TO be asked to join the leadership team for the recent Sacred Origins pilgrimage was a privilege and after much planning and preparation it was with excitement I set out with 50 other pilgrims to the Holy Land on our way to World Youth Day 2011.
My first pilgrimage to World Youth Day many years ago was a life-changing experience leading to my own pilgrimage to the Holy Land two years ago.
At that time I wrote that I’d like to encourage all Christians to visit the Holy Land if given the opportunity so this journey was in some way a fulfilment of this desire.
It is a hot, dry, dusty land; a feast for the senses from ancient stones to the marketplaces, from the seashore to rugged mountains and endless deserts.
More than this, as a pilgrim there are certain places that touch the soul.
For me these include standing by the Sea of Galilee early in the morning, riding a camel up Mt Sinai in the moonlight to await the sunrise, standing in the Garden of Gethsemane in the cool of the night, walking the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) through the bustling streets in Jerusalem, visiting the Holy Sepulchre (the site of Calvary and the tomb of Christ) in the quiet and stillness of the early morning.
As a pilgrim one also encounters difficulties along the road but ultimately the reason for the journey is to grow in faith and be ever closer to God and one must travel through both the good and the bad.
Through the hard times we would recite our prayer “… may I remember I am a pilgrim, not a tourist”.
Many small blessings also enhance the experience – being in Bethlehem on the day of the census, on Mt Tabor for the feast of the Transfiguration and celebrating Mass in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when the Gospel for the day is Jesus walking on water.
In reflection, I realise that while every site has its own special qualities the photos don’t quite capture the significance.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.