Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Photo DVD Available for Purchase

During the course of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Criterion reporter Natalie Hoefer took photos to document the trip. Many were featured on this blog.
Natalie sorted through them and we are offering a DVD disc of more than 1,000 photos from the pilgrimage for purchase. The disc is $10; once you have it you are free to reprint any of the photos (either at home or at a store, such as Walgreen's) for personal use.
Click here to go to our secure purchasing site
* Please note that this is a DVD and you must have a DVD drive on your computer to use it; it will not work on a CD drive nor will it work on a DVD player on your television.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Photo CD to be Made Available

For those who went on the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, as well as those who followed it online or are otherwise interested, a photo CD containing the full-size photographs taken by our reporter, Natalie Hoefer, will be available for purchase in the near future.
Those who order one will then be free to re-print the photos where ever they wish to, or keep them digitally to share with family and friends.

Check back here next week for more information!

Archbishop Tobin on the Pilgrimage

This week, Archbishop Tobin writes a bit about the pilgrimage to the Holy Land in his weekly column:
"Earlier this week, I returned from a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I can’t imagine a better way to prepare for the spiritual journey that is Lent. To be actually present in the land of Jesus, to pray where he prayed, and to experience firsthand all the holy places that the Gospels speak about so powerfully, is an experience that I wish every Christian could have.

"My fellow pilgrims and I were very conscious of the fact that we traveled to the Holy Land on behalf of all the people of our archdiocese, the Church in central and southern Indiana. We prayed for you, and we brought you with us (in spirit) every time we visited one of the Holy Land’s remarkable sacred spaces.

"Pilgrimages are as old as Judaism and Christianity (and many other religious traditions). St. Luke tells us that the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) made an annual pilgrimage from Nazareth to Jerusalem in observance of the Feast of the Passover."
Read the whole column here (also available in Spanish)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Columns on the Holy Land from John Fink

The editor emeritus of The Criterion, John Fink, has started a new series of weekly columns about the Holy Land.

Click below to read the first three installments of his column:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Day Twelve -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: "Today our Holy Land pilgrimage comes to an end as we transfer to the airport in Tel Aviv to catch our return flight home."

Today's Prayer Intention: For safe travel for the pilgrims and for all travelers.

(Be sure to check back with this blog later in the week for any additional content receive after the pilgrims settle home)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Day Eleven -- Updates and Photos

By Natalie Hoefer

JERUSALEM— In the dark of the morning, at 5 a.m., the pilgrims walked through the quiet, empty streets of the Christian quarter of Jerusalem for Mass at the tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. (See a photo gallery from the pilgrims' day)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin chose to begin Mass in the chapel of the tomb of Christ’s burial with words appropriate to the occasion.

“Normally we say the entrance antiphon, but I just thought the one for Easter was just very appropriate: ‘Early in the morning they came to the sepulcher at sunrise, alleluia,’ ” he explained. “That’s what we did, and we found it empty.”

The sanctuary of the chapel over the tomb consists of a small circular room in which about 25 people can stand, followed by a short archway leading to the even smaller section where Mass is celebrated. In that smaller sanctuary, built directly above what early Christians revered as the tomb of Christ, is a slab of stone. Immediately under that slab is the stone shelf on which the body of Christ was believed to have rested in the tomb.

As the half-hour Mass was celebrated, one by one the pilgrims bent low through the arch and touched the stone.

“The four gospels agree on one detail of the Lord’s resurrection—that no one saw him rise,” the archbishop said in his homily. “In that sense we stand shoulder to shoulder with Mary of Magdala and Peter and John. All they found was an empty tomb, and we come this morning and find this empty tomb, which is God’s answer to human suffering, to human sin, to human mortality—an empty tomb.

“Like Peter, we look and we believe, and we thank God that we share that was illuminated here. All we can do is thank God and live as children of the light.”

The Mass left many pilgrims at a loss for the right words to capture their emotions.

“It’s almost overwhelming to think we were at the place where Jesus was buried,” said Joni Greulich of St. Simon Parish in Indianapolis. “I’ll never look at Easter the same again.”

Sharon Rushing of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Olympia, Wash., appreciated the hushed, reverent tone of the early Mass.

“I’m so glad we were there early, because we had the quiet,” she said. “It just seemed right. It was a short time, but it was the right time, not in the hubbub of everything.”

Larry Dougherty of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish found himself focusing on the fact that the tomb is empty.

“It was a special place, but what I was thinking was, ‘He’s resurrected. He’s not here. He’s gone,’ ” Dougherty said. “But it’s still a holy place.”

Later in the day, the archbishop reflected on his experience celebrating Mass at the site of Christ’s burial and resurrection.

“It’s hard to describe,” he admitted. “The word awesome is overworked these days, but that was really a feeling of being in awe, standing there. Knowing that the mysteries we were celebrating on that altar were the mysteries of the cross and the empty tomb.”

As he reflected upon the pilgrimage, Archbishop Tobin said he was “very conscious of carrying the archdiocese with me. Whenever I prayed, I prayed in a special way for the archdiocese.

 “I also kind of sensed from past pilgrimages that we would come together as a community, and that would be one of the great consequences of the pilgrimage, and that has certainly happened,” he said.
Likewise, many pilgrims felt an admiration for the archbishop.

“The whole pilgrimage, we were witnesses to the archbishop, and Father Joe [Newton], too, as our leader and servant, both leading and serving us,” said Sheila Sterrett of St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis. “I think it strengthens our kindness toward each other to see that in our leaders. I think that added a lot to the pilgrimage.”

See a photo gallery from Day Eleven of the pilgrimage

Day Eleven -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: "This morning we will celebrate an early morning Mass at the Tomb of our Lord. After Mass, we will spend some private time in prayer and reflection at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before returning to our hotel for breakfast. The remainder of the day is free for personal prayer and exploring the Old City."

Today's Prayer Intention: For all the faithful departed.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Day Ten -- Updates and Photos

By Natalie Hoefer

ABU GOSH and EIN KAREM—Ghostly, faceless figures adorned the stone walls of the 12th century Church of the Resurrection in Abu Gosh, called Emmaus in Jesus’ time. The faces were wiped away by Muslims centuries before.

The towering walls echoed with Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin’s voice as he delivered a homily on the Emmaus story in Luke 24.

“I believe it is not a coincidence that we’re here, listening to that Gospel on the second to last full day of our pilgrimage,” he said. “I don’t think it would have had the same impact on us if we’d heard it on the first day.” (See a photo gallery from the pilgrims' day)

He spoke of the parallel between the disciples’ journey to Emmaus and that of the members of the archdiocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The archbishop noted how Jesus first broke open the Scripture for the disheartened disciples on their journey to Emmaus from Jerusalem, and how “it all came together for them in the breaking of the bread.”

