Bonjurno, Yesterday I forgot to mention the Mass we attended at Saint John Lantern, which was a surprise for us………when we walked by a side chapel and the Gospel was being read, and it was in English! We went in and everyone smiled at us, making us feel like part of their group. After mass, the two priests came over to talk to us and find out where we were from. They were English, from Sussex, and everyone in their group shook our hands or gave a gentle hug. It was great because many groups don’t like strangers.
Anyway!!! Another early day to get to the Vatican and get thru the Holy Doors as pilgrims, since we had registered. We didn’t realize that we had to walk almost one mile away from the Vatican and then walk back. We found that out yesterday, so when we got to Saint Peters, I showed our pass and we got in the Pilgrims line. Security was quicker and everyone got to go thru the doors regardless. The same procedure was at the other 3 major Basilicas as well. We did visit them all on different days.
If you have never been to St. Peters, when you enter you immediately are in front of the Pieta created by Michangelo, it never gets old. Sam and Johna were very overwhelmed as we toured the Basilica and when we finally found the tomb of St. John Paul II. It was right past the Pieta, but blocked off for mass when we came in. Another area we came to was blocked off for confessions, so Susan decided to go for all the indulgences we had gotten. We waited for her…..and waited…..and…..waited. Only kidding, but the only the last confessional was for English.
We spent almost 2 hours here until the crowds became impossible to move or even enjoy the moment. The lines for the tombs of the Popes was very long and we were contemplating going when we ran into Mama, or Rachel, the mother of the Priest, Father Gabriel, who allowed us to celebrate with him at Bethlehem in the Manger alcove. Divine intervention, we thought……how unlikely was this?
By the way we were at the toilet doors, waiting for Sam, where we have met other great people at different toilets around the world, who became good friends, Like Fr. Tomasz, Cardinal Dziwisz’ Personal secretary, whom we plan to see next week. Fr. Gabriel came to meet his mother and was also shocked that we had run into each other.
Bonjurno; We got up slowly today…..everyone was tired, so I made eggs for breakfast and we got dressed to go, when the lights went out. Johna had turned on the iron and everything blew. Must have been some water on the plug. We looked at the panel box and didn’t see any tripped breakers so I tried to go out the front door, but that was locked and the key didn’t work. I called the owner and left a message, in the mean time Sam was yelling down to people to see if they had lights. They all did, so back to the panel box and we found a tripped breaker. Lights!
The owner arrived and she couldn’t get the door open either. There is a round knob on the door, so I tried it again and this time it unlocked and we got the door open. Tourist! No one admitted to turning that lock, but I have a suspect!
It was almost 11:00 so we headed out for today’s adventure. We walked to Saint Peters, and then to Castel Sant’Angelo to find out where we had to go tomorrow, when we walk with cross in hand to the doors of mercy at Saint Peters and get another Plenary Indulgence…..one of many Sam and I were getting on this trip, since we went to confession in Spain.
From there we walked to the subway and caught a train to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. As you approach the Basilica, the doors to Scala Santa, the holy stairs that Jesus walked up to Pilate to be condemned, are located just across the street.
Susan and I have been here twice before and they were closed and I had been here many years ago and it was closed. Susan made the decision not to take a chance by going to Saint John Lantern first and then find them closed when we got out. There are 28 wide marble steps covered with mahogany wood that is very worn from so many people crawling up them on their knees. You are not allowed to walk on them and if you are unable to go up on your knees, there is another staircase that also counts for the Plenary Indulgence you get for going up and meditating on the Passion of Christ as you go.
I made one step and had to back down, the leg and knees were hurting today, the others started their trek u and I walked up and said Divine Mercy on the way. There are three places on the way up to venerate what they believe to be from Jesus. I did manage to get down to venerate the one on the last step.
Everyone was very moved by their experience and we were all quietly reflecting what we just did on our way to Saint John Lateran across the street. Susan and I had been here before and still love the place. Sam and Johna walked around with their mouths open, not knowing what to look at next. We took some pictures for those of you who haven’t been, or have not seen previous photo’s from other trips.
After an hour or so we left and walked to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Jerusalem (Holy Cross in Jerusalem), about 6 blocks away. This Church has several important relics from the Passion of Christ and no photo’s are allowed………..Right!
Bonjourno: Today is a travel day and we all got up by 5 AM, skipped breakfast, just coffee……we can eat at the airport in the lounge. We were down stairs waiting for our ride, which was late, so I asked this gentleman if I could use his phone and pay him so thatI could call our driver. He dialed the phone for me and as I got Tarek on the phone, he pulled up. We loaded the van and 40 minutes later we were checking in for our flight. It was a beautiful morning for a bus ride to the plane, again and we knew we would be doing the same in Rome.
