More from the Holy Land…

Below is the second installment of Everest Collegiate High School blogs from the Holy Land.  The high school’s assistant principal, Greg Reichert, who is one of the chaperones accompanying the 15 seniors on their tour of Jerusalem and surrounding areas, has been keeping a daily log of their experiences so far:

This (see photo) is the view from one of the balconies at the hotel. We'll be here a few nights. Tomorrow morning we start the day with Mass at the Grotto of the Annunciation!

Saturday, March 31, 2012
We stopped at a small chapel on the outskirts of Nazareth to say Mass. The local priest gave each of us a blessing with a relic of the holy cross. We just checked into the Mary’s Well Hotel in downtown Nazareth, and we’ll be eating dinner, relaxing, and seeing the sights this evening.
Sunday, Apr 1, 2012
Today began with Palm Sunday Mass at the Grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Here we experienced a Palm Sunday ceremony and procession outside of the grotto, which happens to be the largest Catholic church in the entire Holy Land. Within 100 yards of there is the Church of St. Joseph where we saw the entrance to the cave in which the holy family lived and Christ grew up. The entire group had opportunity to drop prayer requests down fifteen feet to the literal doorstep of the holy family.
From Nazareth, we drove fifteen minutes through Cana to Mt. Tabor where we witnessed the sight of the Transfiguration. From the top of the hill you can see Nazareth, as it lies across the valley of Jezreel, the valley of Armageddon from the book of Revelation.
Not a bad morning, as the students said, ‘All before noon!’ We’ll spend this afternoon in Nazareth before heading to Galilee tomorrow.

Greg Reichert

Monday, Apr 2, 2012
Today was a busy and exciting one. We began our day in Cana which is not far from Nazareth in the region of Galilee. There, in the upper part of the church built on the site by the Franciscans in the 1800s, we read the Gospel passage in which Christ performed his first miracle. We then went below into the crypt of the church and saw the makings of the cave that would have been the home spoken of in the Gospel account.
From Cana we drove fifteen minutes to the Sea of Galilee. Directly against the sea was the mount of the Beatitudes where we began our tour near the sea. On top of the mountain was a beautiful view of the sea and the fertile region of Galilee. There Fr. Daniel (Pajerski LC) read to us from the Sermon on the Mount, and we were able to spend time in the church and at the site where Christ gave us the Beatitudes.
On the way down the mountain, we stopped at the church of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. There we saw the very rock under the altar of the present Benedictine church where Christ performed the miracle for the multitudes. From there it was a five minute drive to Capernaum where we said Mass at the church above the house of St. Peter. The group could look down through a glass floor at the ruins of Peter’s house. The ancient ruins of the city of Capernaum, a major trading city at the time, were still present. We also walked through the ruins of the ancient synagogue where
Christ delivered the ‘I am the bread of life’ sermon.
Next we stopped for lunch at the Caffe Vero, along the sea where we ate the fish of Peter, tilapia. Most of the group opted for the traditional ‘whole fish’ – head and all; although, some opted for the filet, and a few may even have gone with the chicken. Either way, the experience was authentic and within footsteps of the places where Christ and his disciples ate the same fish from the Sea of Galilee.
After lunch we stopped briefly for a personal tour of the first century ruins on the sea at Magdala. One of the Legionary priests met us there and allowed us access to the ruins presently being excavated. We saw the ruins of a synagogue from the time of Christ, and its location near Capernaum makes it not only conceivable, but probable, that Christ taught there. As the Gospel states in Luke 14:14-15, Christ taught in the synagogues throughout the entire region of Galilee. We could see the beginnings of construction on the pilgrimage center that the Legionaires are building on the site.
On from there to the Church of the primacy of St. Peter…we heard the Gospel passage here, John 21, in which Christ confirmed Peter’s commissioning as Pope from the earlier Gospel account in Matthew. We prayed at the rock where the glorified Christ ate with his apostles near the sea after his resurrection. The rock takes up much of the sanctuary of the church, rising up directly in front of the altar.
To finish off our day in the region of Galilee, we took a short boat ride on the sea. From the boat we could see the many sites that we had visited that day, just as they would have appeared to Christ from his boat as he preached to the gathered crowds on shore.
It has been a long, but fruitful, day. We are presently driving to Bethlehem, where we’ll be staying for the next few nights.

At the Magdala Center

Tuesday, April 03, 2012
We started early this morning from our hotel in Bethlehem with a 4:30 A.M. wake up. The bus pulled out of the gates of Bethlehem and we drove ten minutes to Jerusalem where, upon parking at the Legionaries’ Notre Dame center, we walked through the New Gate of the Old City and down the narrow streets of old pre-dawn Jerusalem, toward the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the site of Calvary and, of course, the tomb of Christ. We were able to celebrate Mass together at Calvary in the chapel not more than twenty feet to the right of the rock upon which Christ’s cross was hoisted. After Mass, each was also able to reach down under the main altar of Calvary to touch and venerate the sacred rock.

Valerie Fifelski

Valerie Fifelski, a Regnum Christi consecrated woman who teaches at Everest Collegiate and is one of the trip chaperones, said, “Some of the girls said they were just overcome with emotion.  The whole reality of being in the very spot where Jesus bled and died is overwhelming.”

Mass at Holy Seplechure
We will return to the church tomorrow to visit the Holy Sepulcher, but as for today we left Jerusalem after Mass, ate breakfast, and then headed off to the Dead Sea. The students are excited to swim, or more accurately – to float in the sea. The impending camel rides also seem to hold great appeal – a lot of excitement around the camels!
That evening…
Well, the camels were definitely a popular attraction, and pretty much everyone took a ride, including Fr. Daniel.  (see photo)
We then toured into the ancient city of Jericho which is, of course, the oldest city on earth, dating back to 8000 B.C. On the way out of Jericho, we drove up to the base of the Mount of the Temptation. It is a barren desert that surrounds this mountain where Christ fasted and prayed for forty days and forty nights. Just standing there in the hot sun, fully fed and hydrated, is uncomfortable. The experience shed further light on the reality of Christ’s strength in the face of such a harsh environment.
From there we drove down to the Jordan River and renewed our Baptismal vows at the site where John the Baptist baptized our Lord. Father (Daniel) sprinkled us with water from the Jordan, and we all filled our empty water bottles with water from the river to bring home.
One last stop right near the Dead Sea prior to our swim was Qumran National Park, where the Essenes lived and displayed the first makings of a monastic life in the first century before Christ.  It was their scribes who wrote most of the Dead scrolls. Our tour guide, Amer, gave us the further history that at one point, John the Baptist probably lived among them.  Pope Benedict XVI has also suggested as much.
Our final stop was well worth it. The stories about the Dead Sea are true; floating at the top of the water is pretty much the only option. The salt content of the water is nine times greater than that of the ocean, and everyone made the backstroke look simple.
Today was a little bit lighter than yesterday, but again, so many profound and wonderful experiences for our students.

Fr. Daniel Pajerski and friend

About Jim Fair

Jim Fair is a writer and consultant. He lives in the Chicago area and has a wonderful wife, son and daughter. He enjoys fishing and occasionally catches something. He tries to play the piano and sings a little. In addition to writing for Regnum Christi Live, he blogs at Laughing Catholic. And you can follow him on Twitter: Jim Fair (@fishfair).
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