The 12th century church was built by Crusaders on top of the remains of several destroyed Christian churches dating back to the 3rd century. The church is built over water flowing from a nearby spring. Tradition holds that Jesus and the disciples would have washed their feet in the stream before eating their supper.

The highlight of the day for Mike and Audrey Kostrzewa of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis occurred during the Mass in the church.

“We got to renew our vows like the others did in Cana,” said Mike. “We weren’t able to do it that day, so we did it today in Emmaus. That was really special.” The couple has been married for almost 42 years.

“The setting was perfect,” said Audrey, who felt “honored” to serve as cantor during the Mass. “It was a gorgeous church—it was a privilege to be there.”

The couple joined several other pilgrims on what Mike called “quite a hike” up to the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, the town where Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth upon hearing the older woman was expecting. It lies high on a mountainside about 4.5 miles west of Jerusalem.

Tony Azraq, the pilgrimage tour guide who is an archaeologist and professor, said the site is traditional rather than authentic. A Benedictine monastery and convent are located on the site.
The Magnificat—the prayer the Blessed Mother exclaimed upon Elizabeth’s greeting—is written in tiles in several languages on the walls of the church’s courtyard.

The pilgrims also walked through a light rain to the nearby church marking the traditional birthplace of St. John the Baptist. In the grotto of a cave below and to the side of the main altar, several pilgrims knelt to touch the place where it is believed the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah was born.

Joann Pierotti of Sacred Heart Parish in Wanatah, Ind., in the Diocese of Gary, was impressed by all the churches the pilgrims visited today.

“Today was all so inspiring,” she said. “Most inspiring was just going into the churches, sitting and meditating. They’re all so beautiful . I’m so thankful I was able to come.”

Pierotti heard about the pilgrimage through a friend. It was her first time to the Holy Land, and her first time to meet and spend time with Archbishop Tobin.

“His homilies are just amazing,” she said. “You try to catch every word and hang on. He connected his homily of the day with our travels of that day, and pulled it together so beautifully.”

“And he’s such a down-to-earth man. You feel comfortable with him. He’s just one of the group. You didn’t feel he put himself above anyone else.”

Despite living in the Diocese of Gary in northwestern Indiana, Pierotti believes she will see Archbishop Tobin in the future—“wearing red.”

“I think he’ll be a cardinal in the not too distant future,” she said. “I think he was born for it.”

See a photo gallery from Day Ten of the pilgrimage

Day Ten -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: "This morning we will drive Abu Ghosh (Emmaus) where Jesus appeared following His resurrection. After Mass we will return to Jerusalem and go to Mount Zion and visit the Upper Room, the site where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper. We will then pray the Rosary together int he Church of Dormition, where Mary was assumed into heaven. Our final stop of hte day will be at the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu where Peter denied Jesus three times."

Today's Prayer Intention: For the young adults of the archdiocese.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Day Nine -- Updates and Photos

By Natalie Hoefer
 BETHLEHEM—In a field near Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago, angels brought “tidings of great joy” to shepherds tending their sheep.

Today, the shepherd of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis declared the Good News to his 50 fellow pilgrims on their spiritual journey through the Holy Land. (See a photo gallery from their day)

He did so during a Mass he celebrated in a cave converted into a chapel overlooking a field of Bethlehem. The cave is one of several converted chapels of the Franciscan-run Shepherd’s Field and Grotto.

According to Tony Azraq, the pilgrimage tour guide who also works as an archaeologist, use of the cave dates back at least to the time of Christ, and was likely used by shepherds herding their sheep in the nearby field.

“When Jesus talks about himself as the Good Shepherd, he wasn’t referring to us as sheep in a diminishing way,” said Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin. “As we study God’s word, it became clear that Jesus was referring to how a shepherd controlled his sheep. It was through his voice. The relationship between a shepherd and his sheep is so close.”

The archbishop also said in his homily that Christ calls us “into loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

“That probably sounds a bit foolish, but the reading from I Corinthians reminds us that the weakness of God is stronger than human strength, and the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.
“What we meet here in Bethlehem in a tender and intimate way is the foolishness of God, the weakness of God. It waits for us as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.”

Sheila Dropcho of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis found herself reflecting on the shepherds during the Mass.

“I think of what Tony said about how young the shepherds were,” she said. “I always pictured them as older men. I just imagined these young boys going home to the parents saying, ‘You won’t believe what just happened!’ ” For Bea Eckert and her husband, Richard Deitchman, members of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, the Mass was the highlight of their day.

“I thought it was very intimate having Mass in that little cave,” said Deitchman, who also appreciates the archbishop’s “meaningful, to the point homilies.”

The pilgrims next visited another cave in Bethlehem—the Church of the Nativity, which is built over the cave in which it is believed Christ was born (caves were used as stables in the time of Christ). The site lies in a cave beneath a large church that is currently being renovated for preservation purposes.

Elizabeth “Betty” Schmidt of Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Indianapolis said that seeing the spot where Jesus was born will make the name of her parish take on more meaning.

“It was very beautiful,” she said. “It was exciting to see where Mary delivered and then placed Jesus in the manger. It was thrilling to be there. It says something to your heart to go there and then go back home to Nativity parish.”

Due to walking limitations, her husband Greg was unable to see the underground shrine, but said he was “just happy to be there.

“I was sitting outside looking at the [sign with the] name of Nativity Church, and I thought how wonderful it is that our parish is named after the spot where Christ is born,” he said.

The pilgrims also visited the Milk Grotto, a cave in Bethlehem in which it is believed the Holy Family stopped on their flight to Egypt after the angel Gabriel appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him of Herod’s desire to kill the Christ child. the city of Christ’s birth, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Maher, a pilgrim from SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, celebrated her own birthday. Maher turned 24 today, and was surprised when a cake was brought out after lunch to celebrate.
 “It was amazing to celebrate my birthday here,” she said. “The last week has been amazing. I was unsure about coming [on the pilgrimage] because it isn’t like your usual vacation, but it’s been awesome, especially getting time to spend with my family. Traveling with my [mom, dad, sister and retired Father Bob Mazzola, a relative of the family] has been the best gift, more meaningful than a bunch of little gifts.”

The pilgrimage has also been meaningful for Deitchman, 91, and Eckert, 81. They were married in May of 2012. The two were introduced to each other in October of 2011 by children of each of their prior marriages.

