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Holy Land Pilgrimage

Youth Bloggers

Welcome to the blog dedicated to covering the archdiocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land -- a kickoff event to a year of celebration for the 175th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Our young adults bloggers on the trip will be sending back photos, updates and sound files as the pilgrimage continues.

Blog entries

All posts are in order from newest to oldest and dated in Indiana time

Bonus Photo Gallery

See photos taken by Carolyn Noone, the archdiocesan associate director for special events

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 1:22 p.m. on Monday, October 2, 2008


Final Reflection

From the young adult bloggers:

We visited many holy places over the course of our pilgrimage.  We prayed at the spot of the Annunciation and celebrated Mass above Christ’s boyhood home.  We visited the place of his baptism in the Jordan and the desert where he was tested by the devil.  We walked around the hillside and celebrated the Eucharist where he gave us the beatitudes, and we saw Capernaum, where much of his ministry took place.  Finally, we entered the upper room, stopped for a moment to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, carried the cross along the Via Dolorosa, ascended Calvary, and touched a cold stone slab in an empty tomb. 

These places add a layer of reality to the Scriptures for me, but most of them are also very different from the time of Christ.  The city has been built up around them, shops selling goods (both sacred and profane) are found at almost every site, and the current churches are the 3rd, 4th, or 5th on that site.  There were certainly moments of wonder and reflection, but I found there were just as many in which I experienced the message of the angel from Mark 16, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been raised; he is not here.” 

While Jesus really did walk this earth between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, it is not only there that he is present to us today.  It is holy land, but it was Jesus that made it holy, and we are in greater need of him than we are of experiencing it. 

Too often we forget the many ways in which Jesus is present in our lives.  He is present in his people seeking holiness.  He is present in the clergy serving his church.  He is present in the Scriptures proclaimed for the assembly.  He is present in the Sacraments making us closer to and more like him.

Forty three of us have been called to experience Jesus’ life in this unique way, but we are all called to know him in the most profound and intimate of ways.  Jesus’ mercy is most accessible to us in the compassionate priest in Reconciliation, not in an empty stone hole on Calvary that once held a cross.  Jesus’ plan for us is better discovered by exploring the deepest longing of our hearts in the vocation we choose by his guidance than it is by standing of the shores where he once called a few fishermen.  Finally Jesus’ love for us is more real every time we receive the Eucharist than it could ever be for a pilgrim visiting the upper room. 

We have gone on pilgrimage at the beginning of this 175th anniversary year and we proclaim to others “We have seen the Lord; come and see”.  And we have seen the Lord in a unique way.  However, the Lord is more present on the altar of the simplest Mass than he is in all the seas, hillsides, and stone streets of Israel.  The next time we encounter him in his followers and his Sacraments, let us take a moment to enter into these great gifts so that we may be able to say to others, “We have seen, heard, touched, consumed, experienced … the Lord; come and see.”

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 1:07 p.m. on Monday, October 2, 2008


Last Day

The Upper RoomToday, like all of the other mornings here in Israel, we started the day with the traditional buffet style tourist breakfast. We then gathered onto to our tour bus for a 15 min bus ride to Dormition Abby, an early 1900 German Benediction church dedicated to the site where Christians had for centuries commemorated the dormition of Mary. Built in the style of the large Romanesque churches of the Rhein area, the present basilica stands on the ruins of the Byzantine Hagia Sion.

As we entered the Church we were greeted by several beautiful mosaics representing St. Boniface, St Lioba, St. John the Baptist, and Mary, the patron saint of Bavaria. In the circular apse, above the altar, an incredible shining mosaic of Mary with the child Jesus. The words “I am the Light of the World” are inscribed on the open book that the child Jesus is holding.  (Click here for a photo gallery from this day)

Father John was the main celebrant for Mass along with Archbishop Buechlein and Fr. Scott. The intentions today were in thanksgiving for our faith and a successful pilgrimage. In today’s homily Fr. John reminded us of this and on how far we have come as pilgrims. When we first started our trip we didn’t know each other and that once we let down our guards we grew together, made bonds, and experienced Christ together.

After Mass, we made our way to the crypt of Mary below the main floor of the Church. The rotunda of the crypt recalls the Holy Sepulchre and the resurrection of Jesus. In its center, surrounded by six pillars, lies the statue of the Mother of God, asleep. This is where, according to ancient Christian tradition, Mary spent the remainder of her earthly life.

After Mass we returned to our hotel to pack our bags and check out of our rooms. It seemed like we had just arrived, that the 10 days of our pilgrimage flew by just flew by. Although some were sadden to leave this Holy Land, some I am sure, like myself, can not wait to return and share our experience. Saying goodbye to the good ole’ Dan Panorama hotel, we then made our way to Mount Zion to see the Upper Room. This room commemorates the room where Jesus shared his last supper with his disciples and also where they were gathered when the Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost. As we reflected upon the mystery of the Eucharist in this space, flashbacks of each of our own celebrations this week came to mind. Just as the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, so too was each Mass on this pilgrimage.

