Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas

Yes Virginia - there is a Saviour - today across the entire world we celebrate His birth - the fact that God humbled Himself and became a mortal - being born in a manger - in a stable - wrapped in swaddling clothes - no refined clothing for Him - the One who was to Come - into the world - to save us from Our sins.  We rejoice - we praise Him - the Author of LIfe - Emmanuel - God with Us - the Prince of Peace - the Lord of Lords - Our God and King.

Into this world He came - not as a soldier - rather as a Warrior - fighting against Satan - battling the evils of the world - to bring us - Christmas Joy.  As we gather today - in church - at home - with family and friends - in our own ways - following our customs - cultural expressions of joy - we acknowledge Jesus - as Our Lord.  May the Blessings of this Christmas Season fall upon all - that those who have ears may hear -  that those who have eyes - may see - the Wonders that our God has reigned upon all of us. 

Merry Christmas
Deacon Dale 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Pilgrimage A GIft From God

I was recently asked what the value of pilgrimage was - did many people go on pilgrimage - why do I promote pilgrimage so aggressively.  My introduction to pilgrimage is fairly recent - beginning in January of 2010.  At that time a friend who was in the Diaconate Formation program informed me that there was an opportunity for deacons and their wives and deacon candidates to go on pilgrimage to Israel - The Holy Land - to travel as a group of deacons.  Having been urged by my pastor - "you must go to the Holy Land" - I followed his advice and jumped at the opportunity to participate in my first pilgrimage.  Up to that point - my wife and I had already been introduced to international travel for the previous eleven years - so we were comfortable traveling to Israel. Having already visited Denmark - Poland - Italy - England - Ireland - Spain numerous times - going overseas did not concern us.  We were always open to exploring new opportunities to discover more of this awesome world - its cultures - peoples.  Our initial travels were always on our own - traveling by ourselves - at our pace - going wherever we wanted - nothing to hinder our desire to explore - follow any whim or impulse - going with the moment - unscheduled - unarranged.    

Wensleydale - Yorkshire Dales, England  "Home of the Metcalfes"

Going on pilgrimage - most often is a group experience - flying together - traveling with a guide - in a bus - following a predetermined schedule and timeline.  Initially we had to adjust to this style of  travel - what we learned is that you never turned down a wrong road - never got lost - always had a place to eat and sleep - companions with whom you could share the experience. Thus our interest in leading others on pilgrimage became a priority as a ministry as a deacon and chaplain.  Over the course of the past eight years - we have led some twenty pilgrimages.  Some as short as one day discovering local sites - others as an overnight experience - still others as eight - nine - fourteen days in length.  Our groups have been as small as four and as large as fifty-six. Each experience has always added value to ourselves and those who have traveled with us. 

Poland - Convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy - St. Faustina Kowalska

For ourselves - whenever we travel on pilgrimage - focusing on God's presence everywhere we  travel - in the churches and palaces - in the peoples we travel with and those we meet - the stories we hear and those we share - we learn and grow both in historical and spiritual knowledge.  In hearing stories about these special people and places - we become inspired in our own lives.  Most pilgrimages - experienced by the majority of people - are very similar to any other vacation trip - international flights usually in coach class - decent meals - local cuisine - three and four star hotels - air conditioned buses - trained and licensed tour guides.  The main difference with a pilgrimage is the focus is more on the religious - spiritual aspect of life. Visiting places where well known religious leaders - saints - prophets - teachers lived and worked - seeing the churches and structures - places associated with them and their lives is normally the main focus - blending interesting secular sites in as well. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization - over 300 million people go on pilgrimage each year - the desire to visit religious and spiritual sites fueling tourism growth. 

