It was August of 2000 when I returned to Mundelein Seminary for my third of four years of theol- ogy studies. That year was going to be standout because my class was going to spend ten weeks from December into February in the Holy Land studying, praying, and touring, but it wasn’t to be. The following month the prime minister of Israel went up the Temple Mount where the temple once stood and the Dome of the Rock is now. That visit sparked a tremendous outrage among the Pales- tinians and lead the way to an intifada, which meant the cancella- tion of our chance to study in the Holy Land. However, all things in God’s time….
After almost twenty years I was finally able to make it to the Holy Land earlier this month, serving as spiritual director for the yearly pilgrimage offered by the diocesan Office for the Missions. Ten nights in the Holy Land took me from Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast where both Ss. Peter and Paul preached to three nights on the Sea of Galilee and the chance to visit Nazareth, Capernaum, Cana, and the sites where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, the Bread of Life discourse, and multi- plied the loaves and fishes, among many places. From Galilee, we journeyed up to Jerusalem for six nights, stopping along the way visit Mt. Tabor, where our Lord was transfigured before Pe- ter, James, and John, renewed our baptismal promises at the Jordan River (actually in the Jordan for a few of us), and to Jeri- cho where many great events from the Old and New Testaments took place.
In Jerusalem, I was able to walk in the Lord’s footsteps at the sights where so many key events in his earthly life took place. We arrived on a Saturday night and the next morning, with a good friend who made the trip with me, I went before sunrise to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to visit the site of the Lord’s death and resurrection. From Jerusalem, we were also able to visit Bethlehem and the sites surrounding the Nativity of the Lord.
As I write this, I find myself grasping for words to express what the experience was like and the words escape me. I was told that once I visited the Holy Land that I would never read or hear the Scriptures in same way again and I have found that to be truer than I imagined. The visit was one of great grace for me. I was privileged to pray for all of you along the way and I am grateful for the many prayers that were offered for me and the group as we made our pilgrimage. It was a blessing to walk in the Lord’s footsteps and to meet people of various ethnicities and religions who call that place “holy” for many reasons. I ask you to please pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that those who live in the Holy Land may find common ground so as to live together in harmony and mutual respect. Finally, if you ever have the chance to visit the Holy Land, GO!
Father Christopher House is the Rector-Pastor of the Cathedral and serves in various leadership roles within the diocesan curia, specifically Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.