The highlight of our trip was a beautiful little 7-year-old girl sitting behind Susan and me. Her name was Katia and she was just in Jerusalem with her parents looking for a cure for her. They went thru a barrage of tests, hoping she qualified for a new study for her condition. She couldn’t speak, but her eyes said it all and she stole our hearts. She didn’t like the food they gave, her so Susan gave her her pasta and mom fed her and she ate it all. We joked with her and laughed. She held our hands which, her mom and dad were surprised, because she doesn’t ever do that. Katia understands and her mom says she communicates with her eyes and she knows what she needs. The love that we could see and feel from Katia’s parents for her is hard to describe. The patience and tenderness of their caring for Katia …the calmness in their demeanors … the spirit of their “hopes” for a cure and their dedication to their beautiful daughter was an inspiration to us.
Katia even took our picture with the help of her dad and we got pictures with her. We prayed over her and blessed her and told mom and dad that she was going to be on our intention list forever, praying for a cure and a normal life for this little princess.
We exchanged e-mail addresses and Katia was so happy that we were going to send pictures and write to her. Words cannot describe how Susan and I felt about this little “Angel”. When you meet someone like this dear little Katia … I think it is important to always remember her when things are not going the way one would like in life … what could we possibly have to complain about if this little girl who has no control over her body can smile and smile and smile as if she has not a worry in the world … just incredible and a true “lesson in life”!
Please help us to Pray for Little Katia and her parents.
Getting off the plane in Rome was the same, the bus to the terminal and customs which took no time at all. Our driver was waiting for us and in less than an hour we were in our apartment after we found Alessandra, the owner, which took a few phone calls.
The apartment was great and big and belonged to Alessandra’s mother and she rents it out for extra income. The girls unpacked, and Sam and I went shopping for supplies at the large supermarket across the street. It took us 1½ hrs to figure out the store and get everything we would need for dinner tonight and breakfast in the morning and some snacks and wine and water and so on.
We had so many bags we had to stop every 100 ft to rest and we only had a ½ block to go, uphill. UGH!
We relaxed in the evening, said our rosary and prayers for all of you, and made it to bed fairly early for our next day adventure.
May God continue to bless all of you, Love Susan, Tom and the Kids
Mary, Help of Those in Need
Holy Mary, help those in need, give strength to the weak, comfort the sorrowful, pray for God’s people, assist the clergy, intercede for religious. Mary all who seek your help experience your unfailing protection. Amen. May God Bless Each and Every One Of You!
Tom & Susan Melillo Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 (USA)
Shalom: Today is our last day in Israel….boy did the time go by fast. We were invited this morning by Father Eamon Kelly, a friend of Deacon John’s, that Susan has been communicating with, to 7:00 AM English mass at the Holy Sepulcher on Calvary and to breakfast after at the Notre Dame Hotel and center. This was perfect since Susan and I had a meeting with the Latin Patriarch, the head of the Knights of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, at 8:15 to receive our Pilgrim Shell as a Knight and Lady of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher (thank you John H. … we are most grateful!).
So we were up again before 6:00 AM to try to find a cab to bring us there. It’s only a 20 minute walk but none of us were really ready for that, especially when it only cost $5 or $ 6 for the 4 of us in a cab. With the invitation, I got out of cooking again, to the delight of all since the tuna and peanut butter were still on the counter. It took awhile to find a cab and we had started walking just in case.
We arrived at the Damascus gate since that was the shortest walk with no steps to the Holy Sepulcher and we got there in time to venerate the unction stone and say a few prayers. The earlier mass finished and we climbed up to Calvary, I can’t imagine carrying a heavy cross up there when I have pull myself up by the rails. We got the seats we had the other day and sat as two Priests entered. Fr. Kelly went right up to Sam, said hello and introduced himself, and went down the line to all of us. Sam look perplexed since he didn’t know that Father was getting the trip reports and photos.
Again, being here in this holy place was overwhelming and was even more special as Father asked if I would read when it came time. We stood together and he showed me the readings and psalm and asked if Susan wanted to do the second reading…..that wasn’t going to happen, so I got to read them all.
Somehow, reading at mass back at the Cathedral will never be the same. Father Kelly walked with us to the Latin Patriarch’s headquarters so we wouldn’t get lost or be late again as we missed our appointment on Friday. Sam and Johna got to come up with us as Father Kelly went to the chapel to pray.
Bishop Williams came to meet us after we were given our capes and were ready for the ceremony. He was wonderful, and as we sat there and talked, coffee was served with some great chocolates. He then got up and blessed Susan and I in the ceremony that several of you may have done.
It was very special and when we were having coffee he explained how important the support of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher was to Jerusalem, not only for the Care of the Holy Sepulcher its self but for all the programs and education that benefit from the money the Knights raise and send here.
Practicing for the next stop, ROME. We leave tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM, but I am getting ahead of myself again.