Way of the CrossContinuing to retrace the final days of the life of Christ, we made our way to the Old City. Lead by the Archbishop, we picked up a wooden cross about 1/3 the size Christ carried and made our way following the Via Dolorosa: the Way of the Cross. Each member of our pilgrimage was able to share in carrying the Cross through the busy cramped streets of the Old City. I think it would be safe to say that each one of us has a cross to carry physical or not and by actually retracing and experiencing a fraction of what Christ did 2,000 years ago we will never be the same; certainly our crosses don’t seem as big as we once thought.

The final journey of Christ on earth led us to the Holy Sepulchre (sepulchre is from the Greek word for tomb). We ascended the steps to Calvary to reflect upon the spot where Christ suffered and died on the cross. Although there were many pilgrims there with us, benches near the walls afforded those wishing to spend some extra time in thought a peaceful setting. Only a few hundred yards from Calvary lies the site of the tomb of Christ. Inside this particular apse of the Church lies a freestanding crypt. Stooping through the doorway, only a few people at a time have the opportunity to enter the empty tomb. Similar to the Church of the Nativity, there are several faiths holding “ownership” to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Before we celebrated our final Mass, there was an Armenian procession around the Church and then a Eucharistic Benediction by the Franciscans entering the chapel while we waited for Mass to begin. This was an unexpected and very powerful experience. As priests, pilgrims, nuns, and even tourists filed into the small chapel, the beautiful Latin voices hung in the air.

At the end of Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Buechlein in this chapel only a few yards from the tomb, we ended with our own moving hymn of praise, Salve Regina.  In this atmosphere of faith, young and old together were transported from our modern day to the time and life of Christ. Such a beautiful way to end our pilgrimage together.

Bags packed and souvenirs stuffed for loved ones at home we boarded our tour bus and drove to Tel Aviv for our departure home. Although this is our last “live” blog, there will be at least one more entry to come in the next few days including reflections on our journey. We have all experienced so much, physically and spiritually in the last week and a half, it is hard to capture everything as it happens. We’ll get back to you soon…but until then we invite you to share your own impressions with others as you’ve followed along this journey and invite them also to “Come and See!”

See a photo gallery from this day

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 9:19 a.m. on Monday, September 29, 2008


Roman and Relaxing

Armenian ChurchAfter a few days on the go, today was mostly a free day.

Our morning began with Mass at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem. We were greeted by a witty priest from Ireland who happened to live in Indiana; he was excited to greet us and show us around the Institute.  Being on such a tight schedule for the past few days, Fr. Kelly was sure to remind us that when God created time he was sure to make plenty of it.  So we started our day with a few laughs.  

Our Mass today, offered by Fr. Rick, was for the intentions of vocations, not just to priesthood or consecrated life, but for all of us that we grow in holiness through whatever vocation we discern; priesthood, religious, consecrated life, marriage, or single life. After Mass, we were given a private tour of and exhibit that the Institute was housing, dealing with the Shroud of Turin, in which extensive scientific evidence and research was used to support the validity of the shroud.  The amount of space and pictures we could include would be very lengthy.  Suffice it to say that the exhibit was convincing, inspiring, and even at times spiritual. We ended joining together in beautiful song that prepared us for a walk over to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (Click here for a photo gallery from this day)

While some of us bloggers took some extra time at this great church (we’ll be going there as a group tomorrow), others did some shopping or walked around the Old City. With so many things to do, especially in the Old City, we could have spent days walking around. There was the opportunity to witness an Eastern Orthodox procession later in the day, which you can see in the pictures. The man with the 3 crosses is the Greek Orthodox Patriarch or Jerusalem.

Eastern Orthodox processionWhile taking some time of my own to explore the Armenian quarter today I had an interesting encounter with a young man.  His name was Sevan (I told him I’d say hey to him on the blog).  Sevan is from Armenia and is an Orthodox Christian who has lived in Jerusalem for the last twenty years.  I met Sevan when I stumbled into the Armenian Cathedral in the southern part of the Armenian quarter.  Sevan showed me around the Cathedral, the convent, school, and even some of the houses in the area, ending with a walking tour of the area on the rooftops of the buildings.  The last thing he showed me was the house he one day hopes to buy that is on the Cathedral property.  Sevan is 28 and married with three kids.  He has a house outside the city and an apartment inside the city where he lives during the week instead of commuting every day to his job as care-taker of the Cathedral.  We talked for a while about the challenges of married life and the blessings of family, and he gave me some advice as a recently engaged man.  In the end, we exchanged emails, took a picture, and promised to visit if he should ever be in the states and if I should be in Jerusalem again I have a place to stay.  Coming and going to all the different holy sites I think we have all felt a sense of spiritual welcome in the past nine days.  How much Sevan blessed me today in showing me around his part of town and making sure that I will be welcome in his home should I ever make it back to this sacred place.

