March 24, 2010 // Uncategorized

Pilgrimage was spiritually renewing and refreshing

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades receives the symbolic shell representing a pilgrimage and a decree from the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal. The Patriarch met with the group for 45 minutes and spoke about the difficult situation of the Church there, the emigration of many of the Christians from the Holy Land, and the daily hardships of the Arab Christian and Muslim population. Bishop Rhoades accompanied a pilgrimage group to the Holy Land consisting of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre and the Knights of Malta.

Holy Land pilgrimage
I returned on March 16 from my pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre and the Knights of Malta. It was a spiritually renewing and refreshing experience to visit and pray at the many holy biblical sites, especially those associated with the life, death and resurrection of our Lord. At each place, I remembered in prayer the faithful of our diocese.

The pilgrimage began in Galilee, the region where Jesus lived a “hidden life” in Nazareth and where much of His public ministry took place. We stayed three nights in a pilgrim center on the top of the Mount of the Beatitudes. It was really wonderful to rise early in the morning and walk around that hill where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. I celebrated Sunday Mass for the people of our diocese on that mount.

While in Galilee, we visited Nazareth where I offered Mass at the Grotto of the Annunciation, where Mary pronounced her “yes” to the message of the angel and “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We will be celebrating the feast of the Annunciation this Thursday, March 25. We visited Mount Tabor (the site of the Transfiguration), the ruins of the town of Capernaum (where Jesus often preached in the synagogue), Caesarea Philippi (where Jesus gave Simon the name “Peter” or “Rock,” the rock on which He would build His Church), and Cana (the site of the wedding feast and Jesus’ first miracle). The couples on the pilgrimage renewed their marriage vows at the church in Cana.

My favorite site in Galilee was the Sea of Galilee. We went out on a boat on that lake where Jesus called the Apostles to be “fishers of men” and where He calmed the storm and walked on water. We read many passages of the Scriptures associated with the Sea of Galilee while we enjoyed the boat ride. In fact, at all of the holy sites, we read the Scriptures, sang hymns and prayed. Before leaving Galilee, we had Mass at the church of St. Peter’s primacy along the Sea of Galilee, at the spot associated with Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearance to Peter where he asked him three times “Do you love me?” and then charged him to feed and tend His sheep.

We left Galilee after three days and entered the kingdom of Jordan. We had a wonderful Arab Catholic guide during our three days in Jordan. Besides visiting the famous archeological sites of Jerash and Petra, we visited the site of our Lord’s Baptism (in Bethany beyond the Jordan) and Mount Nebo, where Moses looked out over the promised land and where he died. We celebrated Mass on Mount Nebo. We also celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of Amman, the capital city of Jordan. It was edifying to witness the strong faith of the small Christian community in that Arab nation and to learn about the history of Christianity there. We also visited Madaba, where the first Catholic university in Jordan is presently being constructed.

When we returned to Israel, we entered the West Bank, under the Palestinian Authority. In that territory, we visited the towns of Jericho and Bethany. We had Mass in Bethany where Martha, Mary and Lazarus lived, and where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

We stayed the next five nights in the holy city of Jerusalem, at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the old city of Jerusalem, visiting chapels and churches. We got up very early on Friday morning and walked the Via Dolorosa, praying the Stations of the Cross. The highlight of the trip was, of course, celebrating Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Mount Calvary and of the tomb of Jesus. Entering and praying in the tomb chapel where our Lord was buried and rose from the dead is an unforgettable experience!
In Jerusalem, one of the most intense experiences was visiting the cell in the basement of Caiphas’ house, below the present day church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (thus named in memory of Peter’s denial in the courtyard there). It is likely that Jesus was kept imprisoned there on Holy Thursday night, after his arrest in Gethsemane. It is hard to describe the feelings one experiences in that dark place where our Lord suffered just hours before His crucifixion. We, like many other pilgrims, prayed Psalm 88 in that dungeon.

From Jerusalem, we also visited Bethlehem. I think the most memorable Mass for me from the whole pilgrimage was the one celebrated at St. Catherine’s Church, the Catholic church located right next to the Orthodox Church of the Nativity. I think it was most memorable for me because we had a lot of time there to pray and reflect. We were also able to join the Franciscan friars in their midday procession and prayers in the Grotto of the Nativity, where our Savior was born. While in Bethlehem, we visited Holy Family Hospital, a maternity hospital supported by the Knights of Malta. It is a state-of-the-art hospital where thousands of Palestinian mothers and their children are cared for.

