Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day!

For me, Mother's Day is more poignant as my mother is in the final stages of her earthly journey. Many graces to blessings to Connie Predmore and many thanks for the beautiful way you lived your life.


So,....

Happy Mother's Day to all those mothers of children, at whatever age you are.

Happy Mother's Day to those women who are soon-to-become mothers.

Happy Mother's Day to women of adopted children and Guardians.

Happy Mother's Day for all women who have raised children not their own, and have accepted them as their own.

Happy Mother's Day to those women whose bodies were unable to conceive or carry new life.

Happy Mother's Day to women whose spouse or partner was unable help them become mothers.

Happy Mother's Day to those women whose circumstances in life, whether through choices, disability, timing, did not make motherhood possible.

Happy Mother's Day to those women hoped for marriage but marriage did not come their way.

Happy Mother's Day to those women who grieve the loss of their husband or partner.

Happy Mother's Day to women for whom the timing for relationships did not align.

Happy Mother's Day to those women who remain single.

Happy Mother's and Father's Day to women who raise their children on their own.

Happy Mother's Day to men who raise children on their own.

Happy Mother's Day to our beloved sisters.

Happy Mother's Day to our dear aunties.

Happy Mother's Day to our grandmothers.

Happy Mother's Day to best friend and girlfriends.

Happy Mother's Day to all those women who loved and formed us.

Happy Mother's Day to those men in our lives who mothered and formed us in love and care.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone who has cared for us and nurtured us lovingly.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone who tried.

Thanks be to God. This is your day. Let's help you celebrate.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Stockholm, Sweden


To see photos of Stockholm, Sweden, click on the link below:






















Worcester's Tower Hill Botanical Gardens

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To see photos of Worcester's Tower Hill Botanical Gardens, click on the link below:




Monday, April 24, 2017

Dancing to Abba: A Swedish Spa

On my way to the Royal Gardens on the back side of the Skansen Open Air museum, I noticed a museum dedicated to Abba. I nearly forgot about this 1970's band with peppy tunes. Mamma Mia is still playing in theatres in town.

I was invited to attend a workout session, which was a riot. An animated woman in her 70's, who wanted everyone to smile, was our cheerleader coach as she began class. She was very happy to let me know that George Foreman, the boxer, and a few others from the States will be visiting her in June to watch the way she conducts classes. The show will be broadcast on NBC shortly afterwards.

In class we did a lot of dancing aerobic routines with lots of jumping up and down. I was one of four men in the class of perhaps 40. She played some music and I had a faint recollection of the song from a long time ago and then I realized it was Abba. For nearly an hour we danced to Abba music. It was like a time warp with music, but it fit the beat of the steps. The instructor wanted everyone to be happy.

When that class finished, some of us went into the heater pool for water exercise. I enjoyed this. My hip arthritis got a workout, but without any stress. I loved it. We exercised with tension via floating devices for an hour.

The people at the club were lovely and generous in spirit. They were solicitous of my well being and were happy to ask me about the States, most especially about the POTUS. They can't figure out what Americans did during the election.

It turns out that this club is for the wealthy elite of Sweden and that it is the most highly regarded spa in the country. Everything was tastefully detailed.

It came time for my Swedish massage and it was pure relaxation. Afterwards, I ate oranges and pears as I reclined next to the pool and spent time in the aroma room. I had never given myself over to such treatment.

Well, I had to be off to the next event so I stopped by a cafe for a coffee and pastry. My eye kept being directed to this chocolate covered orb. I bought one. I could not wait to sink my teeth into a tasty chocolate cake ball wrapped in dark chocolate and coconut. I took a healthy bite only to find out it was a marshmallow. Sometimes it is good to know the language. However, it was a tasty marshmallow, so I was disappointed in my choice, but not in the product.

Swedish coffee is strong and tasty. Mmm. Their desserts go very well with the strong coffee. I especially like their almond pastries. Life is good.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Marielund Retreat

The Ignatian Retreat successfully came to an end. The retreatants left the retreat house refreshed and energized and they seemed to profit from their time with the Lord quite abundantly. They were a fun group of people - all seeking the Lord in a new depth.