This is Sunday morning and we got up again at 5:30 to get to the 7:30 mass on the Mount of Olives. We weren’t sure how long it would take to get a cab. Everyone passed on breakfast, as I had 2 cans of tuna on the counter as well as the peanut butter. Now I know how to get out of cooking!
We went to the Pater Noster Church, which was closed on Sunday, but the Carmelite Nuns had Mass in their chapel there.
They are cloistered, so we were in the side section of the chapel with three other people and we made it just in time. We brought our readings with us, so Mass in French was beautiful and meaningful. After we lit candles and prayed for your intentions, we were locked in and finally found our way out.
We went up the hill to the Dome of the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. In the rock there, it is said that the imprint is from the foot of Our Lord. Pretty awesome thought, as we all had the chance to lay our hands upon it in reverence to our Lord.
From there we proceeded down the mountain to the next stop, Dominus Flevit Church, where Jesus wept over the fate and future destruction of Jerusalem. This little teardrop-shaped church (the shape recalls Christ’s grief), offers a panoramic view of Jerusalem and is halfway down the Mount. This event took place on the first Palm Sunday, during Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when crowds threw their cloaks and palms on the road in front of him and shouted “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord”. Walking down this Mount was no easy task….at least we were smart enough to start at the top.
After leaving, further down we came to the spot where Jesus had to wake the three Apostles, Peter, James and John, as they fell asleep out of grief while Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just a short walk away. The Garden area is still well preserved and the olive trees date back to the12th century, but all eight trees are possible descendants of one that was in the Garden at the time of Christ and that tree would have been 2300 years old. The historian Flavis Josephus reports that all the trees were cut down by the Romans for their siege equipment before they captured and destroyed the city in A.D. 70.
We went into the tomb at The Church of all Nations where the rock that Jesus is believed to have prayed on the night before he was crucified where his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. We got to venerate the stone. Surreal and beautiful!!!
Access to the rest of the grotto was closed, but we did get a picture. We back-tracked from there to the Church of the Assumption and the tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Off to the right not far from the tomb and next to the closed area of Gethsemane is a chapel where Judas betrayed Jesus and he was taken away. We did that first, since I thought we would spend some time in the church with Our Blessed Mother.
Boker tov again … the same day…….. I am trying to catch up to our trip!
We got up and were out of our apartment and “on the street” at 5:50 A.M.! We were hoping to find a cab and to reach the Holy Sepulchre for the 6:30 A.M. Mass we had learned of online. No eggs, no peanut butter, Nada … my culinary expertise did not have time to create a “masterpiece” … LOL.
It took a while to hail a cab and it took even longer to get the cab driver to the Lion’s Gate. He kept wanting to drop us off at each gate he came to (I just got here and I think I knew more than him …or maybe he just wanted to get rid of us!).
We had planned to begin our day Walking and Praying the Via Dolorosa (The Way of the Cross) to the Holy Sepulchre where the last of the Five Stations of the Cross are. Running short of time, and because most of the Shrines of the Stations were not open yet, we did walk the “Way of the Cross” in our own silent Prayers as we tried to figure it out.
Entering the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, we had no idea at all of what to expect, even after researching. We immediately found ourselves just inside the Holy Doors, kneeling and venerating the Stone of Unction where they prepared the Body of Jesus Christ, after his death, for the Burial in the Tomb. This was an incredible beginning to our day and nothing we had ever expected.
editor’s note: Often, when on pilgrimage, the unexpected turns out to better than what you had planned, thanks be to God.
Because it was early, there were no crowds and each of us had time to spend and Pray and venerate at this most Sacred Stone …it was overwhelming to say the least. We then went left, as if we knew what we were doing. I guess that we did, because it took us to the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre and the Tomb of Our Lord … it was not open yet. We could hear that Mass was just finishing inside as people waited outside the closed doors. We followed the signs to continue to the Chapel of Mary Magdalene , which is directly next to the Sacristy for the Holy Sepulchre. There was a Priest approaching the Sacristy so I stopped to ask him for advice. He looked very Irish (and it turned out that he was). I asked about the Mass Schedule and he told us to go to the Latin Calvary Shrine and explained to us how to get there (as he was Vesting). He told me that the Mass was going to be in Italian and I told him that it didn’t matter. He also told me that the Mass scheduled at the Holy Sepulchre was reserved for that morning and that we would have to stand outside the Shrine. Once again, he told me and said “You must go to the Mass at Calvary” … walk up the stairs”.
We did so, and we never would have found this area of the Holy Sepulchre on our own, as we climbed the steep stairs to what we found to be “GOLGATHA” … “CALVARY” … the spot where Our Lord, Jesus Christ, died on the Cross for each and every one of us … we never expected this (why would anyone?).
As we reached the top of the steep staircase, we realized that we were standing at THE FOOT OF CALVARY! Mass was still ongoing there, so we quietly waited on the Greek side and, after the Final Blessing, we went up to the Foot of the Cross and Venerated the Stone at the actual Foot of the Cross where our Lord, Jesus Christ, died!