“The last three years have been wonderful,” said Deitchman. “We go to daily Mass together, and we pray together. Those things have been very important to us.”

When asked why they chose to go on the pilgrimage, Bea said, “We figured we better do it now while we still can!”

See a photo gallery from Day Nine of the pilgrimage

Listen to Archbishop Tobin's Homilies from the Holy Land

Our reporter, Natalie Hoefer, has sent back some of the audio recordings she took during some of the Masses on the pilgrimage. Click on any of the links below to listen to the different homilies that were delivered by Archbishop Tobin.
(Note: Because of the nature of the buildings, some of the recordings have an echo and may be hard to understand)

Day Nine -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: "We will drive to Bethlehem and have Mass at the Shepherd's Fields. Above the traditional Grotto of Jesus' birth, we will visit the Nativity Church, built by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Also tour the Manger, Grotto of St. Jerome, and the Church of St. Catherine. Then visit the Franciscan Family Center and the Milk Grotto Chapel followed by some free time before returning to Jerusalem."

Today's Prayer Intention: For the priests and deacons of the archdiocese.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Day Eight -- Updates and Photos

By Natalie Hoefer
JERUSALEM—With a dust storm making a haze of the city of Jerusalem, the pilgrims walked through the narrow, cobbled streets of the Old City at 6:30 a.m. for Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The massive, multi-layered church is a maze of shrines and chapels. The pilgrims climbed stone steps smoothed slick from centuries of use to the chapel next to the exposed stones of Golgotha believed to be near the spot where Christ was crucified. (See a photo gallery from their day)

In his brief homily during the half-hour Mass, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin noted the holy place where the pilgrims stood.

“We look at the cross today, we stand where it stood, and we realize that the tree of death has become the tree of life for us,” he said.  “All we can do is be quiet and thank God.”

Archbishop Tobin reflected on the experience later in the day.

“I think the celebration of the Eucharist on the top of Golgotha was a moving experience for all of us,” he said. “I could sense it among the people and I could certainly feel it myself.

“In celebrating the Eucharist, we were renewing in an unbloody manner the sacrifice of Christ. For me that was really the highlight of the day, and maybe of the trip.”

When asked about her thoughts on the experience of Mass on Calvary, Katie Rushing of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis teared up.

“I’m at a loss of words, to know that we stood on the place where Jesus was crucified,” she said after a moment. I just kept thinking, if I had lived then, would I have stood by the cross there with the women, or would I have fled?”

Silence was not an option later in the day as the pilgrims walked the path to Calvary on the Via Dolorosa, or the Way of the Cross. The path winds up to Calvary primarily through what is now the Muslim section of Jerusalem, with markets of colorful clothing, trinkets and souvenirs lining the narrow streets.
“The Way of the Cross was not what I expected,” admitted Cathy Flood, a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg. “I expected something more authentic—it was just a crowded marketplace that we were walking through. People were bumping into us, and some people were annoyed that we were there and shooting us looks. People were trying to sell things to us.

“I imagine that was more authentic because people were spitting on Jesus and cursing him and calling him names.”

Archbishop Tobin noted that on the Way of the Cross the pilgrims “were sharing an act of faith, and life went on around us.

“I thought of Jesus carrying his cross, and how 100,000 people were in town for the celebration of the Passover, and probably a lot of them didn’t know what was going on—probably what was the most important fact in human history.”

The pilgrims also visited the Wailing Wall, the portion of the western wall of the temple from Jesus’ time that would have been closest to the sanctuary, or holy of holies. The Jewish people now view this as a holy site where God is still present. Pilgrims write petitions and place them in crevices between the large stones of the wall. Several pilgrims joined in this ritual.

With a dust-laden drizzle coming down, pilgrims visited the archaeological remains of the Pool of Siloam where Christ gave sight to a blind man.

Both there and along the Way of the Cross, pilgrims helped each other along steps and stairs all made of uneven stone. Women linked arms, and the men literally lent hands to others as they stepped down from foot-worn steps.

“I’m very edified about how the pilgrims are helping each other,” the archbishop noted. “I’m not surprised, but I think it’s a beautiful part of pilgrimage, that it isn’t simply a personal experience of God, but it’s a shared experience that leads us to care for each other.”

See a photo gallery from Day Eight of the pilgrimage

Day Eight -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: "This morning we will enter the Old City of Jerusalem through St. Stephen's Gate to visit the Church of St. Anne, where the Blessed Virgin Mary was born. Next to this site is the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the paralytic man. We will then walk the Via Dolorosa finishing prayerfully in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where we will have Holy Mass. There we will climb Mt. Calvary and pray at the site of the crucifixion. We will venerate the site where Jesus' body was anointed, the tomb where he was buried and rose from the dead, and the Chapel of St. Helena where the true cross was found. While in the Old City, we will also see Pilate's Judgment Hall, the Chapel of Flagellation, the Arch of Ecce Homo, the 'Wailing Wall,' and we will view the Temple Mount. Afterwards, we exit the city to visit the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus healed a man born blind."

Today's Prayer Intention: For an increase in religious vocations for the archdiocese.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Day Seven -- Updates and Photos

By Natalie Hoefer
JERUSALEM—The temperature in Jerusalem has dropped from the warm climate of Galilee.
“Do you feel like the temperature of the pilgrimage changed a little this morning?” Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin asked in his homily at Mass in the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane. “And I’m not simply talking about the breezes.

“I refer to what a lot of us were thinking about. In Galilee we were thinking of this young, vigorous Christ, walking, preaching, fasting. Here it begins to change, and we think of him prostrated on a rock like this, praying, with his disciples not far away.”

He said this pointing in front of the altar, where the sanctuary encompasses the rock upon which it is believed Christ wept in agony.

The pilgrims took the Palm Sunday path of Christ down the Mount of Olives—the path along which Scripture speaks of his royal welcome with palm branches by the Jews.

By the end of the week of Christ’s triumphal welcome, the Gospels speak of Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, of his arrest, torture and crucifixion.

The pilgrims started living Christ’s sorrowful journey today, visiting the Upper Room of the Last Supper, Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane and house of Caiaphas where Christ was imprisoned over night before being brought before Pontius Pilate. (See a photo gallery from their day)

In the Garden of Gethsemane, today’s Mass was offered for the sick and the dying in the archdiocese, “those who in a real way believe with the eyes of faith and share in the suffering of Christ,” the archbishop said in his homily.

The archbishop encouraged the pilgrims to visit the sick and dying, and to not worry about what to pray. “Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s are OK,” he reassured.

