We don’t often hand-deliver copies of the Catholic Review, but for some people, that seems to be the best option.
I had the privilege of accompanying Archbishop William E. Lori and a group of interfaith leaders from Baltimore to Rome for a two-day pilgrimage to pray for peace and healing in the city.
As part of that pilgrimage, the archbishop arranged to introduce the members of the group to Pope Francis at the end of the pope’s general audience March 2 in St. Peter’s Square. We had ideal seats for the audience, in the front two rows, between famed tenor Placido Domingo and his wife, and two other small groups.
I know from past experience that such introductions – called “baciamano,” the Italian word for “kiss” – are brief. I had the occasion to meet St. John Paul twice, in Rome in 1984 and when he visited Phoenix in 1987.
For the opportunity to meet Pope Francis last week, some of the members of our group brought gifts for the Holy Father.
The Rev. Wolfgang Herz-Lane, bishop of the Delaware Maryland Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, gave a stained-glass “Luther rose” to the pope. “The Luther rose is kind of a symbol of Lutheranism, it’s the emblem of Martin Luther and we have a writing by Luther from 1530 in which he explains what the Luther rose stands for and the symbolism of it,” Rev. Herz-Lane said after the papal audience. “It has a black cross in the middle of it, and the outline of a rose. Luther has explanations for the colors and for the shapes, all really focused on Jesus and how Jesus is the center of our lives.”
Rabbi Steven M. Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom brought Baltimore-themed food: Old Bay seasoning, Utz crab-flavored chips, Berger Cookies and chocolate chip cookies baked by his own mother. The mom-baked cookies were very good – the rabbi shared a few with us before we headed to the papal audience, but still had enough to give the pope.
The Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, pastor of Union Baptist Church, handed the pope CDs of his church’s youth choir and senior choir.
William J. McCarthy Jr., executive director of Catholic Charities of Baltimore, presented to Pope Francis an apron commemorating the 35th anniversary of Our Daily Bread, a ministry whose meal program has provided hope to the poor for 12,700 consecutive days, with more than 7.2 million meals served. McCarthy said that when he met the pope, “talking about our work in West Baltimore, talking about the work of Catholic Charities, particularly Our Daily Bread and our 35 years, I could see a smile on his face, a firmer handshake and ‘continue,’ the word ‘continue.’”
For my part, I wanted the pope to know about our new magazine and ask him to pray for the important work we are doing in the Catholic press here in Maryland. Fortunately, our March issue featured a cover photo of Pope Francis praying before St. Juan Diego’s tilma at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. I presented the magazine to him, and he looked at it and said, “Oh, ‘The Shrine of God,’” referring to the headline that quoted from his homily at the Marian shrine, in which he said, “The shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day.”
I was awestruck to meet the pope and to be able to ask for his prayers. Up close, you can sense his humility. He focuses on you and – even for just a minute – he engages with you. Popes are not God – but they do represent our Lord as the Vicar of Christ on Earth. It’s a blessing to be in his presence.
The moment is over in an instant, but it stays with you forever.
Read coverage of the pilgrimage Day 1 here, and Day 2 here.
Listen to a radio report on the pilgrimage. Click on the March 13 edition of "Catholic Baltimore."
March 11, 2016 03:15
By Christopher Gunty
ROME – Archbishop William E. Lori capped off an eventful day after
receiving the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI with celebrations large and more
The Baltimore archbishop, along with other archbishops from
the Unites States – Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Archbishop
Samuel J. Aquila of Denver – were joined by hundreds of well-wishers at the
Pontifical North American College for a reception.
Each archbishop greeted relatives, friends and members of
their old and new dioceses under a canopy in the NAC’s courtyard. Despite Rome’s
90-degree heat, a nice breeze and the shade of the courtyard actually felt fairly
In the evening, Archbishop Lori and about 50 guests enjoyed
a celebration dinner at a large restaurant outside the city of Rome.
Due to the fact that June 29, the fest of Sts. Peter and Paul
is a city holiday in honor of the city’s patron saints, the streets and the restaurant
were nearly empty, making for an unusual experience in Rome – an easy transport
and a non-crowded banquet hall.