The group seemed to enjoy, alongside the spirituality talks, the many crafts and ways to express themselves artistically - through coloring, zen-tangles, origami, scratching black pads of paper to reveal glitter, aquarelle, and other endeavors. We did stretching and breathing exercises, an imaginative journey, a guided scriptural meditation, faith sharing, some singing and listening to music to go along with the poems and prose.

Some of the best parts were the sharing of stories and the time to listen to each person's quest for God.

The food was spectacularly Sweden. I enjoyed the almond marzipan treats, the chocolate toffee pie, the many breads and crackers to be covered in cheese, the well- baked meats, the simple breakfasts with its assortment of herrings, and the constant teas. We were always eating. This type of food does not normally make it to my palate. I'm glad I can get some steps in while in Stockholm because I was attached to a chair while at the retreat center.

I left the retreat center feeling so pleased with the time with the retreatants. It gave me great hope and comfort to spend just a little bit of time with them. God provides. Always has. Always will.

Catholic mass in Sweden

I concelebrated Divine Sunday mass today at St. Eugenia Church, run by the Jesuit community, in the center of Stockholm. Eleven Jesuits serve Sweden, and there are about 100,000 Catholics in the country. The English language community is diverse, much like that of the expat community in Amman. I would imagine it is a challenge to balance the various constituencies of the parish.

After mass, a woman ran up to me to thank me for speaking with a Boston accent. She is from Braintree. She said she felt right at home.

Another woman said, "Thanks for smiling. You smiled a lot. We don't see that here at mass. Besides, your words were powerful for me."

A man in Spanish spoke up and said, "Pray for my country of Venezuela. We are having a difficult time." I was happy to reply a little bit in Spanish.

Mass was fascinating because it was all the smells and bells of a high solemn mass. Church spaces are quite noticeable for their expansive ceilings. Two very blonde American-Swedish girls were the thurifers for the incense while two Indians were the light bearers and an African teen was the main acolyte and cross bearer. They performed their ministries with great precision.

Musicians go all out for the services. Six or seven verses are rather standard; we even had ten verses of one song at this morning's mass. Organ is the instrument of choice and it makes sense in these Baroque buildings.

After mass I met with a dozen university students were are dedicated to their faith. We talked about prayer techniques, Ignatian discernment, and why there is unnecessary suffering in the world. One and a half hours passed in a heartbeat and it was time to end, but we concluded with prayer and kept talking. The students, who are international visitors to Sweden, are fired by their faith. It is exciting to be with people who share such passion.

We stayed talking too long that I did not make it to the Photographic Museum, which is top-rated as an attraction. I guess I'll have to return.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Jordan Waters: Preservation for Sustainable Living

This is an article I wrote for Center of Concern, posted on Earth Day.

https://integral-voices.com/2017/04/20/jordan-waters-preservation-for-sustainable-living/


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

First Impressions

Stockholm is an elegant city, a regal city, that incorporates space well into this urban planning. Buildings are strong and resilient and are brightly colored. The building have endured many snowy seasons and they will last into the future because of their noble features. The tops of many buildings have domes, crosses, or steeples. Height and space is worked into buildings and urban spaces deliberately.

Stockholm is clean and tidy with well-mannered people. It is situated on a series of islands that acts as a natural fortress and it enjoys a healthy relationship to the surrounding waterways. Statues within the city speak to the people's need for spiritual uplifting rather than having any need to tell visitors something about the people's spirits.

The King and Queen are a prominent part of city life. On the island nearby the Jesuit community, the Royal Castle, still houses the Royal Family. The flag is displayed so we know the King is in residence. The noble court people mingle with the common folks, but they are set apart by custom suits and fancy hats. Most of the people try to blend into the urban life; it is against their custom to stand out in particular ways.

Sweden has a proud history and I'm ashamed to say that I know so little about the nations. In the ninth grade, I wrote a paper on Norway, but that was certainly superficial. People talk about their historical monarchs and the royal family very easily, but I have no idea their significance yet. For instance, when I asked about Saint Erick, they queried, "Which one?"

It is light by 5:00 a.m. and it is bright until 8:30 p.m. In June, daylight will be present for all but three hours. Conversely, it is very dark in the winter.

People are polite. I have not been bumped into once. Few people smoke cigarettes, just a handful of young women and the new immigrants. Society is wrestling with the changes these new immigrants bring. They smoke without regard for laws, their child-raising techniques differ from other Western Standards, and they have a two year waiting period before they know if they are incorporated into the civil society. They have basic funding, but they do not have jobs.