It was a unique and emotional moment for each of us, individually, as we took our turn in this most Sacred of Sacred Places. I was last, and, when I stood up, a new Priest (the one I had met) was already prepared to begin Mass on the Latin Side. In the beginning, there were very few in the Congregation and we were able to sit on the bench near the spot where Jesus was Nailed to the Cross … directly beside the Altar. I tried to concentrate on Mass as my mind raced and I tried to comprehend where we were at the moment and what, exactly, was going on. At Communion, it all hit me, and I broke down crying as I never have in my life … fully aware of my surroundings and the Sacrifice that Our Lord, Our God, made to give each and every one of us Eternal Life! The experience and the emotions I felt ….. I don’t know that I can ever explain as I am certain that Susan, Johna & Sam feel the same.
Gathering our wits together, we exited down the long and steep staircase, knowing that we still had a little time before the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre would open so that we would be able to enter and venerate the actual Tomb of our Lord. So we began (with our Holy Sepulchre Map) to explore the remainder of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.
We decided to grab a quick capuccino first and Sam bought a loaf of fresh bread and we all enjoyed our breakfast!!
We then went to the Church of Saint Helena and the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross. Both were deep down below the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. The story of Saint Helena finding the Holy Cross of Jesus is a good one and you are able to find it all on the internet.
Next, we went to the Prison of Christ, where they kept him before His Crucifixion. It was closed, so we made our way back to the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre. We got in line behind about only 12 pilgrims and waited for the Chapel and Sacred Site to open as Mass had just finished. We let three Religious Sisters from another Order in front of us. Of course, they would or could not talk to us “as different”, but we respected them. Again, waiting for the unknown, our inner excitement grew as they opened the door to the Sacred Site and the Orthodox allowed no more than 6 people to enter.
Boker tov again: I say again, because I had this trip report done and lost it, so “play it again Sam”.
I made peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. I am really wowing them with my culinary talent! We were running late and our guide and driver was probably down stairs waiting for us. Rami was our Guide and Tarek our driver. Rami was highly recommended and as our trip progressed we knew we had made a good choice.
We got thru the border without being stopped, while it took Rami almost one hour to come thru to get us. Bethlehem is only 5 miles from our Apartment, in Palestine. Lots of rules here. Tarek pulled into a parking lot right in front of the Church of the Nativity. There weren’t any busses yet and only a few cars, which was unusual.
We had to bend to get in the church which is under renovation and not very impressive at first glance. We stopped at the pillar of intentions, where you put your fingers in the five holes embedded there. We all did (Sam had to get help LOL) and prayed for all of you. Rami got us to the entrance of the grotto almost in front of the Cave entrance where Jesus was born. There were a few people in the line in front of us and a few that started to fill in behind us to enter the Grotto. The steps down into the Grotto are very steep and dark and dangerous. Some people began to try to jockey for a better position to attempt to get closer to the front of the line. As we were led in and proceeded down the stone steps, this big man behind us was trying to push ahead of us and started to fall. If Susan, Sam and I had not caught him … he would have sky-rocketed down the steps and knocked all of us and everyone in front of us down along his way! He wasn’t even apologetic, but he did wait his turn after all!
When you reach the bottom and enter the Grotto through a small alcove and into a chamber where, immediately on the right, is an Altar with an opening below it with a beautiful star inlayed in the ground floor to mark the spot where Our Savior, Jesus Christ, was born. Three people were kneeling down when we arrived. We assumed that they were venerating the stone. Instead, they were just under the Altar talking to each other and taking photos (ugh!). The guard had to finally come and demand them to get up. Another man behind was yelling to the three people and, when they left, he pushed his way in front of us so that he, too, could take some photos. This man departed without even reverencing the site … so much for reverence and Love of Christ.
We then took our turns kneeling under the Altar and venerating this most Sacred Area where Christ was Born. I don’t know about the others, but it was an experience that I cannot explain in words quite yet. It was difficult to leave the area after such a short stay, but the lines had become long and, out of respect for others, we moved on.
We were standing just past the Grotto speaking with our guide Rami as he explained that the area in front of the Grotto of the Birth of Our Lord (about 15 feet away), there was another step-down alcove. This was where Jesus’ Manger had been that Jesus was laid in his Manger and watched over by Our Blessed Mother. By that time, the Shrine was jammed as Sam and I went over to try to take a peak. People were pushing and shoving trying to get in and out of this second Grotto Altar. We decided to stand and wait until a small group of people inside were finished and we just might have a chance to go in and Pray, even though it might have been for a very short period of time.