Archbishop Lori said the evening would be short on speeches,
and just an expression of his gratitude for those who celebrated his big day,
including cousins, and pilgrims from the Diocese of Bridgeport and the Archdiocese
He quickly doffed his suit coat, and made his way around the
room, thanking all the guests for coming to Rome for the pallium ceremony. Consensus
was that the Mass was extraordinary.
In the Roman tradition, dinner was a six-course affair,
featuring a roast pig that was paraded around the dining room, sparklers and
After dinner, the archbishop indeed kept his remarks very
brief, noting that he was “honored by your prayers with me and for me,” before
thanking those who had organized and coordinated the pilgrimage details.
“And what about that pig!” he added, to much laughter.
The celebrations continue with Mass June 30 at the Altar of
the Tomb of St. Peter, near where the palliums were stored the evening before
the pallium ceremony. After that, the new archbishops and their pilgrim groups
will join Pope Benedict in the Paul VI Hall for a special audience.
For the pilgrimage group, a tour of the other major basilicas
in Rome – St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major –
will complete the touring July 1, ending with Mass at St. Mary Major.
And then, for most, they say goodbye to Rome and head home
to the States in tiem for the Fourth of July.
June 29, 2012 06:24
By Christopher Gunty
ROME – Pilgrims joining Archbishop William E. Lori in the Eternal City to witness the ceremony in which he will receive the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI had a busy first couple of days. The group includes some folks from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, as well as some of the archbishop’s former flock in Bridgeport, Conn.
Several priests from the archdiocese and other lay leaders joined the group for some Masses and a couple of other events.
The archbishop began the pilgrimage by welcoming the pilgrims at the Pontifical North American College, the seminary in Rome for students from the U.S. (and Australia).
The next day was packed with a tour and Mass at the Basilica of San Clemente, a tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, and then a reception at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.
The archbishop used the Mass at the NAC to pray especially for vocations to the priesthood. Praying “in the shadow of the dome which rises above the tomb of St. Peter,” Archbishop Lori said that Peter, the first pope, responded to Jesus’ call to “feed my sheep,” and he noted that Christ has extended that call “down through the centuries, so that the Gospel can be preached to us, and the sacraments of salvation can be celebrated for us.
“After all,” he continued, “without priests, there’s no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist, there’s no hope.”
Before the Mass at San Clemente, Dominican Father Terrence Crotty, rector of the basilica, provided a tour of the basilica, which is unique in that it is a functioning church for the faithful of today of today within a 12th-century church, built upon a 4th-century Christian church, which itself was built upon the remains of a 1st-century Roman building. With the 90-degree heat sweltering Rome, the pilgrims appreciated the cool respite on the tour of the foundations of the church and Roman building below ground.
During his homily, Archbishop Lori made reference to the special connection San Clemente has to the Archdiocese of Baltimore and his own ministry, as it was the titular church of his predecessor in Baltimore and Bridgeport, Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan. He also made reference in his homily to the spectacular 12th-century frescoe above the altar of the Cross as the Tree of Life, gesturing frequently to the artwork that shows Jesus standing with his arms outstretched in the manner of a priest celebrating Mass.
Archbishop William E. Lori delivers his homily from the pulpit of the Basilica of San Clemente, the titular church of the late Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan. (Christopher Gunty | CR Staff)
In the afternoon, pilgrims got a whirlwind tour of the Vatican Museums with one of the finest museum guides available, art historian Dr. Elizabeth Lev. Pointing out that the Vatican museums are considered in the class with the Louvre and other great museums in the world based on the strength of their collections and the number of visitors, she said the reason for the Vatican’s collection is what sets it apart – its proximity to the dome of St. Peter’s, above the tomb of the saint.
Referring to Peter’s death at the hands of the Romans, she said they dumped him in a hole and filled it with dirt, and covered it with bricks to make sure another Christian’s body didn’t walk away.
“They thought they were throwing away the trash; instead they planted a seed,” Lev said.