I passed by the shopping mall, Ahlens, where the recent terrorist attack occurred. Apparently, it was not intended to harm Swedes because it was in the heavily touristed area. Piles of flowers stand in memorial to the deaths and injuries.

With a foreign language and little ability to communicate, I feel comfortable and relaxed in an amazing country. I will have to learn more about this people's history.

Easter Sunday Flight to Stockholm

After a busy Holy Week, it was time to get on the flight to Stockholm where I could direct a retreat on deepening one's spirituality through creativity. Having said the 10:00 a.m. Spanish Resurrection mass, I made one last trip to visit my sister, the family home, for a quick Easter meal. I am keeping true to Just-In-Time management techniques because as soon as I finished packing, my ride was downstairs to meet me. My bags were heavy, but the retreat will be light.

The plane to Paris was full save for one seat that separated me from a young Parisian woman who was terrified of flying. She is a Ph.D. student in linguistics and is ready to defend her dissertation. She asked that I continuously talk to her so she would be distracted. As the plane advanced towards the runway, it was time to fully engage.

I told her that the first thing we would need to do is to breathe deeply. She gasped a shallow gulp of air and then I instructed her on a more helpful way to breathe. I talked her through it, but the poor dear was absolutely terrified. A woman once broke through the skin on my hand when she clinched what she thought was the armrest, but was actually the top of my hand. This woman was even more frightened.

I thought we would be good after taking three deep breaths and then exhaling them slowly, but we have to keep going. Finally after twelve slow and deliberate breaths, we were airborne and she thanked me for walking her through it. The people in the seats in front of us also thanked me because they said they breathed along with us.

This woman said she needed to be in control of most things. I guess I'm more cavalier about flying. If the plane crashes, I die, and the life of others on the ground continues on.

I helped her through the landing as well, but she was less anxious because she knew the goal was to be on terra firma. I felt like I completed my Easter duty of mercy. So, then it was time to watch "Moonlight," a challenging film to watch, and "A Hologram for the King," a feel-good movie starring Tom Hanks.

The next leg was Paris to Stockholm was less enjoyable. Two young boys with colds were coughing and sneezing to my left. Behind me, a mother and her two very young children were continuously coughing and jostling for a better seat position. Across the row from me were the two brothers of the boys next to me and their dad, with all the kids sneezing. It will be a miracle if I don't catch their colds.

An interesting fact that I learned about Stockholm is that it is the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska. When I deboarded, light snow welcomed me to this Nordic nation.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Communion

Today's Good Friday service and yesterday's Holy Thursday mass were quite moving. I have been praying over my current image of God, which is communion, and I have been shown it abundantly. At the liturgies, the following people came forward to venerate the cross: Vietnamese, Dominicans, Salvadoran, Brazilian, African-American, Irish, and other Caucasians. Liturgies were Tri-lingual with occasional Latin interspersed. People approached the sanctuary with canes, limps from gimpy knees, with mental disabilities, with advanced age or the blessings on youth, with families or single, and with many other characteristics, but they came with a common purpose - because we need a Savior. I think of those who cannot come to the church: those in nursing homes, those near death, those without anyone to bring them, those who feel like they do not belong or are welcome, or any other reason. Still, we have to bring more people to the Lord. God is communion and communion is not complete when even one of us is not present.

I had a beautiful Good Friday visit with my mother in St. Camillus Nursing home. We had some chocolates together and talked for a while. I then asked her if she wanted to be anointed with the oil of the sick and to receive communion and she broke down in tears. She said, "Yes, I remember all my prayers. I say them nightly. I like being close to the church." She used so many tissues to wipe away her tears. I've never seen her cry so many flowing tears.

Monday, April 10, 2017

My Lenten Penance

Lent has run its course and my suggested penance had been interrupted by other invitations. For instance, I set out to donate blood plasma and platelets throughout Lent and Easter, which I am doing, and to abstain from meat to be in solidarity with the environment, which I have done well.

However, I was invited to a more personal penitential practice on the First Monday of Lent, and now I get to complete it during the Monday of Holy Week.