100 Kilometer Marker - Camino de Santiago - Getting Close To Santiago

On the very old and popular Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain - one of the top three religious pilgrimages - over a quarter of a million people travel yearly - mostly on foot - the 780 kilometers (500 miles)  to the Cathedral of Saint James in Santiago, Spain. In fall of 2013 my wife and I walked from Pamplona to Santiago - approximately 400 miles over the course of five weeks ourselves.  That was an individual pilgrimage for us - the two of us - by ourselves - no group - following a guide book and finding food and beds along the way - trusting that God would lead us to both when needed.  For thirty some days we walked mostly in silence - meeting pilgrims from some twenty-four countries - all doing the same. We meditated - prayed - sang songs - experienced God in all the simple things in life as we walked.  In one hundred degree temperatures - in gentle rain - walking westward always into the sun - starting often in foggy cool mornings - a cafe con leche and piece of toast to start the day - we walked.  In those very quiet private times we drew ourselves closer to God - an experience which cannot be adequately described - one of those things that you just have to experience for yourself.

2018 Holy Land Pilgrimage Group - People from the USA - Israel - London

The groups that we have led on pilgrimage are as varied as the people themselves. We have never had any single group from any one specific location - religion - ethnicity - travel with us. Although a Catholic group in focus we have always welcomed and have had non Catholics travel with us. The one common thing that we have shared is that each of us is still seeking a deeper understanding - knowledge of God and the part we play in that relationship.  Initially as strangers - within one or two days at most - we become a family - sharing meals - lives in common during our time together.  It is not unusual for strangers to develop strong bonds and relationships because of a pilgrimage.  Numerous people who have traveled with us have become very fast friends with someone who was on that same pilgrimage.  Everyone - on every pilgrimage - has thanked us for arranging their experience - thanking us for their eyes being opened by God to all that He has to offer - specifically through each other.  What might you experience on a pilgrimage?  That depends all on you and what it is that you are searching for - we don't have the answer - it is completely up to you to experience a pilgrimage for yourself - to experience it as A gift from God.

For more information on our pilgrimages - where we have gone and where we plan to go - please visit DeaconTravel - CaminoWakers Ministries. 

Deacon Dale 

Adventing We Will Go

Adventing - as in actively participating in the various offerings of the season of Advent.  Unlike Lent which has a very penitential flavor - Advent is much more a season of JOY - reflecting on how good we are - how we can become better.  In Holy Scripture we read that when God created the world and all that was in it - He looked around and was very pleased - as everything was GOOD. Not something - not many things - rather ALL things. The ground that we walk upon - the sea that we swim in - the air that we breathe - the animals that we play with - the people who populate every corner of a round world.  ALL was GOOD.  Simply stated WE are good - some better than others - many good - in different ways - to various degrees - but as THE people of God - whether we acknowledge Him or NOT - we are all basically good.  That alone is something worth being joyous about.  During this four week period we have listened attentively to those who lead - attempting in one way or another - to help us see what truly matters. Not our sins - nor our faults - but the goodness inside - that guiding light - placed there before our eyes.

Inside each of us is an ember that glows - the love of a God and His Son we should know. In this season of Advent we go about our days - seeking ways to improve - to be better than we are.  When these days are ended and Christmas is upon us - we will celebrate the birth of Our Lord and the gift that God gave us.  These days will be full - hopefully not those of stress - rather happiness and cheer - for that - we will be blessed.  In eight more days that One day of the year will be upon us - filling all of us with hope and love and the grace of our God.

May Your Advent Be Blessed
Deacon Dale 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Ireland Pilgrimage

2019 Ireland Pilgrimage - an 8-Day pilgrimage - Daily Mass - Dublin to Shannon - Knock Shrine where Mary appeared to many - Trinity College and The Book of Kells - St. Patrick Anglican  Cathedral in Dublin - Kilkenny Castle - St Patrick Catholic Cathedral in Armagh - Ballintubber Abbey - Blarney Castle - Cliffs of Moher - Rock of Cashel - Croagh Patrick - Down Cathedral in Downpatrick - Corcomroe Abbey. Irish Shrines - Castles - Pubs - Spiritual and Secular visits. Dublin - Belfast - Galway.  Optional side trip to visit the Guinness Storehouse and sample a pint of Guinness. Reserve your place today with a $250 deposit.  **Trip Insurance extra.  For details please visit  DeaconTravel Ministries or call 630-334-5065.