Tomorrow we begin our final day and journey home.  We have an early morning visit to the church where Mary was assumed into heaven and then a visit to the upper room where the Last Supper was held and Christ instituted the Eucharist.  From there we mark the final steps of our journey with the final steps of Christ.  From the upper room we will walk the Via Dolorosa (the stations of the cross at their historical sites in the old city), ending our pilgrimage at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where we will ascend Calvary, step into the tomb of Christ, and end our prayer in fantastic celebration of the resurrection with Mass said by our own Archbishop Buechlein at this sacred place.  We have one day left and so much more time and history to cover, let’s go!

See a photo gallery from this day

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 7:05 p.m. on Friday, September 26, 2008


September 25

In a ChurchWe started out the day by visiting St. Peter in Gallicantu church, the site of Caiaphas’s house, where Jesus was taken after he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In the courtyard of the church, we saw the place where Peter denied Jesus three times. 

We then continued on to the basement of the building to see the cistern in which Christ was held to be interrogated later.  It was a brief stay, but I know I’m wanting to revisit it later in the week along with the Garden of Gethsemane and the Via Dolorosa, following in the footsteps of Christ’s Passion. (Click here for a photo gallery from this day)

The middle part of the day was spent at two of Israel’s museums.  The first was the Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial museum for the Holocaust.  There we learned about that horrific event from the eyes of the Israelis before, during, and after it.  I was struck not only by the widespread disregard for human life but also by the efforts of the Jewish people to make sure that no one ever forgets what they suffered.  For this reason this museum is the only one in the country that does not charge an entry fee.  The second museum we visited was the Israel Museum, to see the Dead Sea Scrolls and a 1:50 model of the city of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period (during which Christ lived).  These provided a glimpse into the history and tradition of the Jewish people, which is always appreciated when on pilgrimage.

We ended our day in the Holy Land by visiting Ein Karem, the birthplace of St. John the Baptist and the site of the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth.  It was a bit of a hike up the steep slope to the church, but those of us with younger legs were sure to be there to offer a hand to those that were tired.  The lower chapel and the main sanctuary were beautiful and vibrantly colored.  There was also a wall in the courtyard that had tiled paintings of the Magnificat in 42 different languages.  It was a 20th century church built on the location of older churches, but the paintings, mosaics, and architecture of the church were of such high quality that it did not seem out of place in the Holy Land.  We had Mass in the upper church and headed back to the hotel for the evening. 

Now we’re off to dinner. God bless and know that you’re all in our prayers.

See a photo gallery from this day

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 1:52 p.m. on Thursday, September 25, 2008


The Desert and the Oasis

Floating in the Dead SeaFloating around Israel

Early mornings seem to be the theme lately…but we all made it, thanks to a little help from Etan, our tour guide for the week. Fortunately, no one got stuck in the elevator (as they did yesterday morning). Today we left the city for the desert, but first, Mass was said at the Church of St. Anne, the mother of Mary. The simple, church commemorates the birthplace of Mary, which a beautiful chalk drawing in the crypt below the altar. Sitting in the sanctuary, reflecting on the grandparents of Jesus, we celebrated Mass for the intensions of the elderly and homebound. After Mass, one of the friars keeping the church came over and complemented the group on our prayerful Mass. This church is known for its great acoustics and our singing today sounded miraculously better! (Click here for a photo gallery from this day)

After praying for the elderly, we all took a trip to the Dead Sea to become rejuvenated and, according to Etan, who told us many, many times, to become 20 years younger. It was quite the contrast, leaving the metropolitan city of Jerusalem and traveling into the Negev Desert. Talking with some of the fellow pilgrimages, this desert scene reminded many of us of Biblical times, with vast distances between cities, and the settlements close to water sources. The first stop was at Masada, a city on a high ridge, home to one of the last Jewish settlements after the time of Christ that withstood Roman conquest. King Herod built this fortified city as a place of refuge and a stronghold in the desert. When the Jews captured the city in 66 A.D., this became a priority for the Romans to return control. It was amazing to see the remnants of this town. Many of us were thinking, why would anyone settle in the middle of this place? The Dead Sea was miles below and the only water coming from the mountains, after which water was stored in a vast cistern.

Also present in the ruins were large, numerous rooms for storage of food. Although the storage capacity for water and food was 7 years, there was not the opportunity to get that far. As the Jewish slaves, supervised by the Romans, started to prepare for a siege, the settlers watched the progress from above. Numerous preparations were undertaken, including building reinforcements on the main door. In the end, the citizens decided that slavery was worse than death. All the families of the city were killed by the male head of the household, and the man who drew the last lot, killed himself. Speaking of dead…

Qumran CavesWe moved the tour onto the Dead Sea, about 2,000 feet below sea level. Some of us were able to get in and sample the unique waters. It was a beautiful view of the sea as we drove up, the green-blue waters with outlines of white minerals on the shores. It’s definitely true, one could lay on your back and read a newspaper. Another fan favorite was the mud, supposedly being great for skin problems. You can see from the pictures, we had great fun being lathered up in dirt. The water was warm, the mud slimy, and the minerals soft on your skin. But only for 20 minutes…and then the burn hits. And fortunately, we didn’t see too many sun burns either today. The sun was especially hot on top of Masada, and even on the water, without a breeze—scorching when not in the shade. The only cure for the heat – an ice cream bar and semi-chilled bottle of unsalted water. We hurriedly cleaned the mud off in the nice facilities and headed out to the Secrets of Qumran.