As we stood there, a guard came and made everyone leave the Alcove of the Manger and this younger Priest with an elderly woman were escorted down the steps and into the Alcove near an Altar. The Priest placed his Chalice on the table and began preparing for Mass. He sat his mother on a rock bench directly next to the Manger where we found out later Our Blessed Mother sat while watching and caring for the Baby Child, Jesus, after his birth. Since there was no one else in front of us, we asked the Priest if it was at all possible for the four of us to join him for Mass along with his Mother and, in perfect English, he said “of course”. I ran back and told Rami that we were going to attend Mass and I grabbed Susan and Johna to rush them into the Alcove. Rami looked “clueless”.
Johna and Susan sat on a stone wall directly in front of the Manger. Sam and I sat on the entrance in and entrance out steps. There was barely enough room for the Priest to turn around as we all stood and he began Mass. The pushing and shoving began again with people trying to snap photos and enter the Alcove during Mass (with no room left). They were speaking loudly and very irreverent. Unwilling to accept the fact that they could not get in, they got rowdier and rowdier … Sam and I have the footprints on our backs to prove it (LOL). Sam played “Usher” and turned around and scolded everyone. The guard came over and finally quelled the crowd and the noise. I saw a small smile on the Priest’s face. Mass continued, giving us an opportunity, now, to realize where we were and the great honor and “gift” we had just received by being able to attend Mass in this Sacred Place of the Birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Three of the biggest offenders of the bedlam that had ensued actually stayed on the steps of the Alcove for the remainder of the Mass and very respectfully participated in the Mass. Father accommodated them for Communion by breaking the Hosts to provide enough for them. Father’s Mother did the readings in Spanish (we learned they were from Argentina). I think it was the only time during the Mass that constant tears were not flowing from her eyes as she sat on the rock bench of Our Blessed Mother who had watched over our Lord … as this lovely woman watched her son celebrate Holy Mass in this Sacred Place.
The experience was different for all of us, I am certain, as our minds and hearts could not really grasp what was happening or what had just happened. After Mass was completed, we hugged the Priest and his Mother and took photos (of course). We learned that the Priest’s Mom has been suffering with Parkinson’s Disease for 8 years and we promised her our Prayers on our Special Intention Prayer List. Father was a very “holy man” with a very soft character and we could not thank him enough for the great honor he had bestowed upon us.
As we departed, we touched the walls of the Grotto knowing that many, many holy people, Popes & Saints had been there before us (hoping some of it might rub off on us!).
We left the Grotto and Rami was there waiting for us. He was amazed that we had been able to attend Mass … telling us that it was very, very unusual for something like that to happen. We felt Blessed.
Rami continued on with our tour. At that point, the four of us were still “in another world” and just followed his lead to the Cave of St. Jerome. All I could think about was Mass at the Manger and the fact that The Holy Family had been there with Our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph standing and sitting their caring for our Savior … not to mention receiving Communion in this Sacred Site … beyond words of explanation even now.
The Cave of Saint Jerome was very interesting and we could not imagine someone living there as a hermit for 33 years. However, his only job was to translate the Bible and we thank him for that.
We departed the Shrine and Rami & Tarek took us to Shepherd’s Field. On the way, we stopped to see our friend, Rami’s (of Boca Raton and fellow Holy Sepulchre Knight) father, who lives in Bethlehem. “Boca Rami” is the one who was gracious enough to assist us with all of our plans for the West Bank … and we are grateful.
We shared words and laughs with his dad, who also played a key role in arranging this wonderful Palestinian and Ein Karem experience for us. We promised to see Rami’s dad again in Boca Raton, Florida when he and his wife travel there to visit “Boca Rami” and his family.
Shepherd’s Field (which was just around the corner) is where the Angels announced the Birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, to the Shepherds in the Fields. We walked the field and entered a cave to see what it would have been like during that time. After our visit to the Field, we went to the Religious Store to pick up a few mementos.
We decided that, at that point, it was time for a break and some lunch. Rami walked us around a couple of streets until we reached this huge restaurant with tables the size of king-sized beds (well, maybe not quite that big) and cushioned bench chairs on all four sides. We didn’t look at a menu …at the direction of Rami, the food just started coming. In total, about 20-25 different types of salads, dips and breads that were placed on our table. We said Grace and dug in.
When there were enough dishes to remove, a large (extra large) platter of grilled lamb, beef, chicken, onions, tomatoes and French Fries arrived. Johna stuck with the salads since she does not eat meat on Fridays. We saved her a “doggie bag” but Sam made a sandwich with it that night so poor Johna “lost out”. Rami ordered the local drink … lemon juice, sugar, water and mint leaves…..it was delicious and we managed to finish the pitcher. The bill for the five of us, with tip, was $300 Shekels (about $15.00 US per person). Incredible and everything was just outstanding. (Not quite as good as our last trip to Krakow, but placed a close second!).