Deacon Dale 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Announcing A New Pilgrimage

Praying That All Families Have An Enjoyable Day
Together Celebrating The Blessings They Share

Thankful For Our Awesome 2018 Holy Land Pilgrimage
And Announcing Our 2019 Ireland Pilgrimage

Yes - Just back from our Holy Land Pilgrimage - Announcing a new pilgrimage!  We have made arrangements for an Ireland Pilgrimage for October 27 - November 3, 2019.  For this pilgrimage we will be using a new travel partner who has promised us an excellent visit to Catholic Ireland.  We will Leave and return on a Sunday which allows those who still work the ability to be gone from work for nine consecutive days while only missing five work days.

Registrations are now being accepted - please contact me for registration details either by phone:  1-630.334.5065 or email at:  DeaconDale-Ireland@DeaconTravel.org

Deacon Dale 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

2018 Holy Land Pilgrimage Recap - Day #10

The last day of our 10 day pilgrimage - a day spent traveling - a long day of travel.  Adjusting for the time difference - we left Israel around noon time on November 1st and returned to Chicago and back at St Patrick Church about noon time November 2nd - almost twenty-four hours.  Five of those hours were spent at JFK airport in New York - between flights. Besides the hours spent on the planes - everything went like clockwork.  There were no delays - no equipment problems - all happened as scheduled.  Our tour guide was excellent!  Our bus driver - very helpful and courteous.  It is interesting to note that these two men - who spent six continuous days with us - worked so well together - with each other - with our group - both from Palestine - one a Christian - the other a Muslim - destroyed the idea that Christians and Muslims cannot get along.  As explained by our guide - the conflicts we read about in the Holy Land - nothing to do with religion - everything to do with politics - who controls the power - the money - peoples lives.  For this pilgrim - I returned home joyful - joy filled - a most excellent adventure.  Our twenty-six pilgrims - excellent travel companions - the eleven pilgrims picked up in Tel Aviv - a pure blessing to our group.  Together - all thirty-nine of us - became a small family -  sharing our belief in the One God we all worship. 

2018 Holy Land Pilgrimage Group 

To wrap up our pilgrimage we once again took time to worship Our Lord by celebrating an impromptu All Souls Day Mass before we departed our own way. 

Praying Our Way Through Israel and Back Home
Deacon Dale

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

2018 Holy Land Pilgrimage Recap - Day #9

Today - November 1st - All Saints Day - the ninth day of our Holy Land Pilgrimage.  The official pilgrimage tour now concluded - today a free day - a day to process - to share - to enjoy a much slower pace - to revisit the Old City - at our own pace.  For most of us - we began the day with Holy Mass - a special blessing at Father Matt's request - Baligh was able to arrange an unscheduled Mass - again - at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

 At 8:00 AM the courtyard at Holy Sepulcher - very empty

 A quick visit to Calvary - one last time - the site of Crucifixion 

 Holy Sepulcher Art Work 

Holy Mass this morning - now yards - not feet away from the Tomb - again a special blessing to be able to celebrate Holy Mass in this special place.

 Preparing For Holy Mass

 Reading the Hebrew Scripture

 Reading From the New Testament

 Proclaiming the Gospel

 Father Matt's Homily

 Holy Eucharist

 Saints in Training

Saints in Training

Following Holy Mass we returned to the hotel to pack our bags and check out.  Leaving our bags under the watchful eyes of the hotel staff we left to walk back to the Old City where we once again visited the places where time was previously limited.  We talked with locals - visited the numerous shops - looked for last minute gifts for those at home - ate lunch and finally returned to the hotel where we met our bus for our trip from Jerusalem to the airport at Tel Aviv.  Check in at the airport was very tedious - the security team at Tel Aviv - very thorough.  Finally at 10:00 PM we were able to board our international flight to New York - a flight that would last some 12+ hours.