He noted that St. Alphonsus once advised those in the Redemptorist order he founded: “Pray when you are well, because it’s hard to pray when you are sick.”
Suffering can put us in danger of despairing and forgetting the Lord, Archbishop Tobin warned.
“The Lord invites us today to pray—not out of fear or anxiety, but to say, ‘Lord, help me remember that you are always with me, and help me be a living reminder to those who share your own Gethsamane.’ ”

Anne Kuhn of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis was moved by the rock in front of the altar.
“When we had Mass at the Garden, when I went in and was able to touch the rock that he suffered on and agonized over, it brought the whole thing to life,” she said. “As a human, he knew what was going to happen, and how he didn’t want it to happen, but he accepted it. I think, ‘How many times are we like the disciples, letting things slide, and we need to take a stand for what is right and wrong.’ ”
Later the pilgrims visited the Upper Room, reconstructed in early centuries in the area where it is believed the Last Supper took place.

Close by is the Church of St. Peter Gallicantu (“the cock crowed”), constructed over the area where Peter’s denial most likely took place, outside the house of Caiaphas, the high priest who sought Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.

Tony Azraq, the Catholic Palestinian archaeologist serving as the tour guide for the pilgrims, worked on the excavations that helped reveal much about the house of Caiaphas, including the ways in which prisoners were tortured in the dungeon beneath Caiaphas’ home. He shared with the pilgrims what was discovered about the site, and about what Jesus likely endured between the time of his arrest and sentencing to death.

“[Jesus’ suffering] became more real, especially with the different things they found, even recently, about how they did the torture,” said Mary Barr of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis. “The archbishop’s talk was so meaningful when he said it’s a different atmosphere we’re coming into today with realizing Jesus’ death coming. Praying for our ill and dying—it all combined. It brought to mind all who are suffering for lack of freedom, not matter what country they’re in.”

Azraq also helped excavate the steps that led to the house of Caiaphas from the Garden of Gethsemane, revealing the actual steps that Christ would have been led by the temple guards after his arrest.

“Looking at the steps that Jesus actually walked” said Sheila Dropcho of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis. “I stood and stared at that for a very, very long time, just knowing that [Christ] walked those steps. It was very powerful.”

The pilgrims also visited the Church of the Pater Noster, or the Our Father, on the Mount of Olives, the area in which it is believed Christ taught his disciples how to pray, as described in the Gospels. Around the church and courtyard, the prayer is written in every known language.

“Seeing the Our Father written in so many languages was just amazing,” said Gloria Lieb of St. John Vianney Parish in Fishers in the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana. “Our guide Tony read the Our Father in Hebrew and in Chaldean, the oldest language. That was so impressive.”

Despite the historical and Scriptural significance of the sites visited today, Dan Conway of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis was most touched by the Mass, as he has been each day of the pilgrimage.

“Archbishop Tobin’s homilies are so simple and yet very, very profound,” he said. “Someone said the other day that it’s amazing how, in spite of all the exotic places we are, it’s still the Mass that’s the most important thing.

“The neat thing about coming here to the Holy Land is that these sites and even the geography bring us a new awareness, but it’s an awareness of something that is available every day—you just see it in a new, fresher light.”

See a photo gallery from Day Seven of the pilgrimage

Day Seven -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: "This morning we will drive to the top of the Mt. of Olives for a spectacular view of Jerusalem. We will visit the Church of Pater Noster, where Jesus taught his disciple how to pray, Ascension Chapel, the site where Jesus ascended into Heaven, and then walk the 'Palm Sunday Road' to Dominus Flevit, where our Lord wept over Jerusalem. Then we will proceed to the Garden of Gethsemane to visit the Church of All Nations for Mass on the Rock of Agony. In the afternoon, we will drive through the New City of Jerusalem to Ein Karem, birthplace of St. John the Baptist, to see the Visitation Church where Mary proclaimed her famous 'Magnificat.' "

Today's Prayer Intention: For the sick and dying of the archdiocese.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Day Six -- Updates and Photos

By Natalie Hoefer
CAPARNAUM, RIVER JORDAN, JERICHO and BETHANY—Christ began his ministry in the town of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee and finished in Jerusalem. The pilgrims did the same today, starting in Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee at the site of Peter’s home and ending the day at their hotel in Jerusalem after Mass in Bethany.

In Capernaum, the pilgrims visited the remains the home of Peter and the synagogue where Jesus preached, as recounted in chapter four of the Gospel of Luke. (See a photo gallery from their day)

Tony Azraq, the Palestinian Catholic archaeologist serving as the pilgrimage tour guide, explained that the authenticity of the sites can be confirmed by archaeological remains proving the structures to be locations of early Christian pilgrimages.

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin found the site over the synagogue where Jesus preached to be meaningful.
“I think the visit to the synagogue at Capernaum was important for me because of Jesus’ famous sermon there in Luke [chapter] four, which is also what St. Alphonsus cited as the reason for starting the Redemptorists,” said Archbishop Tobin, who belongs to the Redemptorist order.  The archbishop explained that St. Alphonsus stated in the introduction to the Redemptorist rule: “We propose to follow in the steps of Christ the Redeemer, who said of himself, ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to bring good tidings to the poor.’ ”
The pilgrims then traveled by bus along the Jordan River in which Christ was baptized. Along the edge of the river, Archbishop Tobin led a service in which the pilgrims renewed their baptismal vows.
Pat Maher, a member of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, was moved by the service, especially since he turned 60 today.

“What a great blessing it was to be able to renew my baptismal vows on my birthday,” he said. “I asked God before the trip to give me a present for my birthday. And he never fails. He’s way more generous than we can ever anticipate.”

The pilgrims’ next stop was in Jericho, which lies below what is known as the Mount of Temptation. Jesus fasted for 40 days on this desert mountain.

According to Azraq, springs existed in Jericho in the time of Christ, making the land fertile and plentiful.

“You hear Jesus went to the desert and you think there isn’t much there to tempt him,” he explained. “If you’re locked in a room with no food, there is nothing to tempt you. But he came to this desert mountain with all that he could not have lying right below him in full view, like locking yourself in a room full of everything you like to eat while trying to fast. He chose the hard temptation.”

Before heading to Bethany for Mass, the pilgrims stopped at the Dead Sea to wade or swim in its salt- and mineral-laden waters.

“I was just amazed at the bravery of my fellow pilgrims who went into the Dead Sea,” the archbishop said. “Especially Rita, who has had 86 springtimes!”