Qumran includes the area where the Dead Se Scrolls were first found in 1947. During that year, a Bedouin shepard, stumbled onto large cisterns in the cave where his goat had fallen. Since then, over 800 fragments of these scrolls, which contain the oldest copies of the Old Testament books, have been discovered. It was the Essenes, an ascetic community, who made these copies, written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek as well. The only book which has not been discovered in this area is the book of Ester, which, for an interesting fact, does not contain the name of God. Tomorrow we’ll have more on this as we travel to actually see the scrolls. (Today we saw the caves and terrain of this area).

Not only did this area remind us of what life in the early centuries after Christ would have been like, but the vast expanse of the land is a testament to the beauty of God’s creation.

City Life in Jerusalem

City LifeToday, while the majority of the group took off for the shores of the Dead Sea, Father Rick, Josh, and Joshua spent time in the Old City of Jerusalem. 

Father Rick, unfortunately has to leave the group early on Friday evening to make it back home in time to say mass on Sunday at Our Lady of the Greenwood.  They walked around, went shopping, spent time exploring the streets and the buildings, and got quite the experience of being a part of the living city of Jerusalem. 

So, enjoy some of the pictures they snapped while roaming the streets and seeing all that life had to offer in the Old City!

See a photo gallery from this day

Group Photo from Bethlehem | Group Photo at Masada

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 5:26 p.m. on Wednesday, September 24, 2008



Garden of GethsemaneThis morning we woke up especially early for our first trip to a site in the city of Jerusalem. The 6:15 a.m. wakeup call made it seem tough, but not as tough as making the trip without coffee.

Our morning haze quickly wore off when we reached the Church of All Nations at the Mount of Olives, the sight of Christ’s agony in the garden and his emotional prayer before the events of his passion began. Walking through a grove of olive trees, it was not hard to picture how Christ would have come and gone in this field two thousand years ago.  The fact that some of the trees surrounding us were at least that old made it even more possible for us to imagine that this in fact was a place in which Jesus Christ walked while he was on earth. (Click here for a photo gallery from this day)

The church here is very unique in that part of the sanctuary floor near the altar is actually untilled and unpaved – it is the rock on which Christ prostrate himself while anguished with grief in prayer. 

Our experience in the afternoon was just as magnificent.  For the first time since we have been in Israel, we ventured inside the walls of the old city and to what was formerly the temple mount, where Solomon’s temple stood. All that remains today is the ever-famous Western Wall, a sight of prayer and expectant waiting for many Jews. 

Making our way past security and metal detectors we crossed into a different world.  Military personal, Jewish faithful, and pilgrims from across the globe gathered here to offer prayers to God, perhaps for the restoration of the temple, perhaps for a family member, perhaps for themselves.  A man from New York leans over to place his slip of paper in the wall next to an Israeli soldier with his machine gun strapped to his back as he prays at the wall next to a father and son praying together next to… and the list goes on as it looks as though the world has united here in prayer.

The white stone which every building and street in the city is constructed from seems to have locked this part of the world in time.  Maneuvering through the narrow, winding roads of the old city was an adventure in itself.  The markets that thrive in the narrow alleys assault the senses; the smell of spices of every kind laid out in piles, fresh bread baking and meat cooking to tempt the palate, colorful fruit and vegetables to attract the eye, clothing and religious goods for you to touch, and no less than three languages circling around you at all times.

A city unaware of the problems and progress of the world around it continues as it has for over two-thousand years; religious pilgrims flock to this storied city and its residents continue providing and doing business with them (learn to bargain before you come!).  But, don’t get caught in the moment – the tidal wave of people moving along is sure to carry you off while you daydream, leading you around another corner to a strange and new street waiting for you with a new experience.

See a photo gallery from this day

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 4:35 p.m. on Tuesday, September 23, 2008


September 22 Update

Jordan RiverAn early morning as we left the beautiful lakeshore and headed out to the more urban Jerusalem. On the way, a short stop at the River of Jordan. Walking along the raised area many images crossed our minds...baptisms in the Jordan 2,000 years ago to say the least.

This area of green coming to us right before the barren desert is a reminder of the life and grace we receive through baptism. So we went down to the river to pray....and were not alone. Several people where there dressed in whites, reflecting, praying, and preparing for their own baptism.

