By Fr David Barton, LC
August 1st, 2023 - Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
Some friends of mine from New York (Valerie and Corina) recently visited the Holy Land and I was able to sit down with them at the end of their pilgrimage and ask them a few questions. I hope that their answers might inspire you and either bring you back to visit if you have been here before or increase your desire to come and experience the grace of walking where our Lord walked.
What made you want to go to the Holy Land?
Valerie: I had always wanted to go and it had always been on my heart. Corina was just finishing a job but decided it was the right time to go. We both had a desire to see where Jesus lived and experience the land where He lived.
What were your first impressions upon arriving to the Holy Land?
Corina: We spent the first night in Tel Aviv which is a very vibrant city. The second day we began our tour and started to understand how much history the Holy Land has, and it was then that I began to think about what it was like here in the time of Jesus. We headed towards Nazareth and we were surprised how small the village is, which reminded us of what it would have been like during the time of Jesus.
Valerie: We were blessed to have an absolutely amazing tour guide and our trip was seven days of stories that helped us understand the history of what we were seeing and the faith that has been part of this land for thousands of years. Our guide read passages from the Bible at each place we visited, and it really helped the Bible to come alive before our very eyes.
Was there something that you had thought of a certain way and was different when you actually saw it?
Valerie: Everything! We have all seen manger scenes and most of us have read parts of the Bible, but when you arrive to the actual places you realize that at times you have been seeing things differently in your imagination. It was so meaningful to walk into the caves where the shepherds were tending to the sheep when the angel appeared to them and announced that Jesus had been born. The Mount of Beatitudes was magical to see and think that we were seeing the same things that Jesus saw when he was preaching to the crowds.
Corina: The sun rays were bursting through the clouds at each place where we were and to see them hitting the Sea of Galilee was one of the most beautiful sights. Every place we went we experienced something powerful. There were a lot of emotions and it was something that is going to take a long time to unpack.
How did your pilgrimage change you?
Valerie: when we get back home and hear the Gospel, it is going to take on a brand-new meaning for us having walked where Jesus walked and experienced where he lived. I simply could not believe that we were standing in the places where the mysteries of our faith happened. We can’t wait to visit again.
Corina: When we were in Bethlehem we had a small Mass right next to the place where Jesus was born. The priest who celebrated Mass told a story about his mother who wanted to come and visit the Holy Land. He told her that she needed to feel a calling to know when the time was right, so she started saving money and finally was able to come. He asked us to think about why we were called to visit and I am still thinking and praying about that. It was a beautiful time spent with my mom and now that I am turning 25 I feel like God is helping me to get ready for this next stage of my life and to solidify my friendship with Him.