The Mass took place in Bethany outside of Jerusalem at St. Lazarus Church, believed to be built over the site of what had been the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
In his homily, Archbishop Tobin reflected on his thoughts while visiting the site of the home of St. Peter in Capernaum. He recalled the “four friends who brought their paralyzed buddy [to be healed by Jesus. But they can’t get in. So they took one of those [roof] tiles away and lowered their friend down to be near Jesus.

“I thought, ‘Isn’t that an image of us?’ … I think we have to be able to remove the tiles, the things that keep people from coming to Jesus. Either the wrong ideas or sweating the small stuff. We want them to hear the Lord.”

Archbishop Tobin then addressed the question, “Why is the Dead Sea so dead?”

“It’s because all that nice water we saw in the Sea of Galilee comes down the Jordan through the plains of Samaria and Judea—and then it doesn’t go anywhere,” he said. “It just stagnates, and that’s why it’s so dead.

“Let’s pray that the Lord will help us to know where we need to remove the tiles so that others may come to know what we know.”

See a photo gallery from Day Six of the pilgrimage

Group Photo

It's looks like the pilgrimage group took some time out today at the Jordan River for a group photo. Click on the image below to see the full size version:

More photos and an update from Natalie Hoefer to come later today.

Day Six -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: "This morning we will depart Tiberias and travel south through the Jordan valley to the traditional baptismal site on the River Jordan to renew our baptismal vows. The Bible tells us that the Children of Israel crossed the River Jordan opposite Jericho when they came into the Promised Land. The prophet Elijah divided its waters and crossed with Elisha on dry land. Naaman the Syrian dipped in the waters seven times and was cured of his leprosy. And Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan (Mark 1:9). Each year, pilgrims from far and wide come to the Place of Baptism to immerse themselves in these holy waters. From here, we will visit ancient Jericho, the oldest known city in the Western world. In 1250 B.C., Joshua encircled the city and at the blast of the priests' trumpets, the walls came tumbling down (Joshua 6). Many times Jesus passed through this city on his way to Jerusalem. The sycamore fig, the tree which Zacchaeus climbed in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus, still grows in this area. From the ruins of ancient Jericho, we will ascend the Mount of Temptation where Jesus faster and prayer fort days to resist the devil. Then we drive to the Dead Sea for a swim in its salty, mineral-laden waters. Next we will stop in Bethany to visit the site of the House of Mary, Martha and Lazarus and the Tomb of Lazarus. After Mass in Bethany we will continue on to Jerusalem, our home for the next six nights."

Today's Prayer Intention: For Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Day Five -- Updates and Photos

By Natalie Hoefer

MT. TABOR, NAZARETH and CANA—It was in Nazareth that true God also became true man through Mary’s “yes” to the angel Gabriel. In Cana, Jesus—known only to the world as true man up to that point—performed his first miracle, displaying his heavenly power. Later in his ministry, Christ revealed himself to Peter, James and John as being both true God and true man through the transfiguration on Mt. Tabor.

The pilgrims today traced this connection in their visit to each of these holy sites. (See a photo gallery from their day)

They started their day at Mt. Tabor, the geographical site of the transfiguration, although the precise spot is not known.

The church at the top of the mountain is an architectural representation of the three tents that Peter proposed to build on the site of the transfiguration, “one for [Christ], one for Moses and one for Elijah (Mt. 17:1-9).”

“Every year, people come on August 6 [the Feast of the Transfiguration] to watch the miracle occur,” said Tony Azraq, an Palestinian Catholic and archaeologist serving as tour guide for the pilgrimage.
The “miracle” is how on that day alone, between 1-2 p.m, the sun streaming through a window happens to rest upon and illuminate the gold-background of the painting of the transfiguration above the altar in the church.

“[The architect Antonio] Barluzzi said he did not design the church to do that, that it was not an intentional thing,” Azrag said.

The pilgrims headed about four miles away to the town of Nazareth where Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and Father Joseph Newton concelebrated Mass in the church of their namesake—St. Joseph Church. Father Bob Mazolla also concelebrated. The church is built over the site believed to have been St. Joseph’s carpentry shop.

During his homily, the archbishop commented on some images of Jesus’ foster father in art.
“In Renaissance paintings, when St. Joseph is depicted as an old man, sitting off to the side, asleep,” he said. “I realized they were showing Joseph dreaming, like we heard in the Gospel today (Mt. 2:13-15, 19-23).

“For Joseph, it was a symbol of his openness and his trust in God,” the archbishop said. “He wasn’t sure what the plan was, but he trusted that God was leading him.

“Perhaps if we have particular cares, we can think of Joseph and open ourselves as best we can, trusting that there is a plan that is God’s plan, and that it’s good.”

The Blessed Mother, too, had such trust. In a grotto at the bottom of the Basilica of the Annunciation next to St. Joseph’s Church lies the room where Mary said “yes” to God’s plan for her, as revealed by the angel Gabriel.

“Our predecessors of faith would certainly not have forgotten the home where Mary lived,” said James Dubach of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis. “We can be confident that that’s the same home, not just on faith but by the fact of the [early Christian-era] mosaics discovered by it [showing it to be a place of worship].”

Domoni Rouse of St. Rita Parish in Indianapolis was also struck by the site.

“I was just grabbed,” she said. “One of the main thoughts I had was, ‘I thank you Lord because you gave us Jesus, and you gave us the Blessed Mother.’ That feeling was inside me pouring out in gratitude: thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Azraq provided cultural insight into Scripture about the Annunciation.

“The Bible says that Mary was afraid [when she saw the angel],” he said. “Why was she afraid? Forget about angel wings.”

He explained that rooms such as that held to be the site of the Annunciation were stone rooms usually built below homes. One use for the rooms was as a place for women to go during times when they were considered ritually unclean.

“There was only one way in,” said Azraq. “Imagine you have a basement, and there’s only one set of stairs leading to it, and they lead from the kitchen. And you go up the stairs, leaving the basement empty, to get a drink from the fridge. You’re the only one there. And you go back downstairs, and you see a man standing down there, and he says, ‘Hi!’ As a woman alone in that room, you would be terrified!”

Azrag also pointed out a courtyard next to the basilica where Muslims were protesting for the right to build a mosque. He noted that the population of Nazareth is now 90 percent Muslim. Indeed, during the noon Mass celebrated by Archbishop Tobin, Muslim prayers sounded over speakers mounted near the basilica.

“It made me realize the need for us to support Christians in the Middle East,” Rouse said. “I’d hear about it back home, but hearing what Tony said and hearing those [Muslim] prayers made that so real for me.”

According to Azraq, the Muslim population in Cana, the next stop on the pilgrimage about four miles away, is now 80 percent.