As we looked in the water, there were many pictures scattered on the bottom. Perhaps these are people who have been baptized at the spot, or weary travelers leaving a piece of their hearts.  Maybe it is those we pray for to receive this sacrament or those preparing to enter into the Church. Regardless, the peaceful scenery and flowing water left us with these thoughts and our own personal prayers to reflect on. (Listen also to the podcasts for more reflections: Podcast #6: Last Day in Galilee | Lords Prayer | Podcast #7: All About Food)

Leaving the Galilee area, we traveled into the desert, a complete change of scenery. Barren, rocky, whatever you could image a desert looking like. As we neared Jericho we passed the tents of settlers in the area, living and sustaining themselves just as people did hundreds of years ago. Watching them, evening seeing a donkey traveling up the hillside, brought to mind imagines of favorite Old Testament stories. We sat in the bus discussing how hard it must have been, the Israelites, traveling forty years in the desert. Little water, hilly rocky terrain. A reliance on God, in these situations, would have been a necessity. The hardships we face seem so small in comparison, but for each of us we learn in a different way that God is with us, wherever we are. (Click here for a photo gallery from this day)

A small pitstop, literally a desert oasis, left some time for camel rides. Shoo-Shoo was a favorite, although several people commented on how mean he seemed to be. I think there were a few growls to be heard. It certainly was fun though watching Father Rick and Father Scott do a little yee-haw!

As we traveled down the bank of the River Jordan we passed through the West Bank, through Jerusalem, and then into Bethlem. Throughout this, there were checkpoints to be cleared, which was uneventful to describe this experience. We were asked to show our passports just once and observed that life goes on. Even passing through Jerusalem, kids are on the streets playing, walking to school and the like. Just another day in the desert. Arriving to the Church of the Nativity, we wound our way up the old streets and around the corner to the ancient church. Being built in the 6th century, the entrance door was probably only about 4 feet high. Truly a sign of humility, not being able to enter straight up into the area marking the spot where Jesus was born. Each of us was able to pass into a cave - like area to view, touch, and reflect upon the spot of where God became man.

We celebrated Mass then in the Grotto of St. Jerome, who translated the Bible from Aramaic. The Gospel described how we need show our light, not hide it under a bushel. This Star of David, marking the spot of Christ's birth, the first light of life, burned brightly, just as our own lights should in daily life. As we ended our day, we had the chance on the ride home to reflect on the light Jesus has brought to the world.

See a photo gallery from this day

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 10:20 a.m. on Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Galilee Adventures

Capernaum (Matthew 4:12-17, 9-1; Mark 2:1)

CapernaumWe arose early Sunday morning in our hotel, on the Sea of Galilee, to an all too familiar site-the traditional Israeli breakfast “buffet”.  After eating we set out to explore the ancient Roman village of Capernaum.  Up until this point we had been to many significant and holy sites, but had yet to experience any substantial ancient ruins.  However, today we got our first taste of what ancient Galilee must have been like by visiting the seaside village that was home to one of the most important parts of Jesus’  Galilean ministry.

Upon entering the village you are immediately taken by what remains of the ancient Jewish synagogue built in the 4th century.  The original synagogue that Christ would have preached in no longer stands.  However, what remains of the 4th century synagogue gives you a sense that this village must have been in important place in all of ancient Galilee.  The dwelling walls that have been carefully excavated surrounding the synagogue also help give you imagery of what ancient life might have been like shortly after Christ was a resident there. 

Another well known resident of the village, St. Peter, is believed to have lived just yards away from the synagogue and housed Jesus during his time in Capernaum.  The ancient 4th century ruins of a church, under the current modern church, indicate where it is believed Peter’s dwelling once stood.  While not much of the ancient church is left today, one can still get a feel that this small village was no doubt of great importance to the story of Christ and his ministry.

How awesome to think we were walking where Christ once healed the sick and first met with his disciples! (Click here for a photo gallery from this day)

Mount of Beatitudes

Mount of BeatitudesWhen he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:  

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:1-12

Upon the summit of the Mount of Beatitudes we can see the beautiful rolling hills surrounding us. Each of us separate before Mass at the Chapel and try to find an area that we can imagine sitting and hearing Christ give the Sermon on the Mount.

As we reflect on the passage from the Bible I can only think of those at home that have     asked me to pray for them. Each request, asked of us to pray for, are answered by Christ’s words those thousands of years past.  The poor in sprit, those who mourn, the meek, those who huger for righteousness, the merciful, the clean of heart, and the peacemakers.

That each of you at home that have these trials in life are in our prayers along this journey.

The Multiplication of Fishes and Loaves

As we walk through the hillside terrain here in Galilee I think about what it must have been like for Jesus and his disciples to gather here near Capernaum… so many people clamoring to hear what the Christ had to say.  All in all, on this day, scripture tells us there were about 5,000 men alone not counting women and children.  Jesus preached, like many great homilist and preachers have done after him; captivating the crowd’s attention and inspiring people to greater good. 

When gathering the people to him, Jesus did not think about the cost or the large amount of food that would be necessary to maintain such a crowd, he knew from where the sustenance would come.  On a hillside here near the shores of Galilee the Son of Man took simple food of fish and bread, blessed and broke it, and distributed it to the people in an abundance no one – including his own disciples – believed possible.  Simply put, it was a miracle.  God became man touched this earth with his grace, and in this fantastic story produced enough food so that no one was left hungry.