In a tour that brought to life the scultures, tapestries and paintings of the museum, the Sistine Chapel – not the Sixteenth Chapel, Justin Bieber – and St. Peter’s Basilica itself, Lev reminded the pilgrims continuously that the art within constantly expressed a deeper message about humanity’s relationship to God.
Completing the tour in St. Peter’s Square, she pointed out the sculptures of saints lining the top of Bernini’s colonnade, whose “arms” reach out to embrace the piazza and all who visit. All kinds of holy men and women are represented there, she noted, each one providing us “someone you can look up to, someone you can emulate, some you can relate to.”
Taking away a message like this is essential to such a visit; it’s what a pilgrimage is about, Lev insisted. “It revitalizes you – sends you back into the world.”
As evening drew on, the pilgrims had a chance to join all four of the U.S. archbishops receiving the pallium at Vila Richardson, the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, currently Miguel H. Diaz.
Archbishop William E. Lori chats with Miguel H. Diaz, the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and his wife, Marian, who hosted pilgrims at their residence, Vila Richardson. (Christopher Gunty | CR Staff)
The other archbishops are Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, and Archbishop William C. Skurla of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh (Ruthenian).
Ambassador Diaz and his wife, Marian, hosted the outdoor reception for the archbishops and their guests. Chatting informally with the guests later on, the Diazes discussed the role of the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, not as one who makes trade deals or other typical roles of an ambassador, but as one who seeks a convergence between the Holy See and U.S. foreign policy. Issues such as human trafficking, global health, peace-building and support of religious minorities carry over from administration to administration, Diaz said.
Having been a theology professor and dean at a Catholic seminary in Florida before entering the diplomatic corps, he told Archbishop Lori that it’s unusual for a diplomat to have the background in philosophy and theology that he brings to his post.
He told the archbishop that academic life still beckons, but that he considers his diplomatic service “a break (from academia) out of service to his country.”
Speaking of the theology and philosophy he encounters at the Vatican, he later told guests, “I was teaching this stuff, and now I’m part of it.”
Archbishop William E. Lori chats with U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, who serves as prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith in Rome. (Christopher Gunty | CR Staff)
June 28, 2012 08:20
By Christopher Gunty
By Christopher Gunty
BETHLEHEM, West Bank – The newest building at Bethlehem University, completed in the year 2000 and appropriately called the Millennium Building, was struck by shells fired by the Israelis. Other parts of the campus were hit as well.
The damage has since been repaired, and other than the hole in the library building/heritage center that has now become a porthole window, and machine-gun scars that pock-mark the walls of some buildings, most of the campus seems secure.
“I don’t know what the message was supposed to be,” de La Salle Christian Brother Joe Loewenstein said of the guided-missile attack on the school, the first university in the Palestinian Territories, but he knows it was not a mistake.
“They said they saw somebody with a gun or something,” he said wryly. As the president emeritus of Bethlehem U, he sounds as though he has trouble believing the claim.
The university aims to be unabashedly Catholic-Christian, and yet be a place where the region’s Muslim majority are comfortable attending. In fact, with Christians comprising less than 1 percent of the population in the Palestinian territories, it might come as a surprise that 30 percent of the 3,000 students are Christian and 70 percent are Muslim.
To encourage understanding of each other’s cultures, all students are required to take a religious studies course that teaches students about both Christian and Muslim cultures.
While on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land Oct. 12-21, Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary of Baltimore, and 23 priests from the archdiocese and nearby dioceses visited Bethlehem for a day. After celebrating an early Mass Oct. 14 at the site of Christ’s birth and visiting the Grotto of the Nativity, the group visited Bethlehem University for a briefing and a visit with students.
The university was established in 1973 as one of three initiatives – along with the Tantur ecumenical institute and the Ephphatha school for the deaf – at the urging of Pope Paul VI after his visit to the Holy Land in 1967.
Ala Sharif, a fourth-year student who is a Muslim, said she has no problems relating to her classmates; if possible, she hopes to start her own business after completing a master’s degree.
The priests talked with students about prospects for peace, not only among Christians and Muslims within Palestine, but with Israelis on the other side of the 700-mile-long wall that separates the West Bank and Palestinian territories from Israeli-occupied settlements.