We decided to have Rami take us to Ein Karem and headed out of Bethlehem for the 30 minute drive. Again, we cross over the Palestinian/Israeli border, but we were not stopped at the checkpoint. Tarek (our driver) pulled up to a side street and we hopped out. We had to walk to the stairs of the walkway to the Church Shrine of the Visitation (Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth). Rami then informed us that we had 133 steps to climb if we were “up to the task” and, of course, we said “let’s go”. Undaunted by the 95 degree weather and the sun beating down up us, we began our ascent to the Shrine. I must say that it wasn’t easy but it was well worth it!
The Lower Church of the Shrine of the Visitation is where Saint Elizabeth took St. John the Baptist during the Slaughter of the Innocents and it is believed that the large enclosed rock in this Shrine which shows the indentation of a young baby is where the Angels placed St. John to protect him. The Upper Church of the Shrine is where Our Blessed Mother proclaimed the Magnificat, as the Sanctification of St. John the Baptist was conferred through the unborn Jesus Christ in Mary’s womb.
The four of us Prayed four decades of the Rosary in the Lower Church until a large group of pilgrims came in, so we went to the Upper Church to complete our Rosaries. Today, the word “Sacred” took on a whole new meaning for each of the four of us. As we Prayed the Rosary, each decade became alive in our minds, our hearts and our souls!
When we exited this Shrine, our faithful Rami was sitting there waiting for us and suggested that we walk to the Church of Saint John the Baptist, where he was born, and where Zachariah proclaimed his Canticle at the circumcision of Saint John the Baptist. As we departed, going down the steps was a lot easier. I had not realized that Rami was going to make us walk to this second Shrine. He had told us that there were not a lot of steps. I told him that if there were 10 or more, his tip for the day was gone … magically, there were 9 steps up and down into and out of the Shrine so the tip was safe … he lucked out!
editor’s note: Tom is not really that mean….he would have given him the tip if turned out to be a hundred steps.
While in the Shrine, we were Blessed to be able to venerate the spot where St. John the Baptist was born … again with another symbol imbedded into the floor of the Shrine. After spending some time in Prayer, we all felt it was time to return to our apartment … after a full and emotionally charged day.
On the way home, we asked Tarek to stop at an ATM because we didn’t have enough Shekels to pay them (LOL). If you ever come to The Holy Land … be sure to bring US Dollars … they love our dollars here instead of Shekels … wish I had known that. Tarek stopped at a Bank and I quickly crossed the street with no fighting of traffic because it was the Shabbat (Sabbath) and everything was closed (except for ATM machines). Mission accomplished, we were safely returned to our apartment. We shared words, hugged, thanks and said our good-byes. We hired Tarek to return to pick us up on Tuesday very early in the morning to take us back to Tel Aviv Airport.
We “floated” up the stairs to our apartment … well, I actually “floated” taking the very small elevator since my leg was killing me from all of the walking and climbing. Needless to say, it wasn’t over yet !!!!
Boker Tov: Just back from Bethlehem and a great story, but you have to wait, because today I will tell you about The sea of Galilee. I made fried eggs for breakfast before we headed out for the day. Our first stop was the Mount of Beatitudes, site of The Sermon of the Mount, located just above Capernaum, Jesus’s home for a period of time. The weather was beautiful and driving was easy.
We arrived at the mount and not many tourists were around. This is slow season over here. As we approached we were surprised at the size of the complex, which is a retreat center. What a beautiful setting for that. There is not much to see here but it was worth the trip. The chapel was small and beautiful and I got to kneel on the kneeler St. John Paul II knelt on when he was here. You could very easily picture Jesus sitting on a rock and delivering the Sermon in these surroundings. The peacefulness was extraordinary. From here we drove down to Capernaum and the home of St. Peter. This is the place where Jesus cured the invalid and St. Peter’s mother. The scriptures each day just become more alive with each place we go. Again the place was hard to explain, a mixture of ruins of the house of St. Peter and an old temple, which was rebuilt twice, but you knew the whole place was very special. We went down to the shore and found some beautiful stones to bring home, who knows……….Jesus could have walked on one! We sat under the trees, where the temperature was about15 degrees cooler, and just contemplated the life of Our Lord. Ten minutes away, we stopped at the church of St. Peter’s Primacy, called The Church of Mensa Christi, where Jesus appeared to the Apostles after His resurrection and had a fire and fish cooking for breakfast. The stone in the church is believed to be the one that Our Lord sat on. It was to overwhelming to venerate it. We lit a candle for all of you.
