Friday, August 31, 2012


This summer I have been wearing sandals a lot more than I normally would. Being almost barefoot has its benefits. I know some people like to wear socks with their sandals - I prefer the barefoot experience - I do not like the pebble experience.  You know - how every so often from out of nowhere a pebble decides to jump inside your sandal - usually under the ball of your foot - does not feel very good - frequently actually painful - thankfully it is a simple procedure to stop and remove the offending stone.  While I was in Israel - I wore sandals all the time - frequently I picked up a pebble - here in the Mid-west or Israel did not make one difference.  
I am sure that Jesus and his disciples had to contend with the same issue of pebbles in their sandals - it had to be a normal part of life - wearing sandals and walking in the desert with sand and pebbles.  When I think of pebbles my thoughts automatically go towards rocks - that brings me to Saint Peter - the Rock upon which Jesus promised to build his church.  Even though Peter was not perfect - put his foot in his mouth on more than one occasion - it gives me hope - it gives you hope - that God will be as gentle with us as He was with Peter.

Deacon Dale 

Water Works

I have a koi pond - actually it is mostly a goldfish pond - although I did introduce two koi back into the pond last fall.  Earlier in the summer I noticed that it was steadily losing water - so the decision was made to tear the pond apart and rebuild.  It has taken a lot longer than I originally thought.  A simple re-do turned into a major project and just when it was almost completed a friend asked where my skimmer was.  Skimmer?  Needless to say - I started the project over from scratch.  Just the other day I filled it with water - success - or so I thought - until I noticed a drop in the water level - a leak!  Yes I found it - yes I fixed it.  Finally it is completed and new landscaping can be done.  The fish?  Yes the fish found a temporary home in the hot tub - not a bad place to be - as long as it was turned off.  Nice -quiet - boring.  They must have been happy to be back in the pond - complete with a nice new waterfall - they swim with renewed gusto.
Fish Enjoying New Pond

When we first come to Jesus - we feel like fish out of water - we try to grasp and comprehend all the new things in our life - the new words - they new gestures - the new life that we experience as a disciple of Christ. Thank God that we adapt quickly to this newness - and soon become like fish in a pond - swimming with the current that is the Holy Spirit - rejoicing in the presence of God that flows around us like water.

Deacon Dale 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Holy Land Pilgrimage Epilogue

The 2012 Holy Land Pilgrimage is over now - it has been almost 4 weeks since our return.  Life has returned to normal - with jobs - commitments - back to the old routine.  But we are a changed people - we will never be able to put into words exactly what happened to each and every one of us. We experienced the same and yet different things - in the exact same place. We felt the hand of God on us - we saw Jesus in the eyes - the doorways to our hearts - in each other -  we laughed - we cried - we sat in awesome wonder of the space that we shared with the people of Israel.  We talked with each other and locals - we ate their food and drank their wine - we walked in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior - and already we long to repeat the experience.
Bar Mitzvah Celebration at Western Wall

Our God is an Awesome God!  He provides for us and call us to discipleship.  Just as the original twelve disciples - the 36 pilgrims - all of us - are called to spread the Gospel of Jesus to everyone we meet.

Deacon Dale 

Holy Land Report #11

Day 7 - Our final day of pilgrimage. Today we headed to Ein Karem where we visited the Church of St. John - a short walk later we arrived at the Church of the Visitation where we celebrated Holy Mass, Then we went to Yad Vashem - the Jewish Holocaust Memorial and finally ended our pilgrimage at Emmaus - a fitting place as we walk this journey seeking a better understanding of Jesus and the road that God calls us to walk as modern day disciples.

Arriving in Ein Karem it was a short uphill walk to the Church of St.John. 