Praying Our Way Through Israel
Deacon Dale 

Monday, November 19, 2018

2018 Holy Land Pilgrimage Recap - Day #8

Today marks the eighth day of our pilgrimage - the sixth day of roaming through Israel - the official ending of our tour of Holy sites - one day away from departure - one day from a nearly one day of travel to return home.  Today we make the best use of our time here with our guide - tomorrow a free day and an evening departure.  Breakfast as usual - Morning Prayer on the bus - as usual - starting the day - again - in the Old City at the Lions Gate.  The Old City - a city within a wall - built to protect - separate from the rest of the world.

Jerusalem the Old City Surrounded by a Wall 

Jerusalem's Old City walls, built in the early 16th century by the Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, have eight gates - today we walk through the Lions Gate.

Carvings Designate the Lions Gate 

From here we walk to the Church of St. Anne - marking the place where the parents of the Blessed mother lived - the birthplace of Mary.  Very close are the Pools of Bethesda - where Jesus healed the paralytic.

 Church of St. Anne

 Pools of Bethesda

 Church of St, Anne

 St. Anne

 Birthplace of Mary 

 Excellent acoustics - here groups often sing acapella to hear the sounds 

 Heading to Antonio Fortress to walk the Via Dolorosa - As we walked from Station to Station - we prayed the Way of the Cross - led by Father Matt 

 Station #1

 Station #2 

 Praying the Way of the Cross

Station #3

 Station #4

 Station #5

Section of Wall by Station #5  Where It Is Believed Jesus Placed His Hand

 Station #6 

 Station #7

Station #8

 Walking to Holy Sepulcher - Stations #9 - #14

 Holy Sepulcher courtyard - remaining Stations Inside

 The Tomb of Jesus - Station #14 

Another long line - praying the remaining Stations as we patiently wait our turn to view inside the Tomb.  Once everyone had a chance to enter the tomb and venerate that place where Jesus was laid we moved a few feet away to celebrate Holy Mass for the day.  

 Waiting & Praying 

Entrance to the Tomb - No Photos Inside - You have to see for yourself

 Father Matt pointing to the Tomb - just feet away

 Holy Mass

Following Holy Mass we visited the Chapel of St Helena who recovered the original Cross 

 St. Helena Chapel area

Patience pays off - finally we have a chance to see where the Cross stood - to kneel and venerate that place - to reach through the Star of the Cross - to touch the rock of Calvary

Calvary - the place of Crucifixion 

 Veneration of the Ground Where the Cross Stood - Station #12

Touching the Rock 

 The Anointing Slab Where Jesus' Body was Anointed 

Reverencing the Anointing Slab 

 Outside the Church of  the Holy Sepulcher

Continuing our pilgrimage we now headed to the Western Wall - the only remaining section of the original Temple - the place where the faithful leave notes at the wall - lay hands on the Wall - in belief that prayers said here - touching the Wall - ascend directly to God 

 Entrance to the Western Wall 

 Praying at the Western Wall - Hands On Prayer

 Prayer of Thanksgiving - Prayers of Petition 

Concluding our prayers - we again moved on to visit the House of Caiaphas - now known as St. Peter in Gallicantu - where St Peter once denied Our Lord - where Jesus was kpet overnight in a lower dungeon 

 Caiaphas' House - St Peter in Gallicantu

 The dungeon where Jesus stayed one night 

 The cock crowed...

The day now ending - the conclusion of our time visiting Holy sites - a farewell dinner - time to thank our tour guide - Baligh - our driver - Jawad - the pilgrims who ventured with us.  Arlene and I distributed a Jerusalem plate to each of those who traveled with us as a memento of our time together in this most Holy place.  Leaving later this evening - some early morning - our group tomorrow night - heading back home. 

Farewell Dinner and Time to Share

Jerusalem Pottery

Thus ended our eighth day of pilgrimage - tomorrow our ninth day in Israel - a free day to wander - to process all that we have experienced to this point. 

Praying Our Way Through Israel
Deacon Dale