Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Life for Catholics in Holy Land involves persecution and economic hardship
From Natalie Hoefer at The Criterion:
GALILEE and JERUSALEM REGIONS OF ISRAEL—The Azraq family roots dig deep into the soil of Old City Jerusalem.

“Our house is about 300 years old,” says Anton “Tony” Azraq, 39, a Melkite Catholic who has lived in Old City Jerusalem his whole life. “It’s built on top of a previous structure that goes back to the 12th century, to the Crusader time.”

His family name, which means “blue” in Arabic, goes back much further, to the seventh century when Muslims invaded the Holy Land and made Christians wear blue belts for easy identification.

But such deep Christian roots are at the risk of being severed in the Holy Land. Wars, laws, a poor economy and the high cost of living are driving Christians from the land where Christ began the Church.

This story looks at life in the Holy Land through the eyes of two Catholic Christians—Azraq, who served as tour guide for the archdiocesan pilgrimage, and Alfred Ra’ad, a shop owner in Old City Jerusalem.
Read the rest of the story here

Related: Tour guide gives pilgrims cultural, historical and archaeological insight on Scripture

More Quotes from Pilgrims

Pilgrims reflect on visit to Jerusalem

More Columns from Archbishop Tobin

The latest columns from Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin that refer to the Holy Land pilgrimage:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

How Catholics in central and southern Indiana can help keep a Christian presence in the Holy Land
From Natalie Hoefer at The Criterion:
After 11 days on the archdiocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I believe that were it not for the presence of the Franciscan order as pilgrimage site custodians, the Christian presence would all but evaporate from the region.

For centuries, the Franciscans have maintained the properties of numerous shrines, chapels and churches in the Holy Land, making them available for pilgrims to visit for veneration, prayer and spiritual renewal.

So what can we in central and southern Indiana do about the situation for our brother and sister Christians in the Holy Land?
Read the rest of the story here

A land of calm and chaos: Holy Land pilgrimage observations
Natalie Hoefer writes:
The sky was clear as we sat in the wooden boat that plied the waters of the Sea of Galilee. I inhaled deeply then exhaled slowly, taking in the view.

To the east and the north, green hills continued their watch as they did in the time of Christ. To the west, the mountains of Jordan seemed to slumber in a shroud of mist.

Such a peaceful feeling it was, riding upon the lake in the early morning quiet.

Yet thanks to the small size of the “sea” (33 miles long by 13 miles wide), its shallow depth and its location between two mountain ranges which trap weather systems, a storm on that same placid lake can create waves as high as 12 feet, large enough to swamp the Apostles’ boat and cause them to cry out, “Lord, save us!” (Mt 8:25)

That contrast of calm and chaos on the Sea of Galilee is an apt analogy to describe the Holy Land in general.

It is a land where views like the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea and the lush vista from Mount Tabor can produce such serenity, yet where religious, ethnic and political differences create a palpable tension that seems ready to combust at any moment.

One simply can’t walk away from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land without spiritual growth.
Read the rest of this story

Emotions evident as pilgrims reflect about walking in the footsteps of Christ

A variety of pilgrims from the trip share some choice quotes...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Reflection: A perfect pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Daniel Conway writes:
The next time the Archdiocese of Indianapolis advertises a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, don’t hesitate. Don’t think about it, discuss it with family and friends, or pray about it at length. Say a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit and sign up—right away! If you delay, all the slots will be filled, and you’ll miss out on a perfect pilgrimage experience.

Don’t just take my word for it. Ask any of the diverse group of 50 people who accompanied Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin to the Holy Land last month. They’ll tell you that it was an awesome, inspiring, joyful, sometimes exhausting but always uplifting spiritual journey. In short, a perfect pilgrimage.

Nothing is perfect that involves sinful human beings. True enough. From a human perspective there were the minor irritations of international travel—but no flight delays or other interruptions.

And there was the anxiety caused by “civil unrest” in the region—but we experienced no difficulties as a result. Occasionally, strangers occupying close quarters on the bus or in the crowded spaces visited throughout the Holy Land can rub each other the wrong way. True enough, but this is all part of the perfect pilgrimage experience!

What makes a pilgrimage “perfect”?
Read the whole reflection here

(Natalie Hoefer will also be submitting news stories in the coming weeks regarding the pilgrimage; they will be posted here as the final items for the blog)