There was no audible reminder of that fact in Cana, however, and the pilgrims enjoyed a visit to the site believed to be the location of the place where Jesus performed his first miracle—turning water into wine at a wedding feast. Again, archaeological findings, particularly demolished structures from the fourth century, point to the possibility of the site being that of the miracle.

In a side chapel of the church constructed over the site, several couples on the pilgrimage renewed their wedding vows.

“I asked Ron this morning if he was going to wear his maroon tux and pink ruffled shirt today,” said Ron’s wife, Joni Greulich.

Joking aside, Ron said he found the service to be “really special.”

“It was so nice to renew our vows with so many others who were renewing their vows, with the archbishop [presiding],” he said. He and Joni have been married for 37 years, have three children and six grandchildren. The couple are members of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis.

During his homily earlier at St. Joseph Church in Nazareth, the archbishop quoted from a book he read on “how to make love stay.”

“First, it’s never too late to have a happy childhood,” the archbishop said, paraphrasing from the book. “And second, it’s a mystery. Once you think you know everything about the other person … your love will die because the mystery is gone.

“It’s an insight into God and love, because the only thing that we can say about love and God is that God is love. When we love authentically, we’re touching that mystery.

“Maybe that pulls it all together for us in these days [on the pilgrimage],” Archbishop Tobin said in closing. “What we’re doing is glimpsing the mystery of God’s love for us. If we have the heart of little children, we’re greatly fascinated by the mystery: that God’s love for us is so great that he sent his only Son. And in this little town that was forgotten in the backwaters of Galilee, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

See a photo gallery from Day Five of the pilgrimage

Day Five -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: "Following breakfast, we will drive to Cana of Galilee where Jesus, at the request of Mary, performed his first miracle...changing water into wine. It was here also that He blessed marriage and raised it tot he dignity of a sacrament. If you wish, you may renew your wedding voews as a lasting remembrance of this holy site. From there, we go a short distance to Nazareth, the boyhood home of Jesus. In the Church of the Annunciation we will celebrate Mass. Just behind the altar, at the Cave of the Annunciation, we will see the actual room in which Mary said 'yes' to the angel Gabriel. From there we will visit St. Joseph's Carpentry Shop and Mary's well. In the afternoon, we will take an excursion to the summit of Mt. Tabor where Jesus transfigured himself and revealed his Divine Glory to the apostles (Matt 17:2)."

Today's Prayer Intention: For the families of the archdiocese.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Day Four -- Updates and Photos

By Natalie Hoefer

On a boat on the Sea of Galilee on
Feb. 7, a man demonstrates how the
apostles would have fished with a round,
weighted net.
SEA OF GALILEE, MOUNT OF BEATITUDES, BETHSAIDA, TABGHA, CAESARIA PHILIPPI AND GOLAN HEIGHTS—There were so many unusual and impactful elements to the outdoor Mass that Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin celebrated in Bethsaida: the canopy of lush green limbs arcing over the altar; the twittering of birds, the gentle breeze coming off of the Sea of Galilee behind the archbishop.

But most meaningful was the location—an area near Bethsaida believed to be where Christ established Peter’s primacy, as relayed in John 21:15-19.

“Celebrating the Eucharist with the folks was the highlight [of the day for me],” said Archbishop Tobin. “It was such a beautiful day with a lovely breeze. I was very conscious we were celebrating Mass near where Jesus established the primacy of Peter. I took a good look at that beach and thought of Peter jumping in the water because he couldn’t wait [to get to Jesus on the shore].”

Most of the sites visited by the pilgrims today revolved around the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus focused a good portion of his ministry. (See a photo gallery from their day)

“The sea was there [during Christ’s time on Earth],” said Mary Dougherty of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis. “So you know that’s a place where Jesus was.”

The day started with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, also called Lake Tiberius, followed by a stop at the Mount of Beatitudes on the northern shore of the sea. The area is believed to be the hillside upon which Christ delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

“Mahatma Gandhi said he thought the finest program for human living that he’d ever found were the Beatitudes,” the archbishop said in his homily near the rock of Peter’s primacy.

With a few boats sailing in the distance on the Sea of Galilee behind him, Archbishop Tobin also spoke during the homily of the symbol of boats in terms of Catholicism.

“The boat is a symbol of the Church,” he said. “And here, where we celebrate the primacy of Peter, I don’t think we should begin with Peter himself. We have to begin with the Church, because whatever the Lord said to Peter, and whatever authority he gave Peter, it was for the service of the Church, that fragile [boat] which wanders over life’s tempestuous sea.”

Referring to the next stop on the pilgrimage—Tabgha, believed to be the site of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes—Archbishop Tobin connected the site of Peter’s primacy with the miracle.

“What is the miracle that is told the most times in the Gospel?” he asked. “The loaves and the fishes. It gives me great hope, because Jesus points out the mission to his disciples, to us.

“He doesn’t say, ‘Whatchya got?’ or ‘What do you feel like doing?’ He says, ‘Give them something to eat.’ … They say they only have five loaves and two fishes. And that was enough. The little they had was enough. And they gave it all. The Lord says to give what you have. Peter said, ‘Lord, you know everything. I give you what I have—I love you.’ And Jesus said, ‘That’s enough. I can do the rest.’ “

Mary’s husband, Larry Dougherty, cited the visit to the rock of Peter’s primacy as the highlight of his day.

“When you looked in that church, you saw that big rock. Someone asked me, ‘Could that be the rock where Jesus spread out the food and cooked it over a fire so they could eat it?’ I said, ‘Well, there probably aren’t too many rocks that size in this area.’ I mean, that was a huge rock. It probably was the rock he used, and they just preserved it.”

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin smiles during
his homily at the site of Peter's primacy
along the Sea of Galilee while holding an
outdoor Mass there on Feb. 7.caption
After the Mass near the rock of Peter’s primacy and visiting Tabgha, the pilgrims headed north to Hermon National Park, where the city of Caesarea Philippi stood in Jesus’ time.

The city, largely unexcavated at this point, stood at the top of a massive rock cliff, roughly 100 feet tall and 500 feet wide. According to Matt. 16:13-19, this is believed to be where Christ conferred upon Simon the name Peter, or “Kephas” in Hebrew, which means “rock.”

Tony Azraq, the Palestinian Catholic and professor of archaeology serving as guide on the pilgrimage, provided insight into the Scripture based on his archaeological knowledge of the area.

He described how in the time of Christ, a large pagan temple to the god Pan was constructed against part of the large rock face. Markers around the remnants of the temple note that children were thrown into a natural spring in a cave within the temple as a sacrifice to Pan.