Just a hundred meters away, we walked to the scene of the multiplication of the loves and fishes: there is a monastery there but poor signage. It is shaped like an amphitheater with plenty of room for over 5000 people that Jesus fed. Our next stop was the Magdala Center where Mary Magdalene had her home. They are building a huge hotel welcome center for spiritual retreats. As they were digging to prepare the land they discovered ruins of a very old synagogue, where Jesus more than likely preached. I reached over into the ruins and got another stone that was buried for almost 2000 years since the destruction of the building. We went to 1:30 mass at the center’s chapel and the priest offered up the mass for all of our intentions. Afterward we spent some time with Jennifer, from Chicago, who lives in the area and is the lay apostolate of Regnum Christi and works at the center. Susan and she had communicated before we got there and she had set up a tour for us. In the main part of the church the altar was made like a boat and I told Sam that it was pieces of wood and recreated from the time of Jesus. He went to the altar and took pictures and stood there asking the Lord how they all 12 fit with the nets and the fish. Too funny. This sounds like a whirlwind tour but we didn’t leave our house until 9:30 AM. and we went at a nice pace. Everything is so close and parking is not a problem. It was around 3:00 p.m. and we were hungry so we went to a restaurant and had an early dinner and shopped for a few things to pick on that night and food for breakfast. Home we went, finished laundry and packed and then relaxed for the evening, anticipating tomorrow. Layla tov: God bless you all; Love Susan, Tom and the Kids
Mary’s Peace Prayer
Mary, Mother of God my mother, Queen of Peace, ask your Son Jesus to give me the gift of peace. Pray for me for peace; peace in my heart, peace of mind and of soul, peace in my family, peace with all whom I meet, the peace of Jesus. Jesus, my Lord and Savior, my Brother, King of Peace, I come to you with Mary, Queen of Peace, to ask you humbly for a new outpouring of the gift of peace. Pour out on me your Holy Spirit of Peace. Give me peace, Jesus, peace within myself, peace in my family, peace in my everyday life. Give peace to my nation, and to all nations, peace among all peoples, peace in the world. Jesus, my mediator with the Father, take me to the Father to pray for peace. Father, Father of Jesus, our Father, my Father, I come to you with your Son Jesus. In Him and with Him and through Him I pray for peace.
May God Bless Each and Every One Of You!
Tom & Susan Melillo Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 (USA)
Boker tov: I made everyone a large pepper ham and cheese omelette, hoping that would get us thru the day until we got to Jerusalem. Our first destination was Mount Tabor, the place of the transfiguration. We planned to stop at Ein Karem the home of St. John, the Baptist and the site of the Visitation, if time permitted, but after we got lost because of road construction we were almost an hour off schedule.
There is a reason for everything……..as we approached the mountain entrance to the shrine, we stopped for coffee and to stretch our legs. The place was filled with tour busses that had just come off the mountain. It was divine intervention for sure because when you see the first few photos you will wonder, as we did, how we could have gotten buy a bus as it came down and we went up.
Johna was more scared than Susan but she wouldn’t admit it. I kept hearing sighs and other noises from the back seat. Sam may have chimed in once or twice too. Susan was just white knuckled as we ascended. I was in my glory at each S-turn, until we got behind Grandma Moses, going 5 MPH and stopping at each turn, no one else seemed to mind.
The Church of the Transfiguration at Mount Tabor is beautiful, and Mass was going on at one of the outside chapels, as well as in the church. It was too late to ask the group if we could join so we quietly prayed for a while and did the tourist thing, albeit quietly.
The views from here were spectacular, if you had something to look at. The countryside is a lot different from Europe, although very hilly. We spent a little more time in this truly holy place and made our way back down the mountain and to Jerusalem. About 2 hours away depending on traffic, which didn’t get heavy until the city. You really don’t want to drive here unless you can be reckless and ruthless…….and I thought I was a nice guy!
We arrived at our apartment and I parked just like an Israeli………blocking one lane on a 2-lane street, so we could unload the luggage and get it in. Susan guarded the car and programmed the GPS so we could get the car returned and the three of us did the rest. Ten minutes later, Sam and I were off for the return. We got right there, but after they checked us out, they told us we had take the car to the parking garage. I never heard of anything like that and I almost left the car, but being that nice person (again) we took it back the way we came and dropped it off.
The girls were almost settled when we got back and we relaxed for a bit before going to this great restaurant that our cab driver suggested. We had a wonderful dinner, but then we had to walk back up the steep hill to our apartment. UGH!
I finalized arrangements for the driver and guide we hired for Friday to take us to Bethlehem. Looking forward to the day coming we went to bed and slept gloriously.
Layla tov; God bless all of you Love Susan, Tom and the Kids
Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
O Immaculate Heart of Mary, full of goodness, show your love towards us. Let the flame of your heart, O Mary, descend on all people. We love you immensely. Impress true love in our hearts so that we have a continuous desire for you. O Mary, gentle and humble of heart, remember us when we are in sin. You know that all men sin. Give us, by means of your Immaculate Heart, spiritual health. Let us always see the goodness of your motherly heart and may we be converted by means of the flame of your heart. Amen.
