshly ground coffee and the pungent smell of a variety of spices; mountains of candy and trinkets, purses, shoes, souvenirs; vendors shouting, welcoming, “going out of business, everything $1.” We come to the plaza in front of the Holy Sepulchre and the activity lessens, but continues…posing for pictures, gathering in groups, taking videos, saying prayers, suddenly the church bells ring out and fill the air with a melodious tune; the conversations continue in Chinese, Spanish, Czech, Italian, and at least dozen other languages. We move inside the Holy Se ... read more

Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem September 12th 2015

After a brief prayer at the Western Wall, I had the opportunity to spend time in quiet prayer and reflection at the Church of St. Peter Gallicantu. (Gallicantu is Latin for cock-crow.) Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. One of the maids came over to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it in front of everyone, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about!” As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazorean.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man!” A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you ... read more
Can you hear the cock crowing from atop the church?
Mount of Olives
Mosaic of the Last Supper

Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem September 11th 2015

tears in my eyes...a lump in my throat...a pit in my stomach...anger...sadness...dismay...a few words to describe my physical and emotional state as I walked through the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum earlier today. My heart aches for families torn apart, lives ended prematurely, the unnecessary pain, suffering and murder that occurred throughout Europe all too recently. Perhaps, what pains me the most is that as a human society we are capable of perpetrating and standing by and allowing such evil to occur then and now. Just turn on the news or go online and you will be bombarded with reports of the current refugee crisis, 9/11 remembrances, ISIS attacks, murders throughout our city streets, the state of race relations in the US, just to name a few. We are capable of love, ... read more

Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem September 9th 2015

As we continue to search for God among these holy places, I was reminded by a group of pilgrims who were beautifully singing the hymn ubi caritas in the Church of St. Anne that God is all around us. The first line of this hymn is translated, where charity and love are, God is there. In other words, we can bring God’s presence into the world anytime we allow his love and charity to work in, with and through us. This pilgrimage is a wonderful and grace-filled opportunity and we have definitely experienced the presence of God along the way. But, the reality is that we do not need to travel anywhere to find God. God will find us wherever we may be; we simply need to open our hearts and minds to this encounter. Ubi ... read more
St. Anne & Child Mary
Traditional birthplace
Fellow seminarians

Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District » Jerusalem September 8th 2015

Our tour guide, Jared, shared the following story with us yesterday...According to a Jewish rabbinical tradition, the city of Jerusalem is named because of two Genesis stories associated with the city. The binding of Isaac takes place on Mount Moriah, which Abraham renames Yahweh-yireh, meaning God will provide (Gen 22:14). The Jerusalem Temple Mount is believed to stand atop Mt. Moriah. The second story is in reference to King Melchizedek of Salem--also believed to be the current city of Jerusalem. "Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of the Most High. He blessed Abram with these words..." (Gen 14:18-19a); bread and wine sounds a bit familiar doesn't it? In order to honor these two stories, God named the city Yireh-salem, Jerusalem in English. Jared also offered some insight into the ... read more
Sloped wall leading up to likely site of David's palace.
Bar mitzvahs at the Western Wall
Prayer at the Western Wall

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