Bishara Nassar, a recent graduate and one of the school’s ambassadors, said peace must begin from the ground up. “Peace will never come from the governments; it will not come through the peace process,” he told the group.
Another fourth-year student, Tareq Shahwam, agreed, though he believes it will not be even his generation, but the next, that can achieve peace.
“We need to break down the physical barriers and then break down the psychological barriers,” he said, adding that most of those in his Palestinian generation “would recognize Israel if they would recognize us.”
However, with the requirement for service in the Israeli military for people his age, Shahwam fears that they are already indoctrinated.
“The next generation,” he said, “if you can put other ideas in their head that Palestinians are people too,” then there may be a chance for peace.
De LaSalle Christian Brother Jack Curran, vice president for development for Bethlehem University, told the priests that 2,000 years ago, “people came to Bethlehem because a star led them.” Gesturing toward the eight students who had shared their experiences with the group, he said, “Brother Joe (Loewenstein) and I and people like us stay in Bethlehem because stars lead us.”
– Bethlehem, Oct 19, 2010
November 09, 2010 11:44
By Christopher Gunty
The Western Wall had a great impact on several priests on our pilgrimage, as you’ll see in this reflection from Father Steve Hook.
Bishop Denis J. Madden prepares to celerate the fractioning rite during the Liturgy of the Eucharist in a Mass for a pilgrimage of priests from Maryland inside the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem Oct. 15. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)
This entire pilgrimage was awe-inspiring, yet overwhelming. It is going to take me years to fully appreciate what I have experienced by my journey to the Holy Land and being able to walk where Jesus walked and pray where Jesus taught.
One of the highlights that comes to mind for me was actually the day we celebrated Mass at the Holy Sepulcher, then walked the Via Dolorosa through the streets of the Old City, which ended at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount with the view of the Dome of the Rock. It seemed to be the one place on earth where Christianity, Judaism and Islam converged, and at least while we were there, were living side by side.
As we approached the Western Wall, I was thinking to myself what it was that I wanted to pray for that day. The custom is to either write a prayer and place it in the wall or just touch the wall and voice your prayer in silence.
The Dome of the Rock overlooks Temple Mount and the Western Wall Plaza, one of the most sacred sites in the world for Judaism. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)
I was thinking of so many things and people that I should include in my prayers but I couldn't settle on any one person or request. So as I approached the wall, my mind was scattered in all directions. But as soon as my hands touched the wall, a prayer intention miraculously became clear: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem. It is a prayer that is mentioned throughout the Scriptures, which also say that Jesus wept over Jerusalem, which would be destroyed.
As I reflected upon this prayer throughout the rest of the trip, and even still today, I believe that is the, and ought to be, the ongoing and daily prayer of all peoples of faith. It is a prayer not only for the Jerusalem here on earth, but also a prayer of hope for all of us, as we await the coming of the new Jerusalem in the kingdom of God.
Father Stephen Hook
Pastor, St. Augustine Parish, Williamsport, MD
Oct. 30, 2010
See a related entry here.
Pilgrims approach the Western Wall, one of the most sacred sites int he world for Judaism. People of all faiths come from around the world to bring their prayers to this holy place. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)
October 30, 2010 09:06
By Christopher Gunty
The priests in the group continue to share some of their reflections on the pilgrimage. Here’s a different perspective from Father Ty Hullinger.
A memorial monument outside the Yad Vadhem Holocaust History Museum in Israel. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)
“For me, one special pilgrimage encounter was our visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust (Shoah) History Museum in Jerusalem. I had heard many people talk of its importance and the impact it can have on the one who visits it: from our own Cardinal William H. Keeler to the many rabbis and cantors I have known. I must say that the experience touched me deeply, and has left an indelible impression in my mind and heart (and, dare I say, soul?). I have visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., numerous times, and it is a powerful place of memory, but Yad Vashem had further layers and depths of meaning for me. One of the first exhibits was on the Church’s influence in inflaming the powers of hate, anti-Semitism, and anti-Judaism by a preaching of contempt for the Jewish People, especially during the Middle Ages. Yad Vashem did not shy away from presenting the disturbing images coming from within the Church of depictions in art, architecture, etc. of the Jewish people as rejected or accursed. And this was easy fuel for Nazis to ignite into flames of contempt, hatred and destruction. I appreciated the fact that Yad Vashem did not chose to ignore this tragic history, but presented it upfront, as one of the first exhibit panels, forcing us to move beyond our complacencies.