I was asked to be the house tenor for the piano and orchestra rehearsals. My first time in singing solo will be tonight. Of course, it is a great honor, which I do not deserve, because there are more accomplished singers surrounding me, but it is an honor to have this opportunity. The fearful part is that I do not want to disappoint the choral conductor or the pianist or to even make major blunders in front of the 140 member chorus, of which many have sung professionally. I am only a choral singer who blends into the unity of voices.

But here it is. This time is now. The timing seems very fitting, but it does not erase my timidity. I have to trust in the conductor and myself, the latter is not easy to do.

Thanks for your prayers.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Art Awards Lecture at BC High

Art Awards Lecture at BC High


During retreats, Ignatius of Loyola asks the one who is praying to keep sight of the larger picture. With that in mind, I begin with a quote from Mary Oliver:

When life is over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.


I want to echo the words of Mary Oliver by saying: I try to live fully engaged in all things so that I can say: I have really lived well. I want to celebrate what is right in the world.

As a young boy, I became excited about history and geography projects because I was able to devote time to drawing maps. To my astonishment, years later I found out my grandfather was a map-maker in World War I.

I enjoyed arts and crafts, but I had an older brother who received great acclaim for his drawings. He won awards and was good, so I never even bothered to spend any time developing my artistic skills because the family already had its artist. I had to find another purpose, so I devoted myself to intellectual pursuits, which I found fascinating, but I was not creating through art. I found new ways to create. I decided for myself that I would never be good enough as an artist. I gave myself poor advice and I listened to it.

I became a successful manager of technology projects at Eastern Bank, where I received affirmation upon affirmation, awards upon awards. I was mostly happy that the trajectory of my career was unfolding admirably, but I kept trying to find something deeper, something that would provide the proverbial cherry of meaning on the top of an ice cream sundae, what we call the magis, in my work.

Christ continued to speak to me to say: Come along. Let’s take a detour on this path. Mary Oliver again captures it well is this poem from West Wind:

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives --
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey, hanging
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning, feel like?

Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?

Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over the dark acorn of your heart!

No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!


Something was missing from my life. Entering the Jesuits was a crucial step for my life’s purpose and greater meaning because I received the privilege of entering into the long black branches of other lives, and I learned how to behold the person before me the way that God does. I continue to find my soul’s fulfillment as a Jesuit priest to give my life in service to others, but a funny thing happened along the way.

As Catholics, we are both a “now and not yet” people, meaning that we live fully for today but in realization of the world that is to come, and we are also a “both and” people. Choices do not have to be mutually exclusive. Christ showed me this during my ministry as pastor to the English-speaking people of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Since I was in a foreign land and I wanted something familiar, I sought out a chorus since I sang in the United States. I wanted to maintain work-life balance by finding a singing group that was English and Arabic. My attempts to find something was frustrating, so I asked a parishioner if she knew of any places that taught oil painting, an idea I had never entertained previously. What was I seeking?: a way to express my real self. I was in an unfamiliar culture and my ability to relate to others well was going to take some time, however, my art interests were about helping me relate to myself. I was challenged by demands all around me, but I was intrigued. I thought of the continuation of the quote from Mary Oliver.

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself continually?
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?

Well, there is time left -- fields everywhere invite you into them.

And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?

Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!


I had to leave my desk and my adventure was just to begin. My priesthood has always been about hospitality and moving the Gospel outwards to those who doubt that God has any time for them. Partially, this is developed because my older sister was born with profound mental retardation and I always sought to have her voice heard. She deserved to be loved as a person just as you and I deserve to be honored and respected. Because of what she taught me, I want my priesthood, through my artwork, to help convey something meaningful. Art is real when it is attached to meaningfulness within our souls.

An Iraqi art teacher gave me drawing lessons, and after a short while he demanded that I learn to paint. Dipping my brush into oil paint felt real. I was part of a co-creating process, though I had no skills or knowledge. It was secretly fun and a little scary. Why scary? Because art exposes a person’s soul, just like a solo singer cannot hide from his or her voice. In the end, it is all you’ve got. Art communicates something essential and fundamental about a person’s perspective and vision. Art is truth, beauty, and it is real. Art is personal. An artist cannot hide from his or her work.