Mensa Christi/Primacy of Peter

Primacy of PeterLater in the day we came to a location of two beautiful passages from scripture.  The 1st is John 21:1-19 (it’s too long to include here, but take a minute to read it).  We walked down to the water over a beach that consisted of dirt and rocks of various sizes instead of sand.  I stood there admiring the Sea of Galilee, skipped a few rocks, and took some pictures.  It was a simple surrounding, but I was moved by the scripture.  So often I have been discouraged or complacent, and our Lord provides his grace.  His spirit causes my heart to begin to burn, and I understand John and Peter’s reaction – “It is the Lord”, and the confidence to jump right in to the only thing that makes sense, the only thing that fills my heart. 

I then made my way up the beach to the church there where Christ said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”.  I looked around and was struck by the large rock mass under the sanctuary that reassured me that our Lord had not been pointing to one of the small stones on the beach during the verse.  However, other than that it was pretty simple.  The Lord was not even reserved in a tabernacle.  Then I left and a young lady asked me if I knew the significance of the church.  I shared the scripture with her, and she responded that the physical church having been built there seemed to be a pretty simple interpretation of the scripture.  I then shared with her our Catholic belief that at this moment Christ established Peter’s primacy among the apostles, making him our 1st pope and head of his Church.  I then had to run off, since the group was heading back to the bus.  I hope she left there with something deeper in the scripture to consider that day.  I know I left with a reaffirmed appreciation for the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic natures of our Church, guided and inspired by Sacred Scripture and Tradition. 

Fishing Boats and Miracles

To conclude the day, we stopped in Ginosar, a few miles away from Tiberias to see the excavation of an ancient fishing boat. The boat, dating back to the early first century, is the type of boat referred to in the Gospels in use by Jesus’ disciples. At the center of the excavation there were some eye opening descriptions and clips of the excavation that would strike anyone and especially the amateur/professional archeologist. When the waters were low back in the 1980’s two brothers happened upon the boat and from there the excavating continued for 14 years. The boat is composed of 12 different types of wood. Try to image building a wooden boat without something to saw wood. You can think how hard it would be to find sculpt the right size pieces. It is no wonder there are so many different sizes ands shapes composing the boat.

Although the boat is not the ‘exact’ one used by the disciples, it’s certainly easy to imagine them out on the Sea of Galilee and in the harbor, fishing, making their living, yet somehow preparing for what is to come. The unlikely excavation of this simple fishing boat dwarfs in comparison with the miracles happening here, from Jesus walking on the water, to the disciples casting out the nets for fish.  Regardless, it’s a marvel this dark, simple wooden boat has survived over 2,000 years.

(Each section of this post was written by a different young adult blogger)

See a photo gallery from this day

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 9:18 a.m. on Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Podcast Files Now Available

Podcast photoOur young adult bloggers -- between taking photos, writing updates and enjoying a prayerful pilgrimage -- have also been recording brief podcasts; that is, audio files containing updates, interviews and humor.

While not a "true" podcast in that is isn't part of a feed that could be used on iTunes or a similar program, I've linked to the mp3 files below for your listening pleasure. Just click on the link to listen to the update.

From here on out, I'll post the latest podcasts at the top of the blog as well as in each regular post when applicable. (See also: Podcast Homepage)

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 10:38 a.m. on Monday, September 22, 2008


Shabbat shalom!

