Friday, December 5, 2008

And Incredible Pilgramage

Our spiritual mentor, Fr. Dennis Brown, (at right with Pam and me during a visit to Michigan for a surgeon to check out a knee injury ... notice the crutch) finally got to the Holy Land. Fr. Dennis was catechized by Bishop Fulton Sheen and Fr. Ciszek (the clandestine missionary priest to the USSR who spent years in the Communist Gulag), and was ordained by Pope John Paul II in Rome. He was also advised for many years by the late Fr. John Hardon, S.J.. From those relationships he got to know Mother Teresa of Calcutta and is still friends with a number of the Missionaries of Charity.

Recently he was asked to come and give a mission for the Missionaries of Charity from Jordan. His superiors said he could go. What a thrill for him, because he finally made his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

What he did in those few days is exhausting to contemplate. But here is his e-mail to those of us who pray for him. Imagine doing all fo this. The simplicity of his statements -- "I prayed here... " and "I celebrated Mass there..." -- each suggest an Ignatian reflection of some duration. And that is what he teaches, Ignatian Spirituality, e.g. contemplations. Imagine now, being in the real places where for so many years he's only been able to contemplate about being there. This email alone will provide for Pam and I many hours of prayerful fruit. Here's his report:


Dear Friends,

By the grace of our Good God, I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in November.

First, I gave a preached/directed retreat to 20 professed Missionary of Charity Sisters in Amman Jordan (or rather at their retreat house outside of Amman). One always gains more, and in a special way with the MCs, when one gives to them. I felt the presence of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta.

I, most importantly, put the retreat and my pilgrimage/vacation to Israel directly under the guidance of Our Lady, as my pilgrimage director. I could not have done a better thing:).

All went "miraculously" smoothly even to the "surprise" of the MC sisters.

I will list in "historical" chronological order the places I celebrated masses, prayed at and visited (that is, not necessarily in the order I personally visited them). I will probably leave some things out since there were so many things. I made the resolution, however, at the start not to "rush" but to leave myself as much time as I desired at each site to pray. That made it a calm and contemplative experience.

I will more relate the "events" rather than what I experienced since that would take a much longer reflective writing (sort of like Fr. Ciszek's two books, in the first he described events, and the in second written much later what took place in him interiorly).

The MC sisters in Jerusalem and Bethlehem took me under their wing and "spoiled" me with all their care and charitable assistance (including feeding me) during my pilgrimage. Their knowledge of the area really assisted me. At almost all of the masses I list at least two MC sisters assisted.

I stayed at St. Mark's Lutheran Hospice, near the Jaffa Gate in the Old City, the first week and in the Austrian Hospice (Catholic under Cardinal Schonborn) near the Damascus Gate in the Old City, the second week.

I prayed at and was awe-struck on Mount Nebo in Jordan where Moses was given a vision of the Promised Land and where he died.

I visited Abu Gosh,The Church of Notre Dame de l'Arche de l'Alliance (Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant), the site of the house of Abinadab where the Ark of the Covenant rested for twenty years until King David took it to Jerusalem and also the City of David, Silwan, where the prophets uttered their resounding perorations during the period of the First Temple and Zion where David first brought the Ark.

I prayed at the Temple Mount, Mount Moriah where Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac and where Solomon built the first Temple, and the Second Temple was rebuilt (prayed also for the Moslems in whose hands it is).

I prayed with and for the Jews at the Western (Wailing) Wall especially during their Sabbath. (Also praying the joyful mysteries remembering the presentation and finding of Jesus in the Temple especially and also meditating the other events regarding the Temple and Jesus and the Temple). I also visited one day when a number of Bar Mitzvah's were taking place at the Wall at the same time.

My first day in Jerusalem I concelebrated mass with an Italian group in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre Church. I spent much time in prayer in the Holy Sepulchre Church my first week in Jerusalem.

I visited and prayed several times at David's Tomb on Mount Zion, again surrounded by Orthodox Jews in prayer.

I celebrated Mass at Mary's birth place in the Church of St. Anne on the Via Dolorosa.

I celebrated Mass in Nazareth in the Church of the Annunciation where the Incarnation took place. We then visited Joseph's house where the Holy Family lived during the years of the hidden-ordinary life. Also prayed in the cave and at the tomb of St. Jerome.