Going to Bethlehem from Jerusalem was a sad experience as we saw up close the infamous wall that has been built separating Israel from the Palestinian territories. The check point delays every time we entered or left Palestinian territory was a reminder of the lack of peace and harmony in the Holy Land. We were also in Jerusalem the day that Vice-President Biden was there and the Israeli government announced the building of new settlements in East Jerusalem. The tensions in the holy city were high and thousands of police and army personnel with machine guns were stationed all over the old city. It was clear that violence was expected. When we prayed at the Western Wall, the holiest site of Judaism, the tensions in the air were palpable.

We were blessed to have an audience with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal. The Patriarch met with our group for 45 minutes and spoke to us about the difficult situation of the Church there, the emigration of many of the Christians from the Holy Land, and the daily hardships of the Arab Christian and Muslim population. What is needed, he said, is trust between the Israelis and Palestinians, a trust that is not yet present. He asked for our prayers and material help and also for our advocacy for justice with our elected government representatives, especially on behalf of the Palestinian people.

While in Jerusalem, we also visited the Yad Vashem Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust, as well as the Israeli Museum with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Speaking of which, we visited the Dead Sea, where I enjoyed swimming (really floating because of the water’s density of salt and minerals). As you may have guessed, the weather was quite hot during our days in the Holy Land, especially in the arid areas in southern Israel and Jordan.

On the last night before returning home, we gathered for a Holy Hour of Eucharistic adoration in the Church of the Agony, at the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. It was a fitting climax to our grace-filled pilgrimage.
As we approach Holy Week, let us remember our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the city of Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection. And let us be generous in our material support of the struggling Christian community there through the annual Good Friday collection for the Holy Land.

Upon returning home, I went to the University of Notre Dame for a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day luncheon. The administration, deans, department chairs and other leaders of the university gathered to welcome me as the new bishop. I am really beginning to feel part of the Notre Dame community! During the luncheon, the Glee Club sang some Irish songs and other music, creating quite a festive atmosphere.

While I was in the Holy Land, Bishop D’Arcy celebrated several closing liturgies of parish missions. I am truly grateful for Bishop D’Arcy’s help and I am sure that the parishioners of those parishes were very happy to have Bishop D’Arcy with them to conclude their missions. I celebrated the closing Mass of the mission at Sacred Heart Parish in Warsaw on my return. I reflected in my homily on the Eucharist as the sacrament of charity and shared with the congregation a bit about my visit to the Holy Land, particularly the visit to the Upper Room in Jerusalem, the site of the Last Supper. I thank Msgr. James Wolf, the devoted pastor of Sacred Heart, and all who participated in that beautiful Lenten liturgy.
I celebrated Holy Mass and made my first pastoral visit to Saint Joseph’s High School in South Bend on Friday. What a great place to celebrate the feast of St. Joseph! As in our other Catholic high schools, I was edified by the joy and reverence of the students and by their evident school spirit. While visiting some of the classrooms and having lunch with the student council leaders, I saw firsthand the good fruits of our Catholic schools: students who were intelligent, articulate, friendly and filled with faith. Visiting Saint Joe’s on St. Joseph Day was a special blessing. I wish to thank the principal, Mrs. Susan Richter, and all the faculty and staff for their devoted service.

On Saturday, it was my pleasure to deliver the keynote address at our Diocesan Marriage and Family Conference. I thank Fred and Lisa Everett, the directors of our Family Life Office, for planning this important conference. I am also grateful to all the presenters and participants. You can read more about the conference in this issue of Today’s Catholic. That evening, I was back to Marian High School for the celebration of Mass and to attend the annual fundraising dinner and auction. That too was an enjoyable event. Many thanks to all who so generously supported Marian by their donations at that event!

Finally, it was back to Notre Dame on Sunday! I was there to bless the new Ryan Hall Chapel and to dedicate its altar during the celebration of Sunday Mass. This new chapel has a noble beauty. It is called St. Anne’s Chapel, named for the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The young women of Ryan Hall participated wholeheartedly in the beautiful liturgy. They told me how much they enjoy attending Mass in their new chapel and also making visits to the Blessed Sacrament there at any time of the day or night.

We will soon be celebrating Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. I encourage all to observe Holy Week, especially the liturgies of the Easter Triduum. Perhaps some who are reading this column have never attended the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday or the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday or the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. I invite you to attend these liturgies in your parish churches or to join me at our cathedral liturgies. And let us all pray for those who will become Catholic and receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. May God bless all of you with a grace-filled Holy Week!

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