And as we journeyed to the Hall of Names, where Yad Vashem has collected more than 3.5 million (of the estimated 6 million) names of Jewish men, women and children who perished in the crimes of the Shoah, I was confronted with the knowledge that of the names already collected at Yad Vashem, there were Hullingers and Hollingers, mostly from Southern Ukraine and Romania, who perished in the death camps. Are these distant relatives? Why does my family have no knowledge of them? The general assumption among the elders of my family is that we are descendants of German and Swiss Protestants. But is there more to my own family tree? Is there another history of my family that has been forgotten (deliberately or not)? The Hall of Names is a circular room, painted black, that is in reality a library of names and memories. About half of the shelves are already filled with huge black books containing the names and information of 3.5 million Jewish victims who are known. The other half is empty. It reminds you that there are still so many lives hidden among the horrors of what happened, waiting to be discovered by relatives and friends. Many may never be remembered because there were no immediate survivors among family and friends. That is a haunting thought. As if the designer knew these emotions would surface, the Hall’s ceiling is a cylinder of portraits of victims, faces that swirl upward to the light. But the middle of the floor is the reverse image of the ceiling. It is a dark abyss, literally a pit that extends down into darkness below. How much has been lost by the cruelty of human persons? This “empty tomb” immediately reminded me of the empty tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. So much remains unknown, and unknowable to us.
Father Ty Hullinger prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, one of the most sacred sites in Judaism, and also welcomes those of other faiths. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)
This pilgrimage leaves me with new questions to consider. Maybe that is why we make pilgrimages to holy places. Our presumptions and assumptions about our faith will be challenged on a pilgrimage. Dreams and ideas confront reality, geography, and even family history. Pilgrimages pose difficult issues and questions that the pilgrim must wrestle with. So like Jacob who wrestled with God (or his angel) in the night, I too now am confronting the difficult but necessary and life-fulfilling questions God is posing to me.
Father Ty Hullinger
Pastor, St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Most Precious Blood Parish, St. Dominic Parish; Baltimore
Oct. 27, 2010
October 28, 2010 09:19
By Christopher Gunty
I asked the priests in the group to share their some of their reflections on the pilgrimage. Here’s one from Third Order Regular of St. Francis Father Peter Lyons.
Priests from the Baltimore area stop for prayer along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering or Way of Grief) during Stations of the Cross in the streets of Jerusalems Old City. Vendors\
In the narrow, crowded streets of the Old City of Jerusalem the sacred and the secular come face to face. For me it brought home once again the reality of the Incarnation, that Jesus really took on our humanity and pitched his tent right here in the messiness of this world of ours and this life of mine. Saints and sinners rub shoulders in these streets. Some are carrying a cross or praying the rosary or singing hymns. Others are selling fruits and vegetables, tacky souvenirs, T-shirts with crude sayings – while cripples and beggars sit by the side of the road and, more than likely, a few thieves and prostitutes ply their trades as well. And slowly the truth sinks in, that God is the God of all of them. All are his children. He loves each of them – each of us – maybe the prostitutes and beggars more than those we might label as righteous. And the Christ who came among us has commissioned us to continue to deliver this message. This is the mystery of faith which we are so privileged to celebrate, and which came alive once more as we walked in his footsteps in the Holy Land.
Fr. Peter Lyons, TOR
Pastor, St. Ann Parish, St. Wenceslaus Parish, Baltimore
Oct. 26, 2010
Father Peter Lyons (white shirt, at left) participates in the Way of the Cross with the pilgrimage of priests from the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The prayerful procession wended its way through the narrow streets of Jerusalem\
October 28, 2010 08:58
By Christopher Gunty
The priests in the group continue to share some of their reflections on the pilgrimage. Here’s one from Missionary of St. Paul Father Augustine Inwang.