As I applied my first brush strokes to a blank canvas, I also stepped onto a theatre’s stage for the first time. Priest’s are typically reserved about they physical world, but I was asked to sing and to dance and to act on stage. This was more than I was seeking. I wanted to hide within a chorus.

Instead, I sang the Messiah in Arabic and I spent nights training my ear to listen to Arabic so I could perform in an improvised musical performance with a dreaded microphone taped to my mouth. The show, which was performed before a live audience a dozen times, was to be aired on Roya’ TV to be shown year after year. As a Catholic, I was part of a group that brought the first Christmas musical to the Muslim nation; we sang Hallelujah at Christ’s birth in a language similar to his native language – to a nation that never heard it performed before on its own soil – the very same soil where Our Lord walked, healed, and prayed.

You cannot run from art.

Art seeks the true self. You, like the Arts, have to find that true self. Only then can you be given and received as gifts. Ignatian spirituality teaches us that we are gifts to ourselves, gifts that are to be shared fully.

I discovered that being a priest and artist are entirely compatible. The theme of my priesthood is to celebrate what is right in the world. As a photographer, my camera captures the beauty I find in the common parts of our day, even in places of neglect and disregarded places. Everything has inherent beauty and the smallest details, the most overlooked parts, have a story to communicate. Sometimes I will go on a photo shoot with friends and when we share our photos, they ask, “Were we on the same walk? I don’t recognize anything about what you captured? Why did I not see this beauty?”

Whatever art we produce, it has to communicate a greater meaning. It is terrific to show a beautiful flower, but does it tell a larger story? If not, then it is merely a beautiful image, but it becomes art when it communicates a mood, a theme, when it makes people wonder, when it is given a title, when a tiny nearly-undiscovered detail brings meaning to a person’s consciousness, which causes them to say, “I want this.”

God speaks to us through our physical senses, which touches our heart and mind, which invigorates the imagination that gives meaning to our experiences. How do I choose? How does my art reveal my fundamental way I see the world? Can my pursuit of art express my vision of God’s world as richly as possible?

My new art career is taking me to places I never thought possible. I teach art and theology at Creighton University in Omaha, and in two weeks I am giving a creativity retreat in Stockholm, Sweden to those who want their prayer life to be enhanced from their traditional prayer devotions. The world is about unfolding who you are – gently, slowly, patiently, and letting the world behold you.

Parents, you have already blessed your sons by supporting their creative endeavors. You are launching them well. Do not forget to invest in yourself, for it is not too late. Come on a photo shoot with us, let’s plan a night of painting or making zen-tangles, join a local chorus, and watch how you discover a new gift. It is frightening. I’ve been asked to sing a solo and a duet for a Mendelssohn concert and it terrifies me, and what an exciting feeling that is. Let yourself feel once again. God may be inviting you on a new adventure. Give yourself over to it, and your life will be enriched.

I’ll conclude with another portion of Mary Oliver’s poems, called “A Summer Day.”

I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Care for Our Common Home: Protect Clean Air and Clean Water

Care for Our Common Home: Protect Clean Air and Clean Water

Yesterday, the President signed an Executive Order attacking the Clean Power Plan and other critical environmental and climate change safeguards that protect our common home and public health. This Executive Order not only reverses previous efforts to address climate change, but also promotes the further extraction and production of fossil fuels on federal lands. This represents a significant step backwards when it comes to protecting clean air and water, addressing worsening climate change and protecting poor and vulnerable people.

We are calling on elected leaders to take courageous actions to care for our common home.  Take Action!

In his groundbreaking encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si', Pope Francis makes clear that climate change is one of the principal challenges facing society and the global community. The pope reminds us that our care for one another and our care for the earth are intimately connected, and that humanity is not faced "with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental."

  • The Clean Power Plan represents one of the most significant steps taken by the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, our country's single greatest source of climate pollution. Dismantling the Clean Power Plan severely limits the United States' ability to reach its international climate goals at a time when U.S. leadership is crucial. These standards sought to protect the health and welfare of all people, especially children, the elderly, and poor and vulnerable communities, from harmful pollution emitted from power plants and from the impacts of climate change.

  • This Executive Order also reduces the consideration of climate change in government decision-making. The President calls for a reconsideration of the social cost of carbon, a measurement that puts a real-world price on the harms caused by carbon pollution damage, including impacts on human health, property damage from increased flood risk, ecosystem losses and agricultural productivity impacts. This reconsideration will likely lead to a lowering of the value of the social cost of carbon, thus making it more difficult to enact policies to cut carbon pollution.