“Jesus told Peter that he was ‘rock,’ ” Azraq explained. “And upon this rock no evil shall stand. So he said Peter was like the huge rock of Caesarea Philippi, but no evil would stand against the rock of Peter like the evil temple that stood against the rock [in Caesarea Philippi].”

Along the bus journey, Azraq pointed out the type of tree from which Christ’s crown was woven, known as the ziziphus in Hebrew, or by its Latin name, spina Christi (spine of Christ).

“These thorns are shaped like fish hooks,” he said. “And they have venom in them that causes pain for two days [after a person is pricked by them].”

During the bus ride from site to site, Azraq provided other such insights into the history, geography and culture of the region. He also discussed the current situation between Israel and Syria as the bus traveled through the Golan Heights, a region now occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Days War.
“I think the tragedy of the recent history of Israel was clear,” said Archbishop Tobin as he reflected on the day. “Seeing the burned out tanks and the army bases [in the Golan Heights], and knowing about the suffering that is going on, that made it very real.”

The pilgrims spent more than two hours driving from Tabgha to Caesarea Philippi then south through the Golan Heights and along the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee back to Tiberius.

“I picture the apostles moving from place to place,” said Mary. “We’re on a bus—they were walking it.”

At the end of the day, Archbishop Tobin reflected on the sites he’d witnessed, all for the first time, as this is his first trip to the Holy Land.

“There was a bit of sensory overload,” he admitted. “For all my life, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, or Tiberius, these places have been somewhere else—and here we were.”

Day Four -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: "This morning, we will enjoy a scenic boat ride across the Sea of Galilee and proceed to the Church of Peter's Primacy (John 21:16). Here on the shore of Galilee, Jesus appeared to the Apostles after His Resurrection and confirmed Peter in the role as Vicar of Christ with the words, 'Feed my sheep.' The rock emerging from the center of the church is the actual table at which they ate breakfast. We will proceed onto Capernaum which for three years was the center of Jesus' public ministry. Here our Lord met his first disciples -- Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew -- and worked many miracles. He healed Peter's mother-in-law of a fever, brought a child back to life, cured a leper, healed the centurion's servant, cast out a demon from a young boy and healed all that were sick (Matt 8:16). We will celebrate Mass, visit the synagogue where Jesus taught, and then drive to Tabgha -- the site where Jesus multiplied the Loaves and Fishes and fed over 5,000 people (Luke 9:13). Next, we will drive tot he Mount of Beatitudes, the site of the Sermon on the Mount. This afternoon we will ascend the Golan Heights and stop at the Banias Spring that rises from under a cave and is one of the sources of the Jordan River. It was here near Banias at ancient Caesarea Philippi where Peter made his confession of faith in Jesus."

Today's Prayer Intention: For Pope Francis and all Catholic bishops.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Day Three -- Updates and Photos

By Natalie Hoefer

Pilgrims stand in the remains of the
2000-year old amphitheater of Caesarea,
a Roman town founded by Herod shortly
before the birth of Christ. Caesarea was
one of the sites visited by the pilgrims
on Feb. 6.
CAESAREA, MT. CARMEL and HAIFA, ISRAEL—From Caesarea where St. Paul was held prisoner, to Mount Carmel where the prophet Elijah proved God’s supremacy over pagan gods, to Stella Maris where Elijah is believed to have lived in a cave, the pilgrims followed in the footsteps of biblical giants on the third day of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. (See a photo gallery from their day)

The day began in Caesarea, a Roman city on the Mediterranean Sea founded by Herod shortly before the birth of Christ. Here, St. Paul was imprisoned for two years. And here, a few centuries later, Christians persecuted by the Romans were fed to lions in the hippodrome included in the ancient city complex.

In the midst of the impressive 2,000-year-old architectural remains and engineering feats of the Romans, pilgrim Katherine Krapf, a member of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis, put the site’s significance in proper order: “To think we’re walking where the blood of Christians was spilled,” she said.

Nine centuries before Caesarea was built, blood was also spilled. As the story is relayed in 1 Kings chapter 18, pagan religions practicing child sacrifice had taken hold in Israel. The prophet Elijah won a sacrificial showdown of sorts, proving his God to be the one true God.

The showdown took place on Mt. Carmel, which is actually a 25-mile range of mountains rather than a single peak. High on a southern peak of the range overlooking the Valley of Armageddon, a Carmelite monastery now stands near what is believed to be the site where Elijah challenged the pagan prophets.

“The view was unreal in every direction,” said Mary Klusas of SS. Francis and Clare Parish in Greenwood.

With the valley sprawling far behind her, Domoni Rouse smiled for a photo with Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin. It was, after all, her 64th birthday.

“To walk in Jesus’ steps on your birthday, to be in the Holy Land on your birthday—it can’t get any better than this!” said the member of St. Rita Parish in Indianapolis.

She found the Carmelite monastery and its view to be “amazing.”

“It’s something to travel and see things you only see on TV,” she commented. “But when you travel and see things like this and it’s in your spirit, too, there’s no comparison. It’s such a wonderful feeling.”

Rouse was one of many pilgrims who purchased a scapular at the monastery atop the mount for which the order takes its name.

The Carmelite order is known for wearing the scapular, two pieces of cloth bearing religious images and worn around the neck. At the Carmelite monastery, pilgrims had the opportunity to purchase scapulars which Archbishop Tobin blessed then in a special ceremony.

 “The tradition [of wearing the scapular] began when the people who couldn’t live like monks and nuns [began also wearing the scapular] to find holiness, … trying in the circumstances of their own lives to live the values that motivated these women and men to leave all and follow Christ,” he explained during the short service.

“My own founder, St. Alphonsus [Liguori], said that God wants all people to be saints, but each in their own vocation. We find holiness in our own vocation. The scapular is a way of us showing solidarity with people who are pursuing holiness in [a religious] vocation.”

From the monastery, the pilgrims traveled north to Haifa where the northern slopes of Mount Carmel meet the Mediterranean Sea. Here lies another Carmelite monastery and minor basilica called Stella Maris—“The Star of the Sea.” The basilica includes an enshrined cave that is believed to have been habituated at one time by Elijah.

During his homily in a chapel at Stella Maris, Archbishop Tobin spoke of the importance of quiet in the life of a Christian.

“To be a human being, truly human, means to be able to be quiet—without falling asleep,” the archbishop said. “When I think of Elijah on this mountain, when he’s standing in that cave and he’s told to go out and meet God, … God is in the whispering sound (1 Kings 19:11-13). ...