Father Augustine Inwang blesses himself with water from the Jordan River during a pilgrimage with priests from the Archdiocese of Baltimore. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)
As far as I am concerned, the pilgrimage that we made to the Holy Land was a trip of a lifetime. I was blessed to be in the company of those who went on the trip. I am blessed and very privileged to have been in the company of Bishop Denis J. Madden. I don’t think my first trip to the Holy Land could have been half as wonderful and spirit-filled as it was if the bishop was not directing the journey.
The high point of the pilgrimage for me was our last day in Tiberias. Early that morning I went out to pray behind the hotel looking at the Sea of Galilee. There it was easy to look across the lake to Nazareth on one side and Capernaum on the other, to imagine all the activities that took place there during the time of Jesus: the Sermon on the Mount (the Beatitudes), the feeding of the 5,000, the primacy of Peter, the walking on the sea, and even Jesus sleeping on the boat. It was an experience that will be difficult to describe. The peace that I felt and favors received while there are beyond words.
Father Augustine Inwang, MSP, prays Oct. 15 at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, one of the most sacred sites in the world for Jewish people and those of many faiths. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)
The journey was not just a pilgrimage, it was indeed a retreat. The reflections of Bishop Madden during the Masses celebrated were deep and spirit-filled. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to travel in such a great group of caring and compassionate priests. I have no doubts that the priesthood is the best profession in the world and I am grateful to God be counted as one his priests.
Fr. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP
Pastor, Transfiguration Roman Catholic Congregation, Baltimore
Oct. 26, 2010
October 26, 2010 02:38
By Christopher Gunty
I asked the priests in the group to share their some of their reflections on the pilgrimage. Here’s one from Benedictine Father Paschal Morlino.
It has taken me a couple of days to gather my thoughts and reflect on them. It was 30 years ago since I was there and so much has changed. The suffering of the Palestinians is so much in evidence now. The Wall [separating Israeli settlements from the Palestinian Territories] is a symbol of so much mistrust and lack of desire to create peace. Bridges build peace and trust and walls only alienate.
First of all, the numbers of people on pilgrimage in every place we visited astounded me – It shows the great thirst to walk where Jesus walked.
Benedictine Father Paschal Morlino, in black habit, carries the cross along the Via Dolorosa during the Stations of the Cross Oct. 15, 2010, in Jerusalem, while on pilgrimage with Bishop Denis J. Madden, right, and a group of priests from the region. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)
But it was in the quiet places where I felt the most moved especially by the words spoken to us in the well-prepared homilies given by Bishop Denis Madden. He made the places we visited and where we prayed so often come alive and have such a moving effect on me. When we visited the place of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan amidst all the folks there I had the sense that the same Holy Spirit that came upon Jesus was hovering over us. It was guiding us along the way to see more clearly the true spirit of the place we visited.
It was very evident that we had been called, as the bishop said so often. What was it that we were being called too? The Mount of Beatitudes gave us the answer: Called to holiness of life and a sharing of that life with those to whom we minister. Acknowledging the same Holy Spirit that came over Jesus in the Jordan will guide us as we struggle each day with all our shortcomings to live out that teaching of Jesus to us in the Beatitudes.
Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary of Baltimore, preaches the homily in the chapel of St. Jerome, just a few yards from the site of the Grotto of the Manger. It is believed that St. Jerome worked on his translation of the bible in this cave. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)
Another place where I felt so moved was in the cave of St. Jerome in Bethlehem during the Mass I had the distinct feeling that I was in very holy place and needed to just be present to Jesus in a very special way and it brought me to tears. Something about the place and what had taken place there with God's Word just got into me in a way I had not ever felt before. I was truly spiritually moved and it has made me think of how the Holy Spirit moved St. Jerome and is still moving us to spread that Word. That Word that has moved so many over the centuries and the need for that Word to be proclaimed particularly in the Holy Land where so many do not know it, have not heard it and need it so badly.