We know the effects of climate change are borne by the most vulnerable people, whether at home or around the world. Increasing floods, droughts, food and water insecurity, and conflict over declining resources are all making the lives of the world's poorest people even more precarious. Pope Francis in Laudato Si', laments the widespread indifference to "a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation." Catholic Relief Services echoed this concern in a recent report noting, "As arable land and water become increasingly scarce, conflict looms, along with the potential for migration from the most affected countries and a repetitive cycle of costly emergency response."

Today, we cannot remain indifferent to this global challenge confronting the human family.

Let us stand with Pope Francis in calling on our elected leaders to take courageous actions to care for our common home, protect public health and poor and vulnerable people most impacted by climate change. 

Take Action : Urge your Member of Congress to oppose the recent Executive Order, and instead to work together in a constructive way to enact policies that reduce our country's contribution to climate change, protect poor and vulnerable people, and care for our common home.

The United States must take a leadership role in reducing our contributions to climate change to protect current and future generations and vulnerable communities. Let's stand together to move forward to achieve cleaner air and water, healthier communities and a sustainable future!

In hope,
The Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States

Friday, March 24, 2017

Holy Land Pilgrimage: Nov. 6-17, 2017

The Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) is sponsoring a pilgrimage to Jerusalem/Bethlehem/Galilee from November 6-17, 2017. The pilgrimage is led by Fr. John Predmore, S.J.

Throughout our spiritual pilgrimage, we will experience the holy places in which Jesus was born, ministered, crucified, and rose again. Through this spiritual journey, we will remain open to God’s message and will return home with a new and deeper understanding of the living history of this incredible place and of those who inhabit and keep it—the “Living Stones” of the Holy Land.


Day 1 – Monday, November 6th: Departure

We depart to the Holy Land on an international flight. Meals and in-flight entertainment provided.


Day 2 – Tuesday, November 7th: Travel & Arrival in Tel Aviv

Arrival Ben Gurion International Airport. An HCEF Representative will guide us to Bethlehem for dinner and rest.


Day 3 – Wednesday, November 8th: Bethlehem

An HCEF representative welcomes us on our spiritual journey. A visit to Shepherd’s Field in Beit Sahour, where angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. Afterward, we visit the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus. Our tour continues to the Grotto of St. Jerome to celebrate Mass, and then to nearby Milk Grotto, where the Holy Family took refuge during the Slaughter of the Innocents.

After lunch at Al Karmeh restaurant, we will tour the Bethlehem Museum to learn about the history and culture of Palestine since Pre-Roman times. Afterward, we visit Bethlehem University to dialogue with students about their experiences.

An afternoon visit to the Bethlehem Carmelite Convent, founded by the Palestinian Carmelite saint, Miriam Baouardy of Jesus Crucified. Then a light walk through the path taken by the Holy Family through the old city of Bethlehem until we reach Nativity Square. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.

Day 4 – Thursday, November 9th: Jerusalem

Depart for Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives to visit the Churches of Pater Noster and Dominus Flevit. We celebrate mass at the Church of All Nations, in the solemn Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed before his Passion.

After lunch, we visit Mount Zion and the Upper Room, the scene of the Last Supper, and the Church of the Assumption (Tomb of Mary). Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.

Day 5 – Friday, November 10: Dead Sea/ Jericho/Qumran

After breakfast, we visit the Tomb of Lazarus, located in the West Bank town of Al-Eizariya, traditionally known as Bethany. The tomb is the site of a miracle in which Jesus resurrects Lazarus. Prayer and Mass.

We continue into the Jordan Valley to Jericho, where Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree and healed Bartimaeus’ blindness. We ponder the temptations of Jesus at the summit of the Mount of Temptation. After lunch, we will visit Qumran, where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, and will then enjoy the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.

Day 6 – Saturday, November 11th: Birzeit and Ramallah

We depart for Birzeit, located in the outlying hills of Ramallah. Birzeit is also known as ancient Berzetho from the Greek –Roman period, to meet the local parish who will teach us about the history of local Christians, and the church’s archeological significance, which houses artifacts from the stone and bronze age. We celebrate Mass in the church.