“I think maybe what we can consider on this moment in our pilgrimage is how important it is to have that quiet time … [and] in that quietness, look for God, and listen for that whispering sound.
“Without quiet, life can become a little like trying to read a newspaper right from the end of your nose—you might be able to make out a word or a letter, but it doesn’t make sense. In quiet we can step back a little bit and let God help us see the whole picture. And in that picture we find the one who can claim our hearts, and that’s the living God.”

See a photo gallery from Day Three of the pilgrimage

Day Three -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: "This morning we will depart Netanya and drive north along the Mediterranean coast to Caesarea, the capital of the ancient Roman Procurators of Judea where St. Peter preached and St. Paul was imprisoned for two years. Here we will visit the Roman Theater, Crusader's Moat, and the Byzantine Churches. Then continue on to the sparkling port city of Haifa where we will ascend Mt. Carmel, home of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. After celebrating Mass at Stella Maris we will continue on to our hotel located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in the town of Tiberias, our home for the next three nights."

Today's Prayer Intention: For the women religious of the archdiocese.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Day Two -- Updates and Photos

The Mediterranean Sea stretches to the
horizon behind St. Peter Church in Jaffa,
where Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin celebrated
Mass on Feb. 5.
JAFFA, ISRAEL—In the book of Acts, the apostle Peter has a dream of “something like a sheet” filled with a banquet of food—including foods considered “unclean” by Jews—being lowered from heaven and raised before him three times (Acts 10:9-16).

Peter had this dream in the port city of Jaffa on the Mediterranean Sea.

In that same city—which, being founded circa 4000 B.C., was ancient even in Peter’s day—Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s Church on Feb. 5, the first day in Israel on the Holy Land pilgrimage he embarked upon with 50 other Catholics, most from the archdiocese. (See a photo gallery from their day)

“It was [in Jaffa] that Peter came into contact in a very powerful way with Gentiles,” the archbishop explained. “It was here where Peter realized that the dream that he had of the descending carpet with the different foods was all a revelation for him for something he probably never considered—that God’s saving power went beyond the Jewish people to reach all people.”

As he contemplated the significance of celebrating Mass in the town where this revelation occurred, the archbishop said he “thought of the challenge of the archdiocese where we’re facing an influx of people from a lot of different parts of the world. Sometimes there’s a bit of wonderment on the part of parishes at ‘those people,’ but it’s precisely ‘those people’ that Peter realized he was called to serve. As a bishop, [there is a call] to allow the Lord to broaden your vision just like he did for Peter here.”

Archbishop Tobin concelebrated the St. Peter Votive Mass with fellow pilgrims Father Joseph Newton, sacramental minister pro tem of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield and adjunct vicar judicial for the Metropolitan Tribunal, and retired Father Robert Mazzola.

“I think it’s good that we begin our pilgrimage thinking about the pilgrimage of Peter,” Archbishop Tobin said during his homily. “Jesus maybe has become an idea for us, or someone you just turn to to say, ‘Lord, if you get me out of this [problem], I’ll never do it again.’ Peter will walk with us as we walk these days, when we meet not an idea, but Jesus true God and true man, and get a better idea of what he is in our lives.”

Although he has been to more than 70 countries, the archbishop, like many people on the pilgrimage, has never been to the Holy Land.

“Just to be here is a way of touching that magnificent love that God has for us, that he sent his Son to walk among us,” he said.

Before the Mass, pilgrims enjoyed walking the cobble-stoned, palm-tree lined streets of an old section of Jaffa, with the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea as a backdrop. The city has 36 archaeological layers, according to the group’s tour guide, Tony Azraq. Azraq, an archaeologist, is an Palestinian Catholic who lives in Jerusalem and spends his down time sharing the Catholic roots of the Holy Land with pilgrims.

The current St. Peter’s Church was built in 1894 to replace the church structure built in 1654, which itself was built atop the ruins of a Christian church. The church is administered by Franciscan priests.
On the next day of the journey, the pilgrims will work their way north up the Mediterranean coast—continuing to experience, said the archbishop, “the humanness of Christ as we walk the same soil that he walked.”

See a photo gallery from Day Two of the pilgrimage

Safe Arrival

Natalie Hoefer, our Criterion reporter on pilgrimage, has sent back word that everyone has arrived safely in the Holy Land.

She also shares the photo below from their departure from Indianapolis International Airport:

Caption: At the Indianapolis International Airport before departing for the Holy Land pilgrimage, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin speaks with Katherine Krapf, a member of St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis, near a window displaying a verse from a poem Krapf’s husband wrote. Click to see a larger version.

Day Two -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: "After arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv this morning we will be met by our local guide who will arrange the schedules of our visits and make the scripture come alive as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus. We will then proceed to Old Jaffa, the world's oldest port, where we will visit St. Peter's Church where we will celebrate Mass and the House of Simon the Tanner where Peter brought Tabitha back from the dead. We will then have an opportunity to walk along the winding cobblestoned streets and explore the charming artists' colony, art galleries and high quality craft shops. Then proceed to the resort town of Netanya where we will spend our first night in the Holy Land on the shores of the Mediterranean."

Today's Prayer Intention: For all the faithful of the archdiocese.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Editorial: Pilgrims to the Holy Land seek God in the land of Jesus

This week in The Criterion, Daniel Conway writes an editorial about the pilgrimage to the Holy Land:
On Feb. 4, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and a group of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, including this writer, departed for the Holy Land. Like generations of pilgrims throughout history, these pilgrims are on a spiritual journey whose ultimate destination is God himself.
Criterion readers will have a unique opportunity to share in this special journey. One of our reporters, Natalie Hoefer, is making the trip and will provide a daily blog at
In addition, Archbishop Tobin has said that his “Rejoice in the Lord” columns for the season of Lent will be inspired by this pilgrimage, his first experience of the land of Jesus and sacred Scripture. Most importantly, the intentions of all Catholics—and all our sisters and brothers—in central and southern Indiana will be remembered in prayer at the holy sites revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
What can we pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis expect to find in the Holy Land?

Read the entire piece here

Day One -- Itinerary and Prayer Intention

Today's Itinerary: Our pilgrimage begins today as we depart on our flight to Israel.

Today's Prayer Intention: For safe travel for the archdiocesan pilgrims.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Welcome to our Holy Land Pilgrimage Blog!

A boat makes its way across the Sea of 
Galilee. (Photo by Carolyn Noone)
Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin is leading an archdiocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land from February 4-15, 2015.
Check this blog often in the coming week and half for updates, photos, daily prayer intentions and the itinerary.
In the meantime, you can read a story posted last year in The Criterion, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
Safe travels to our pilgrims!