Finally, it was truly a spiritually moving event in my life. As time passes to go back and reflect, the words spoken to us and the affect they are having on my own spiritual life are a very rewarding experience.
Fr. Paschal Morlino, O.S.B.
Pastor, St. Benedict Parish, Baltimore
Oct. 25, 2010
October 26, 2010 06:32
By Christopher Gunty
I asked the priests in the group to share their some of their reflections on the pilgrimage. Here’s one from Father Martin Burnham.
As I look back at our Holy Land Pilgrimage, I am struck by some of the many words spoken to us by Bishop Kamal Bathish, and it is through the prism of his words that I offer this reflection. Bishop Bathish, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, spoke to us about the idea of Pilgrimage. He reflected that God has called us on this pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and if God has called us to this place, then God will meet us on our journey, each in his own unique place and time. It was after this meeting that I began in earnest to await God’s meeting with me as I journeyed through these holy sites of our faith. Oddly enough, it was not in the “expected places” that I experienced the awesome presence of God on this pilgrimage; the God of surprises met me in some very unexpected ways and in some very unexpected places.
Three experiences stand out for me as places where God came to meet me on pilgrimage. The first experience of God’s abundance happened for me during our meeting with the students at Bethlehem University. I was moved in Spirit as I listened to their descriptions of how they overcame great obstacles to seek a better life for themselves through their university education. As we spoke about the negative effects of media portrayals of life in Palestine, I witnessed my personal biases about Palestinians formed by my media exposure dissolve as our encounter in dialogue continued. The stories of friendship, openness, and desire for peace spoken by both Christian and Muslim students filled me with a sense of hope that peace was truly possible. Closed in by the Israeli border wall that visibly divided communities and disrupted lives, I experienced great heaviness of heart and a sense of despair that questioned whether peace could ever be possible. It was to this darkness that God came, the God of light and hope, speaking words of peace and reconciliation. These words, testaments to God’s presence, are rarely conveyed to us in America when media portrayals of Palestinian people are created.
The second experience of God’s abundance happened for me at the Wailing Wall [the Western Wall]. This site, sacred to those of Jewish faith, provided me with a deep sense of God’s abiding presence. As I approached the wall, I could sense the millions of prayers that have been offered at this very site through the centuries. What was clear to me as I approached the wall was that there was only one prayer that wanted to pray – I asked God to bring peace to the land of His birth. It was a prayer formed from the experiences of a trip that showed firsthand the deep divisions that exist between people of faith. From the Israeli border wall that meanders over, around and through family properties and neighborhoods, to the Holy Sepulcher where people of shared faith try to overwhelm one another with the volume of their liturgical celebrations, it was clear that to me that peace was and is an overwhelming need for this holy land. It was within this prayer with my head resting on the ancient stones of this Temple wall that I experienced God’s presence fully alive to me.
Monsignor Rob Jaskot (from left), Father Martin Burnham and Father Chuck Wible pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem while on pilgrimage Oct. 15, 2010. (Catholic Review photo | Christopher Gunty)
The final experience of God’s abundance came to me as we walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee to celebrate our outdoor Mass. Throughout the pilgrimage, our guides continually spoke words of condition as they described the holy places that we visited. For instance, when describing the Church of the Visitation, we heard that “tradition has it” that this could be the place where Mary “may have lived” when the angel of the Lord came to her with his incredible news. These words of condition followed us on a majority of our pilgrimage, but they could not accompany us to the shores of Galilee. This lake was, is, and forever more shall be the Sea of Galilee, the same body of water upon which Jesus walked when he came to the disciples in their boat. Here God’s presence was palpable to me, and the Eucharist we celebrated that evening as a group was memorable.
I have returned from this pilgrimage a changed priest. Having walked in the footsteps of Jesus, my experience of Scripture will never again be the same. My experiences of God’s presence will carry me in the months and years ahead as my journey with God continues in my service to his people.
Father Martin Burnham
Pastor, St. Andrew by the Bay Parish, Annapolis
Oct. 25, 2010
October 25, 2010 04:47
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