We then visit HCEF’s the elders at the Birzeit Senior Citizen Center, hearing their stories and breaking bread with them. We then visit Jifna, a small scenic village that was an important Roman-Byzantine city. Previously known as Gophna of Josephus, Jifna was the region’s capital during the first century AD. Afterward, we travel to Ramallah to visit the Church of Hope, opened in 1954 to support those seeking refuge from conflict. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.

Day 7 – Sunday, November 12th: Jerusalem

We depart very early for Jerusalem to walk the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering) through the narrow alleys and bazaars of the Old City, ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Tomb of Christ where we will celebrate Mass. Afterward, we visit the Church of the Redeemer, and meet with a representative of the Christian Religious Leaders of Jerusalem.

After lunch, we will enjoy free time in Jerusalem. We visit the Dome of the Rock, the Golden Gate, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount. We continue to the Jesuit Pontifical Biblical Institute before we return for a farewell dinner with the HCEF staff during our final night in Bethlehem. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.

Day 8—Monday, November 13th: Nablus/ Jenin

We depart for Nablus (Neapolis), founded in 72 AD by the Flavian Emperors on the northern slope of Mount Gerizim. There, we visit Jacob's Well, where Jesus met the Samaritan woman who offered him water, and celebrate Mass in the church. Afterward, we tour Nablus’ Old City and Mount Gerizim, a revered mountain by the Samaritans. After lunch, we travel to Sebastia, associated with John the Baptist, and we view the Roman tombs, a Hellenistic Tower, and the Herodion Gate Towers. We head to Jenin to visit the Church of Burqin, considered the third oldest church in the world, situated where Jesus cured the ten lepers. Dinner and overnight in Jenin.

Day 9—Tuesday, November 14th: Nazareth/Mount Tabor

We depart for Mount Tabor, the site of the transfiguration to enjoy the Valley of Jezreal. We visit the Church in Cana, the site of the first miracle, changing water into wine. Married couples may renew their wedding vows. We travel to Nazareth to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation where the Angel Gabriel first told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. Mass at the Basilica of the Nativity.

While in Nazareth, we will also see Mary’s well and Joseph's workshop. Dinner and overnight in Nazareth.

Day 10—Wednesday, November 15th: Ibillin/Mt Carmel/ Haifa

We depart for Ibillin to tour Mar Elias schools, known for educating children of all ethnic and religious backgrounds based upon peace, reconciliation, respect, and justice. We meet with representatives from the 3,000 students and faculty of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze heritage who work as one community. After lunch, we go to Haifa to visit Mt Carmel, where the prophet Elijah performed miracles, and the first Carmelite monastery was developed in the thirteenth century. The city of Haifa sweeps up the slopes of Mt. Carmel and is home to many cultural and educational institutions. No visit to Haifa is complete without touring the restored Templar Colony, the Bahá’í Shrine and Gardens, Elijah’s cave, and Stella Maris Church and Monastery. Dinner and overnight in Nazareth.


Day 11—Thursday, November 16th: Sea of Galilee

We depart for the Sea Galilee, to the Mount of Beatitudes and read the Sermon on the Mount. Prayer and Mass. We continue to Tabgha (Heptapegon) to the Church of the Multiplication of Fish and Loaves to admire a well-conserved 5th Century Byzantine mosaic.

Afterward, we visit the chapel of the Primacy of Peter and continue to Magdala Synagogue. We travel to Capernaum, the town of Jesus to see the ruins, the remains of Peter’s House, the “Insula Sacra,” and the White Synagogue. During a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, we will reflect on Jesus’ calming of the wind and the waves.

Dinner and overnight in Nazareth


Day 12: Friday, November 17th: Return home

After an early morning transfer to the airport, we fly home, however our faith journey will continue in a new, invigorated way. We will have met the descendants of the first disciples of Jesus and witnessed how the people of the Holy Land strive to build bridges of justice, peace, and reconciliation. They will enable us to interpret contemporary news from the region in a different way. A Living Stones pilgrimage will enrich and permanently change your life.

Notes:

Itinerary is subject to change without notice.
Itinerary includes interactions with the Living Stones
Meeting with church leaders may be changed depending upon their schedules.