A Personal Reflection by Kris and Dee Pellisier
A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a special time of spiritual journey for Christians. It is a time when we recommit ourselves to living a Christian life. Going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a life-changing encounter with the sites where Jesus was born, where he preached and healed the sick, where he suffered and died on the cross and where he rose again. The pilgrimages that the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land leads each year help bring Biblical Scripture to life.
In November 2019, FFHL led a Holy Land tour that included first time pilgrims Kris and Dee Pellisier. Although they joined the tour not knowing anyone, they were faithfully anticipating that their faith and relationship with Christ would be deepened. After he returned from the pilgrimage, Dee shared with us, “We will return to the Holy Land because this trip far exceeded our expectations. Our tour guide led us upon a fantastic voyage through the rebirth of our faith.” Dee and Kris walked us through the many highlights of their day-by-day pilgrimage experience.
Flying: We departed the United States on our international flight to Israel, excited to embark on this extraordinary journey. Nine months of anticipation is finally over.
Arriving: Today, after arriving at the airport in Tel Aviv, we gathered our belongings and departed for our hotel, located on the shores of the Mediterranean in Netanya. We gathered in the evening meeting for the first time with the other pilgrims in our diverse group of both religious and lay people who melded together to form a family of worshipers.
Driving: Today we drove along the shores of the Sea of Galilee to the Baptismal site on the Jordan River, where we had the opportunity to renew our baptismal vows. What a sacred moment to partake in. Some of the highlights of our travel day included Caesarea, the capital of the ancient Roman Procurator of Judea, where St. Peter preached and St. Paul was imprisoned. Other sites included the Roman Theater, Crusader’s Moat and the Byzantine Churches. We also visited Mt. Carmel, home of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. All of these sites set the stage, in word and history, for what was yet to come.
Renewing: After breakfast, we drove to Cana of Galilee, where our Lord performed the first miracle – transforming water into wine at the wedding feast. This was a special day as we witnessed fellow pilgrims renew their wedding vows. We, along with our new friends in faith as witnesses, followed suit in a very emotional ceremony. We then had the chance to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation and later see the summit of Mt. Tabor, the site of the transfiguration of Jesus.
Boating: This morning, we enjoyed a scenic boat ride across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum, home of Jesus during His ministry. We visited the synagogue where Jesus taught, and drove to Tabgha, the site where Jesus performed His miracle with the loaves and fishes. Our final destination today was the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus performed the Sermon on the Mount.
Exploring: Highlights of today’s exploration included traveling through the Jordan Valley at Bet Shean, where we viewed an ancient Roman amphitheater. We continued through the Judean wilderness to Jerusalem.
Visiting: What a spectacular view we encountered from the top of the Mt. of Olives. Later we had the chance to visit the Church of Pater Noster, Ascension, then walk the “Palm Sunday Road” to Dominus Flevit, where our Lord wept over Jerusalem, followed by a visit to the Garden of Gethsemane to visit the Church of All Nations. We were able to view Ein Karem, the birthplace of St. John the Baptist, and see the Visitation Church where Mary proclaimed her famous “Magnificat”.
Touring: This day consisted of several holy landmarks including Shepherd’s Fields, Nativity Church in Bethlehem, built by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century over the traditional grotto of Jesus’ birth. We toured the Manger, the Grotto of St. Jerome, the Church of St. Catherine, and the Milk Grotto. We were also able to visit the Franciscan Family Center.
Walking: This morning we walked along the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to visit Golgotha and the Tomb of Our Lord. The highlight of our entire journey was attending holy mass inside the Tomb of Our Lord. Finding appropriate words to describe this emotional experience is virtually impossible. We visited the Church of St. Anne, the Pool of Bethesda and the Chapel of Flagellation. In the afternoon, we proceeded to Mt. Zion to visit the Upper Room, Dormition Abbey and St. Peter in Gallicantu, where Peter denied Jesus three times.
Learning: What a special day learning about many notable landmarks. We were able to see the House of Mary, Martha & Lazarus, and the Tomb of Lazarus. Other incredible experiences were seeing the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, standing in (and even floating on) the waters of the Dead Sea, traveling through Jericho, the oldest known city in the Western World, and viewing Elisha’s Fountain from the top of the ancient ‘”tel”.
Departing: We will remember this trip for a lifetime as it has indeed changed our lives and rekindled our faith. Today, we left our new friends in truth and in faith to return to our community as changed human beings; with hopes of becoming a voice to share the importance of the Holy Land and how we can join together to preserve this sacred land and help Christians who are being persecuted for their faith. Our personal pilgrimage now directs us to “spread the good news” as it is our obligation as Catholics and Christians and support our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.
This unique and significant experience provides an opportunity to renew your relationship with Christ and connect with Him on a deeper level. The life and surroundings of Christians in the Holy Land leaves a lasting imprint. When pilgrims return from their voyage and resume normal daily activities, these once-in-a-lifetime experiences in the Holy Land are a beacon of light so others become aware that we must never forget our dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Discover more about our upcoming 2022 pilgrimages at https://www.ffhl.org/holy-land-pilgrimages/.
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