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The Holy Land is a remarkable place. As it is named holy by three prominent religions of our world, it is no wonder that it is a place unforgettable and of course unrepeatable. It is also, sadly, known as a place of deep turmoil and conflict. As we were on our pilgrimage, the Jewish feast of Yom Kippur was to be celebrated on Wednesday, October 9. This itself caused a bit of a difficulty for our pilgrimage. As most Christian pilgrim groups left the holy city to tour in the northern region of Galilee (Nazareth, Capernaum, Cana, etc.), we were one of the few groups that remained and, although we were unable to go to Jerusalem that Tuesday afternoon or all day Wednesday, we were able to visit the church in Bethlehem, since it is in the Palestinian territory of Israel (where we were staying). Although there will never be an easy solution, we can pray for kindness, charity, and continued and growing peace in this and many other regions of strife in our world.

During the trip I had a strong awareness of the Blessed Mother. Our first Mass was at Cana where Mary intercedes for her friends (we then went immediately to Nazareth where Gabriel came to Mary), and our last Mass was at the church of Nativity in Bethlehem. She was with us every step in between. She teaches us true Christian discipleship, and for this reason she is called blessed - for she heard the word of God and observed it.

It is not easy to explain the gift of pilgrimage. Certainly pilgrimage is difficult: it is expensive, it requires sacrifice of time, comfort, familiarity, control, and many more challenges. However, it is all absolutely worth it! The graces that the Lord wishes to shower on us are super abundant each day of our lives, and pilgrimage (as well as retreat) offers a special opportunity for us to open our hearts to God’s work in us.

Next weekend will be our Parish retreat. Please pray for all the participants, that they have a deeper encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ. May each of them come to know him more as an intimate friend, a divine spouse, a merciful Lord who heals our wounds, and the one desire of their hearts. Mother Mary, intercede for us.

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