ChurchShabbat shalom to everyone on this Saturday!  Today we woke up early to a bright, crisp morning on the coast of Galilee in Tiberias.  It is hard to believe we are only two days into our trip at this point.  It feels like we've experienced so much in such a short time.  Today would be the first (but not the last) test of our endurance and ability to do many things in just one day.
From last night at sundown through sundown today there was a calm about the cities we visited that can only be described as peaceful.  The only traffic and commerce taking place on the streets was that of the many tourists and occasionally some Arab children going to school or other Muslims out living their lives.  The majority of the population of Israel is Jewish and thus most people today were behind closed doors with family, spending the day without work and focused much on family and prayer. 
Our first stop was at the church of Saint Joseph where Father Rick celebrated mass for us.  The plan had originally been to have mass at the Grotto of the Annunciation, but like so many well-made plans, God had a different idea.  Being at the church of Saint Joseph provided us Americans with a unique opportunity for grace and the chance to let go from a life-style habit of planning and control, and to just go with the day as it led us.  For, what a perfect place for us to meditate upon the unplanned... in a church resting above the family home the most unexpected pergnancies ever.  The impact was great for all of us in attendance, but as we offered up the intentions of the pilgrimage to all children in the archdiocese - born and unborn - you could tell the impact was great for those among the group who happened to be parents.  It was impossibly difficult to comprehend that below our feet is the home that Christ called "home," the room in which he slept, the kitchen in which he possibly learned his first lessons about plants and gardening that would help him craft his parables later, or the yard in which he played with his friends first learning to relate to others.  This is where the "lost years" of the gospels were spent... in a humble home in a small village in the middle of nowhere.  This is where the Son of God "matured in years and wisdom." (Click here for a photo gallery from this day)
On the boatFrom there we took to the streets to find our tour bus, passing through markets and swimming our way through vendors the entire way.  Although it was probably a very small town in the first century, it was not hard to imagine the Nazarene market place in which Mary may have shopped and Joseph probably sold some of his goods... teeming with people, loud and active, full of life and excitement.  Crossing the road and dodging cars, we are reminded that this is NOT first century Palestine and that cars do not brake as well as donkeys and horses.
Ascending Mount Tabor brought yet again another amazing experience.  The steep roads and winding turns (22 of them... yes, we counted) made it clear that this was no easy task for Christ and his friends to undertake.  Atop the mountain we felt like we were on top of the world, or at least this small corner of it.  Mount Tabor stands alone in a large area of the region where no other mountains are.  On the horizon other mountains and villages can be seen, but from this vantage point everything else looks so small.
The day winding down and the sun setting on the Sabbath, we began our last segment of the day.  One by one our group members left the comfort of land to take to the Sea of Galilee in a replica first-century fishing boat.  We took of for deep waters, and although I am sure of her sea-worthiness, I silently prayed for no storms to roll in (unless Christ planned on making a cameo to calm and walk on the waters), because being out on the water is always an adventure.  We listened to the passage of Peter's great leap of faith to try and walk on the water and sink.  Yes, he doubted and sank, but as I looked over the edge of the boat and imagined my own courage (or lack of) if I were called to do the same, I realized what great faith it took to even try.  And Peter, the "rock" he is, sank like one.  Oh, but to have the faith to try.  If only we were all touched in such a way on this pilgrimage, then we have all been truly blessed with grace upon grace.

Pray for us today, and pray for the intentions of our pilgrimage; the children of our Archdiocese... called by Christ back to the Church, or called by Christ to serve the Church in a religious vocation, or called by Christ into marriage, or maybe called by Christ to step out of the boat and try.

See a photo gallery from this day | See a group picture


Click on the image below to watch a short movie from today's time spent on the Sea of Galilee. Be sure to turn your speakers down a little though, the wind is pretty loud!

Video still

(Click here for a higher resolution version if you have a high speed Internet connection)


Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 7:11 p.m. on Saturday, September 20, 2008


Day Two

ViewWe awoke today to feast on a traditional Israeli breakfast---we don’t see how anyone could have gone away hungry.  So much good food! 

After this gastric indulgence, we boarded the deluxe motor coach and followed the Mediterranean coast for the scenic ride to Caesarea, King Herod’s prize port city on the coast.  We passed many banana trees and other interesting vegetation similar to Nevada and Arizona. (Click here for a photo gallery from this day)

Taking up a spot good for listening among the ruins, Julie read for the group a passage from Acts of the Apostles that takes place in Caesarea.  In the passage Peter is summoned to the city from Joppa to attend to the needs of some gentiles.  His witnessing the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people there convinced him that baptizing the gentiles was God’s will.  After examining the ruins of this important ancient Roman city we traveled through Haifa and took in the incredible view of Mt. Carmel and the Bahai Temple and its gardens.  The best was yet to come though…

After what seemed like a never ending journey of winding roads the group arrived in the town of Jesus’ first miracle-Cana.  Fr. Scott, with Frs. John, Rick and Archbishop Daniel concelebrating, said a mass for the married eight married couples on our pilgrimage, giving them a special blessing as they renewed their vows.  The church is also an active Franciscan convent.  With its simple yet beautiful altar, including bunches of grapes carved into the altar and a beautiful painting of Christ at the wedding of Cana, it was a dramatic setting to renew wedding vows.  From there many in the group purchased  Cana “wedding wine” before getting back on the coach for the ride to Tiberias. 

Signing off from a terrace overlooking the Sea of Galilee…

See a photo gallery from this day

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 1:04 a.m. on Saturday, September 20, 2008


Arrival in the Holy Land

Waiting for luggageAt the beginning of our trip we had 11 ½ hours and 6500 miles to reflect upon the journey ahead of us.  We’ve been given this unique chance to join the archdiocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land, opening the 175th anniversary year.  We are struck by both this great opportunity to experience the place where our faith was born and by the fact that many of our Lord’s disciples, following him in his ministry, were young adults like ourselves. 

Arriving safely at Tel Aviv, we gathered our luggage, tour guide, and hopped aboard the bus to our first night out in Netanya. Throughout the day, night, and day (again) the atmosphere was one of anticipation and excitement. Everyone enjoyed getting to know each other on the bus and we began our spiritual journey together in prayer with a Rosary for the blessings of the Archdiocese 175th Anniversary. (Click here for a photo gallery from this day)

Netanya is a beautiful city on the Mediterranean Sea, where many of those native to Israel come for vacation. Checking in quickly at the hotel and heading to the dining room for dinner, we were all excited to have a break and some great food: curried carrots, seasoned beef, couscous, lots of excellent local fair – especially veggies and of course dessert. Following dinner some people took a walk along the beach where there were some fireworks and parachuters. The day concluded with Mass in the hotel, with Archbishop Buechlein presiding. He reminded us that over the next week we’ll be hearing the words of the Gospel in the places where they were spoken. A great thought to end with and an exciting adventure ahead of us tomorrow.