Gated Entrance

St John Church

St. John Interior

Grotto of John's Birth

Just as we saw in Bethlehem and at Calvary - the place where St John was born is marked with a metallic star anchored to the ground under an altar.
Reverencing the Star

Moving on from the Church of St John we then began our journey up the side of the mountain to the Church of the Visitation. 
Ein Karem

Deacons Walking to Church of Visitation

Pilgrims On Way To Church of Visitation

Church of the Visitation

Outside the Church

Lower Church

Lower Church

The Upper Church

This was possibly the most challenging walk of the pilgrimage. It is up a mountain side and a bit lengthy. On the way one pilgrim asked who could make such a walk - they were feeling challenged - another replied - a pregnant girl - upon which another person asked - who?  Saint Mary came the reply - as yes - but she was only 15 years old!  Once inside we celebrated Holy Mass.
Deacon Jerry Homily

 Deacon Dale - Father Matt - Deacon Jerry

 Chaplain Arlene with Fransciscan Monk

Next stop - Emmaus - approximately 7 miles northwest of present Jerusalem. How we felt as we too journeyed towards Emmaus - were our hearts not burning inside us?
Road To Emmaus

 Emmaus - Abu Ghosh, near Kiryat Yearim

 Inside Abu Ghosh - Emmaus

 Abu Ghoush - Emmaus

 Abu Ghoush Benedictine Monastary - Emmaus

The last stop of our final day was a visit to Yad Vashem - the Jewish Holocaust Memorial - the second most visited site in Jerusalem after the Western Wall.  What can one say about Yad Vashem - or Auschweitz - or Birkenau?  Not much - I have visited all three sites multiple times each and the inhumanity represented in each place is incomprehensible - maybe one day all crime against fellow humans will cease - we can only pray that it does.
 Yad Vashem Entrance

 Yad Vashem

 Yad Vashem

Preparing to return home - we checked our luggage and in the very early hours of that last morning we celebrated Holy Mass - one last time in Israel at our hotel before boarding our bus for our ride to Tel Aviv and home.
Deacon Jerry - Father Matt - Deacon Dale

This was a fantastic pilgrimage - for most a once in a lifetime experience - for myself & my wife - for Deacon Jerry & his wife - for Father Matt - we all hope and pray that we can do it again in 2014 and beyond.

Deacon Dale

Holy Land Report #10

Following is the remainder of the sites visited on Day #6 of our pilgrimage. I had departed the group - they continued an visited the following: Southern Wall Excavations, the Teaching Steps, The Cardo, the Pool of Bethesda, Church of St. Anne, and the Antonia Fortress. 

The Southern Wall is a wall at the southern end of the Temple Mount and the former southern side of the  Second Temple in Jerusalem built during King Herod's expansion of the Temple Mount platform.
Southern Wall Excavations

These steps - known as the Teaching Steps - were the entrance to the city from the area of the Old City of David below. It was on these steps that Jesus did most of his teaching and preaching.
The Teaching Steps

The Cardo was the main street in most Roman cities normally orientated North - South and the main street of city life. Today only the ruins remain in Jerusalem
Remains of the Cardo

The Pool of Bethesda is a pool of water in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem. on the path of the Beth Zeta Valley. The Gospel of John describes such a pool in Jerusalem - near the Sheep Gate - which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. It is associated with healing i.e. when Jesus told the blind man to wash his eyes. Until the 19th century there was no evidence outside of John’s Gospel for the existence of this pool -scholars argued that the gospel was written later - probably by someone without first-hand knowledge of the city of Jerusalem - and that the ‘pool’ had only a metaphorical - rather than historical - significance. However in the 19th century - archaeologists discovered the remains of a pool fitting the description in John’s Gospel. 
Remains of Pools of Bethesda

The next stop was a visit to the Church of St Anne which was built by the Crusaders over a grotto believed to be the birthplace of St Anne - the mother of St Mary. The church has awesome acoustics and each group visiting is encouraged to sing a song while inside.
Church of St Anne