Partially refreshed after that tough travel day, and after getting Susan and Sam out of bed, we had coffee and piece of coffee cake, loaded the car and headed out. Our first stop the Stella Maris Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. A lot of you know the special affection we have for Our Lady and the Brown Scapular so this was a perfect starting point for this Holy Land pilgrimage.
We will be adding photos later.
As we were to find out, parking close to these shrines is next to impossible. Stella Maris was our first encounter with several turns up and down the mountain. On the last pass we all said a hail Mary and just as we turned the corner there was an end spot across the street from the front door. It wasn’t even a real spot, but the car fit, and someone was in it before…..and I’m not shy! The Monastery is very large and is the Carmelite headquarters for the whole order throughout the world. The chapel is beautiful and perched high above the altar sits Our Lady holding Her Son and the Scapular in hand. Below this altar is the cave of Elijah where he was said to have lived. We spent very some special time in prayer with our Lady for all of you and your intentions. It was very moving to be here at last. We spent a few shekels in the gift store and headed down the mountain on this beautiful day. Our next stop was Nazareth and we were all anticipating how we would feel being were the Annunciation took place and where Jesus spent most of his life with His Mother and St. Joseph. Nothing could prepare us for this experience and the emotion of it all. Our GPS took us up and down the hills in Jerusalem and we were close to the Basilica so as we turned on a new street the on the end of a row of cars was an empty spot, unbelievable in this area. We stopped for coffee and the shop owner was great. He told us we had a 5 minute walk to the Shrine and were very lucky to be able to park. He taught us some Arabic since many of the people in the area are of Arab descent. We voted Sam to be the interpreter so we enjoyed our coffee as he wrote down all the words the owner taught him.
Everywhere he goes now he whips out his sheet because he can’t remember if he is speaking Arabic or Yiddish. He’s too funny…… I’ll stick with English. Upon entering the Basilica we heard beautiful chanting as benediction was ending in the grotto where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. We fell to our knees and the tears flowed as we contemplated where we were. The word Sacred took on a whole new meaning. Mesmerized and light headed we went down to the grotto after the priests left and the few tourist in the Basilica took their photos’s and left. Again we knelt and prayed and took a few tourist photos. A young college student we had met walking to the shrine was there with his friends and came down to the grotto with us. He asked me to explain everything to him, because he wasn’t sure what he was seeing. His friends were upstairs being tourists. They all went to school in Miami. I told him the story of the Annunciation as I had read it out of the Mystical City of God. He was truly moved and I asked if he was Catholic. He was and was from Brazil, as well as his friends who were also catholic, but didn’t practice. I told him he was now the teacher of the group we all hugged gave him our e-mail and he re-joined his friends. After an very emotional stay we went to explore the upper church, stopping at Mary’s well on the way. Inside was the group of students, this time together they were studying the depictions and statues on the walls and Enrika, our friend, was talking and trying to explain what he could. After looking at the ruins of the home of Mary we went on to the Church of St. Joseph were his home and workshop were said to be. It was a spiritual place filled with love. The photo’s help, but being here is incredible. As we headed back to the car the school was letting out and there was no way we were going to get out easily so we went to a local rest. across the street from our car for lunch. We were starved and ordered 3 large portion meals with side plates to split. Susan ordered chicken livers, and everyone but me passed on sharing. Sam was trying to communicate in Arabic to the staff and we were all laughing. At lunch like kids we began to make up our own words for things and we laughed so hard we and the staff were all in tears. Lunch was great and we headed out for Mt. Precipie where after the announcing of the Kingdom they tried to throw him off the cliff but he passed thru there midst. It was getting late so we headed to Cana and the site of the first public miracle of Jesus. This town was tough and the GPS took us thru some very steep and narrow streets to get there, and there was no parking. We asked for help and a kind soul directed us to the parking area just around the corner which we had passed a couple of times. LOL Cana was special and we had to light a candle and pray for a special friend who proposed to his girl friend there in Jan. while everyone else in the group had their wedding vows renewed. A renewal of vows with a group from Africa was taking place so we watched for awhile and left for Tibeiras and our Beautiful Mountain Home with a view. The home was pretty good with 5 bedrooms, baths kitchen, laundry and great patio and balcony with views of the sea of Galilee. Sam and I went to the supermarket for supplies and had everyone in the store laughing as we tried to figure out what everything was since it was all labeled in Yiddish. Mission accomplished, we went back to the house and spent a great evening reminiscing our day. Layla tov May God bless all of you Love Susan, Tom and the Kids The Angelus The Angelus is traditionally recited morning (6:00 a.m.), noon and evening (6:00 p.m.) throughout the year except during Paschal time, when the Regina Coeli is recited instead.
The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. And she conceived of the Holy Ghost. Hail Mary, etc. Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word. Hail Mary, etc. And the Word was made Flesh. And dwelt among us. Hail Mary, etc. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let Us Pray
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
May God Bless Each and Every One Of You!
Tom & Susan Melillo Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 (USA)