I celebrated Mass in Ein Karem at the Visitation Church. This is the village of John the Baptist. We also assisted at mass in the Church of John the Baptist, the site of his birth.

I celebrated Mass in the Manger Grotto in the Basilica in Bethlehem, the site of the Birth of Jesus. (We also visited the Bethlehem Carmel and the Church/Convent of Our Lady of the Garden). We then visited the Shepherds' Field and the Milk Grotto Church, the site of the Magi's visit.

Prayed in Nazareth in the Synagogue where Jesus where Jesus first learned, prayed and later preached and where he revealed Himself (Luke 4)

We visited Cana and I blessed a married couple's marriage in the Church there.

We visited the Sea of Galilee which was the occasion for much moving meditation, as you can imagine (calling of the apostles, miracles, etc, etc)

Then we went to the Church of the Multiplication of Fishes and Loaves.

We visited Capernaum, the home of Jesus, where 5 of the apostles came from (Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew) and wherein Jesus worked so many of his miracles (healing man with unclean spirit; healing Peter's Mother-in-law; healing the Centurion's servant, etc) and where the House of Peter is. Jesus selected this town as the center of his public ministry in Galilee after he left Nazareth. He preached in the Synagogue there. We visited the ancient Syangogue there.

We prayed at the Mount of the Beatitudes.

I prayed at the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus cured the man who had for 38 years waited for a cure.

I visited, in Jordan, the Baptismal Site of Jesus and blessed some water from the Jordan and blessed the people I was with renewing our baptismal promises.

Prayed at Mount Tabor, the Mount of the Transfiguration.

We visited Bethany, the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. We prayed at the Tomb of Lazarus and the Church of Lazarus.

I celebrated mass at the Dominus Flevit Church where Jesus looked at and wept over Jerusalem. I was very much struck here and spent much time in prayer.

We visited Bethphage, where Jesus sent his disciples to get the donkey wherein he would ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

We visited the Mount of Olives where I also prayed for all the Jews buried in one of the oldest cemeteries on earth.

I celebrated Mass at the site of the Cenacle wherein Jesus celebrated the Last Supper and instituted the Eucharist.

I prayed in the Kidron Valley where Jesus and the disciples walked through to Gethsemane.

I celebrated Mass in the Grotto of Gethsemane.

On Friday I followed and made the Via Crucis, the way Jesus was lead to the Crucifixion, which was led by the Franciscans with a large group of pilgrims.

I celebrated Mass near the first station, the chapels of the Condemnation and the Flagellation. Visited the Ecce Homo site. I celebrated mass also at the private chapel of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy at this site.

I celebrated Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher twice at Calvary, first the mass of the Triumph of the Cross, then at the altar of Our Lady of Sorrows.

I celebrated Mass in the Tomb of Christ wherein he was buried and Rose from the Dead.

I visited Tabgha Peter's Primacy Church where Our Lord performed the miracle of the miraculous catch of fish and three times asked Peter if he loved him.

I celebrated mass in Emmaus.

We visited the site of the Ascension of Jesus.

I prayed at the Dormition Church, the site of the "falling asleep" of Mary and of Pentecost.

My last day in Jerusalem I prayed in the Basilica of St. James where James the Apostle, the first bishop of Jerusalem was beheaded and where his tomb is (assisted at the Armenian's liturgy also).

In Jerusalem I also visited the Yad Va Shem Holocaust Museum, a deeply moving experience, and the Israel Museum which has a marvelous recreation the Jerusalem in the temple period. I also walked many times through the various quarters of the Old City (and just outside in the Mea Sherim neighborhood which is an orthodox Hasidic section). I prayerfully marveled at the various cultures/religions in the Old City living together, in the Jewish, Moslem, Christian and Armenian Quarters and deeply entered into prayer for all that the Christians could live in loving unity and that the non-Christians could discover their Savior, Jesus Christ.

Many times I would go to a rooftop overlooking the Old City and sit and pray contemplatively viewing all of the historical sites of Our Redemption which were so visible from this perspective.

You can probably fill in the spaces I "left blank" above in terms of the fitting intentions I must have had (e.g., at the Cenacle and Emmaus, at Calvary and the Tomb of Christ, etc)

There is a first reflection.

I prayed for all and remembered all at the altar of the Lord.

I'm going to spend a long time in Thanksgiving to the Lord and Our Lady and the saints who assisted me in this pilgrimage.


Fr. Dennis