See a photo gallery from this day

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 5:03 p.m. on Thursday, September 18, 2008


Meet Your Bloggers

BloggersIntroducing the ArchIndy 2008 Holy Land Bloggers:

  • Anthony Campo
  • Julie Johnstone
  • Roger Neal
  • Joshua Schaffner
  • Josh Swaim

We are young adults who live, work, and worship within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. 

Over the past year we have also had the opportunity to work with Fr. Rick Nagel and other young adults from the archdiocese on the Theology on Tap leadership team to bring together young professional Catholics for fellowship and faith-based discussion.

Click on the image to the right for a closer look (priest pictured is Father Rick Nagel).

Brandon Evans, archdiocesan website manager, will be posting the various updates that the young adults write.

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 4:54 p.m. on Thursday, September 18, 2008


The Pilgrimage has Begun!

Our archdiocesan pilgrims are on their way -- including the four young adults who will be sending back periodic photos and updates during the trip. Hopefully I will be able to post a little bit about each of them in the future.

Check back in the coming days for news from the trip -- I will post it as quickly as I can once it arrives.

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 5:16 p.m. on Wednesday, September 17, 2008



Download the day-by-day itinerary for the pilgrimage using the link below:

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 3:56 p.m. on Thursday, September 11, 2008


Prayer Intentions for Each Day

The special intentions for the pilgrimage to the Holy Land for each day are:

  • Thursday, Sept. 18—Tel Aviv, Netanya, Seasons Hotel, for God’s blessing for our archdiocese’s 175th anniversary, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, O.S.B., celebrant.
  • Friday, Sept. 19—Cana, Church of Cana, for the intentions of our married couples, Father Scott Nobbe, celebrant.
  • Saturday, Sept. 20—Nazareth, Grotto in the Basilica of the Annunciation, for our children, Father Rick Nagel, celebrant.
  • Sunday, Sept. 21—Galilee, Chapel of the Beatitudes, for our priests, deacons and seminarians, Archbishop Buechlein, celebrant.
  • Monday, Sept. 22—Bethlehem, Church of the Nativity, for consecrated religious women and men, Father Nobbe, celebrant.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 23—Jerusalem, Garden of Gethsemane, Basilica of the Agony, for our youth, young adults and single people, Father Nobbe, celebrant.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 24—Jerusalem, Old City,
  • St. Ann Church, for our elderly, sick and homebound, Archbishop Buechlein, celebrant.
  • Thursday, Sept. 25—Ein Karem, Church of the Visitation, for our ministries of charity and evangelization, Father Nobbe, celebrant.
  • Friday, Sept. 26—Jerusalem, Notre Dame Center, for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, Father Nagel, celebrant.
  • Saturday, Sept. 27—Jerusalem, Dormition Abbey, in thanksgiving for blessings on our archdiocese, Archbishop Buechlein, celebrant.
  • Saturday, Sept. 27—Jerusalem, Old City, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, anticipation Mass for Sunday, Sept. 28, in thanksgiving for the gift of our Catholic faith and the success of the pilgrimage, Archbishop Buechlein, celebrant.

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 3:07 p.m. on Thursday, September 11, 2008


Opening News Story from The Criterion

175th anniversary logo

Here is a news story taken from the September 12, 2008 edition of The Criterion, our official weekly newspaper for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis:

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein will lead a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from Sept. 17-27 to launch the observance of the 175th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Archbishop Buechlein and 42 other pilgrims from the archdiocese and Diocese of Evansville will travel throughout Israel visiting sacred sites where Jesus walked and where the Catholic Church was born.

The pilgrims will pray for a special intention each day, and Archbishop Buechlein is inviting all of the archdiocese’s parishes, schools, missions and individuals to pray for the intentions listed further down.

“It is fitting that we begin the observance of our 175th anniversary with a pilgrimage to the place where Jesus was born, and where our Catholic faith and Church have their roots,” Archbishop Buechlein said. “We will be keeping all of the members of our local Church in our thoughts and our prayers as we make this journey to thank God for all of the blessings we have received and to ask him to guide us through the next 175 years.”

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis, originally established as the Diocese of Vincennes, was founded on May 6, 1834.

The theme for the anniversary is titled “We Have Seen the Lord: Come and See.” There will be many events during the next several months to mark this historic occasion, and to reach out to people and invite them to “come and see” the Lord.

The 175th anniversary celebration will culminate with a Mass at the new Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on May 3, 2009. It is expected that as many as 40,000 people will attend the Mass.

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 3:03 p.m. on Thursday, September 11, 2008



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