Footprints of Jesus - Holy Land Pilgrimage June 2019.
2013 was the first time I had ever visited the Holy Land. It was on a pilgrimage quite similar to this one. I had gone with my family and we had the opportunity to visit places such as Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Egypt. I was extremely honoured and humbled for the opportunity to visit Holy Land to follow the footsteps of Jesus, however the large crowds of people and my group, as well as meeting the demands of my children, really dominated my time and my focus during my time there.
Now looking back, although I didn’t see it at the time, when the Holy Land Pilgrimage June 2019 was first brought to our attention and when discussions were had with Fr Richard Rosse, it was a call from Jesus to come and re-submerge ourselves into the faith. To block out the ‘noise’ of our ever-changing environment and to find solace in him.
Initially, in the beginning stages of planning out the trip with the parish, my husband and I were a bit apprehensive as we had decided to leave our kids behind. However, something in me knew inherently that the kids would be fine, and I had this strong urge from within, from Christ, to learn more about the Gospel passages to deepen my faith and to travel the places where his apostles followed Him. To not be an observer but a true believer.
On the pilgrimage, we were accompanied by a small group of pilgrims from various cultural backgrounds including parishioners from St Catherine of Sienna and although we didn’t know much about each other, I felt a strong connection between each of us. This pilgrimage, really allowed us to explore the path that Jesus took and explore the path that our ancestors took in the plight for Christianity.
Throughout the pilgrimage, one thing that really stood out to me, personally, was the minimal amount of prayer that I was dedicating in my daily life to Jesus and how much more I could dedicate. This experience high-lighted to me I was allowing the busyness of my personal life and professional life get in the way of my connection to the Lord.
The experience of the trip was evermore magnified by the dedication of our parish priest, Fr Richard. The devotion and absolute loyalty that he showed to the faith and the reverence he had was an example for all those who attended. To ensure that our relationship with God was deepened, he organised a passage about the significance of each site including gospel readings. We also had tour guides who were knowledgeable about the historical perspectives allowing us to gain a thorough and insightful understanding of everything, further deepening our curiosity of what everything really was.
One of the most impactful experiences of the trip was the opportunity to be “symbolically baptised” and to renew the vows that our parents had made for us in our beginning day on this earth. During the baptism, I felt like that my sins were forgiven and that I could now walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. The pilgrimage was also not only meaningful for myself but also for my husband who accompanied me on the trip. This is because we were able to renew our vows as husband and wife in our 20th wedding anniversary at Cana, reminding us of our duty to each other and our family and also strengthening our bond further in the name of our Lord.
Being a strong devotee of Blessed Virgin Mary, the opportunity to visit Basilica of the Annunciation and the Church of the Nativity for the second time to receive her blessings was a very humbling and fortunate experience. The magnificence of the churches really took my breath away, the elegance and beauty are treasures that time truly hasn’t erased.
Walking the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering, was quite moving and sentimental. Imagining each step that Jesus took and the amount of suffering he went through really overwhelmed me, as I walked those steps in today’s time, I imagined myself holding my cross and those of everyone who couldn’t be there. To do what Jesus had done.
However, although every moment of this trip was truly awe-inspiring and moving, attending confession and mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the site of Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection, was possibly one of the most influential and impactful experiences of my lifetime. The ability to spend some time in prayer and spending time in Jesus tomb is something that is quite difficult to capture into words. However, one thing I can say is that the presence of Jesus could definitely be felt, and I can confidently say that I am one more step closer in my relationship with Jesus.
The Dead Sea was also a particular highlight, when I was laying in the water, the buoyancy of my body almost made me feel like I was laying on a cloud, and as I was laying down I pictured myself in the arms of God, cleansing myself in his holiness. Also, visiting Petra, one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage and the amazing architecture was unbelievable.
This trip, I can confidently say, has been one of the most life-changing experiences of my lifetime, the peacefulness and strength of my relationship with the Lord and our God has really been magnified. I would definitely recommend to anyone who is considering going on a pilgrimage like this to do it. Take a step out of your comfort zone and you will never regret it.
By Anie Edwards
In Christ Jesus name. Amen
Day 1, Sunday 2 June, flying from Melb to Dubai and to Amman for transfer by coach to hotel.
Waiting for all the pilgrims to check in at airport before departure.
Our group of 22 are led by our parish priest Fr Richard as spiritual director for this pilgrimage to trace the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray for our safety and a fruitful and meaningful pilgrimage.
Day 2, arrived at Amman and were taken for lunch along the road to the Dead Sea before check-in to Ramada Hotel. Pictures of the road to the Dead Sea and swimming in it. Some had a mud bath.
Day 3, on the road to Petra, to visit the Archaeological Park, one of the 7 wonders of the world. Most of us walked 5 km plus another 1 km more to see the Roman Amphitheatre. A few took the horse ride for 600m or carriage for the whole tour. Trying to be gung-ho I joined the entourage on foot but caved in on the return and decided to take a carriage back to our coach.
Day 4, leaving Jordan for Israel and on the way visited Mt Nebo and Madaba. Arrived in Israel and had lunch at cable car restaurant. After lunch, climbed 120 steps to Mt Temptation, unfortunately I was dissuaded from going, sob sob. Checked in Restal Hotel at Tiberias.
Day 5, driven to Mt Tabor, site of transfiguration for mass. Visited Megiddo for the panoramic view of Megiddo valley. Next visit was to Muhraqa on Carmel Mountains. After lunch to Mary's well and the Basilica of the Annunciation. Saw house of Joseph and Mary and Joseph's workshop.
Day 6, heading for Cana, mass in the wedding church. 4 couples from out group and 5 from Bolivian group, who joined us for mass, renewed their marriage vows.
Went on boating trip on Lake of Galilee. Had special St Peter's Fish lunch. Visited Church of Multiplication of bread and fish and then to Church of Primacy of Peter to see the Mensa Christi. Last stop was Church of Beatitudes.
Day 7, heading for Haifa to see world famous Bahai Gardens. Drive up Mt Carmel to enjoy spectacular view of Mediterranean Sea. Visited Stella Maris Church. Visited Caesarea Maritima and saw Aqueduct, Amphitheatre, Hippodrome and Herod's palace. Drive along coastal road to old city of Jaffa to St Peter's church. Went to Visitation Church and birthplace of St John the Baptist.