The journey continued to the Antonio Fortress - a military barracks built by Herod the Great around 19 BC - named after Herod's patron Mark Anthony. It is at the eastern end of the great wall of the city on the northeastern side of the city near the Temple Mount and the Pool of Bethesda.
Remains of Antonio Fortress

Thus ended this day of pilgrimage. Before I leave this post I would like to show a significant non-Christian site that is very obvious in the Temple Mount. From the farthest areas the large golden dome is very visible. It sits atop an octagonal structure which was constructed by Moslems in the 7th century. Conquering Crusaders reconsecrated the building as a Christian church but soon reverted back to Islam with their defeat. Often referred to as the Dome of the Rock - this place is sacred to three of the world's major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The site was first consecrated by the Israelites of Exodus. Later, according to Jewish tradition, Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac upon a rock that protruded from the center of the platform. Later still, upon the same platform, Solomon erected his temple.  After the destruction of the temple the Dome was built. The Dome of the Rock is not a mosque - but a Muslim shrine. Like the Ka'ba in Mecca, it is built over a sacred stone. This stone is believed to be the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven during his Night Journey to heaven. A picture pales in comparison of the structure - you have to see it to understand its significance.
Dome of the Rock

As people of  faith it is not unusual to share in this awesome history of God and his relationship to all men and women.

Deacon Dale 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Holy Land Report #9

Day 6 - Our tour guide decided that the best way to prepare for our 8am Holy Mass today was to walk the Via Dolorosa before and end up at the site of Holy Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - so he arranged a 6:15am wake up call! Wake up we did and in the early hours before most of Old Jerusalem was out and about - we were walking the Via Dolorosa. To walk in the steps of Jesus as He carried His cross to Calvary in the same location as He did is very emotional and a powerful experience.
 Old Jerusalem

 A City Built On A Hill Will Have Stairs

 Did I Mention It Was Very Early Morning

Station 1 - The Church of The Flagellation 
 Station  2 - Ecce Homo Convent

 Station 3 - Armenian Church

 Station 4 - Armenian Orthodox Oratory

 Station 5 - Where Simon of Cyrene Carried the Cross for Jesus.

Station 6 - Veil of Veronica

Station 7 - Franciscan Chapel

 Station 8 - Adjacent to Orthodox Monastery of Saint Charalampus

 Station 9 - Entrance to Church of Holy Sepulchre

 Stations 10 - 11 - 12 -13 - Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

 Annointing Slab to Prepare Body for Burial

 Stairs to Calvary

 Station 14 - The Rock of Calvary 

Immediately entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the group proceeded to the 14th Station - the Rock of Calvary where Jesus' Cross Stood. The spot was marked by a large metallic star under the altar. The group took time to reverently venerate this spot - then moved a few feet to the side of Calvary to Celebrate Holy Mass.
 Father Matt - Deacon Jerry

Following Holy Mass my wife and I separated from the group - as I was not feeling well - our intent was to return to our hotel via the Western Wall.  Walking together through the streets of Jerusalem is an experience that one should not avoid.  At the Western Wall we were met by security gates where they scanned our backpacks - keeping this Holy place safe for all visitors.
Approaching the Western Wall

Western Wall

Orthodox Jews separate the men from the women in worship - at the Western Wall they are also separated. In photo below Arlene is approaching the Womens section of the Wall
Womens' Section of Western Wall

Before approaching the Wall - I had an opportunity to stop and write out a prayer request which I later inserted into one of the cracks in the Wall
Men Writing Prayer Requests

Approaching the Wall (Yellow Shirt)

Praying At The Wall

The day that we visited the Western Wall was a day of celebration for many youths who were celebrating their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. It was a true celebration of coming of faith complete with horns and music.
Bar Mitzva Procession

Thus ended Day #6 of the pilgrimage for my wife and I. In the next post I will review the few sites we missed today - which I had seen previously - so I was not upset that I had to leave the group that day - they were in good hands with Deacon Jerry and Father Matt and Nader, our guide.

Deacon Dale