This was to be the ultimate Pilgrimage, if there was a pilgrimage that one
must participate then it would be a trip to the Holy Land.The thought of
visiting the places that one is always reading about every day since my Sunday
school days, to walk the ground that Jesus walked, to stand and walk in the garden
of Gethsemane, to walk in the street of Jerusalem – these to me would make the
ultimate pilgrimage. So when it was announce that All Saints were to have a chance
to visit the Holy Land I did not hesitate to commit to this venture.
Over the month that we waited for the day of departure to arrive I had time to
reflect on what this journey would mean and the effect it will/should have in my
life – in short what I was hoping for was for a clearer insight and understanding
into the mysteries that is set before us.
Over the eight days we spent in the Holy Land we visited many different historical sites
and churches and saw lots of amazing architecture and the history to go with each
of the sites and churches, but this report is about my personal spiritual experience
On arrival in the Holy Land we were transferred by coach to the hotel, as the coach
approach our guide who was given us a running commentary on the surrounding sight and it
history, and how King David made Jerusalem his city; he quoted from St Luke 19. 41 – 41
“He came close to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, saying if you only knew
what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it”, and there was Jerusalem on the mountain
ahead of us (my heart missed a beat). On our first evening Father Brownsell walked us through
the old city, so we could taking in some of the sights that in the day we will not be able to
appreciate due to the crowds – these sights for example (a) paving stones that were over
2000 years old; that Jesus may have walked on, (b) the Wailing Wall here we were offered
the opportunity to individually touch and pray at the wall.
Our first full day started with a drive to the Mount of Olives – here was the place
that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and it was here that Father Brownsell read the
account of this encounter. As he was reading the Lord’s Prayer the group spontaneously
said the prayer and I would like to believe that each of us in our own mind felt that at
that moment in time we were there with Jesus and his disciples – none of us notice
that Father Brownsell had stop reading and waited for us to finish; he then informed us
of the actual words that Jesus used. As we continued to look around the site and at the
prayer plates in over 100 languages on this site, I realise that I have never felt this
type of peace when praying the Lord’s Prayer before and something deep inside was letting
me know that His words are all I need.
From the Mount of Olives you have a panoramic view of the Old walled city and you can see very
clearly three of its holiest sites:
• The Golden gate:- this gate is now sealed; and this is the gate that Jesus would have
passed through on his way to Calvary, scripture say that after he passed through the gate it
will be sealed and will only be reopen when He returns
• The Dome of the Rock:- this the rock on which the cross stood
• The church of the Holy Sepulchre:- this is where the tomb where our Lord was laid
Garden of Gethsemane.
The Mount of Olives contains many wonderful and spiritual sites and to me one of the
holiest sites was the Garden of Gethsemane (where Jesus prayed on many occasion and here he was
betrayed by a kiss), here we also admired the 2000 years old Olive trees (and just perhaps
Jesus may have prayed under one of them) and here we also knelt before the agony stone
(where Jesus wept). Some of us took the opportunity to pray while touching the stone in the
church of All Nations.
In the afternoon we follow the Via Dolorosa through the lanes of the old city re-in-acting
the passion (something we usually do at All Saint during Lent) but this time ending
(or in this case beginning) at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. – now I used the word
beginning for to be able to touch the rock that held the cross, to the stone that they
prepared his body for burial and to enter the tomb and knell in front of the stone that his
body was placed on. Words are inadequate to describe this type of spiritual feelings.
We ended the day at the site of the Garden Tomb – an alternative burial place for our Lord, I
can honestly say that my spirit did not take to this site and I am sure that the rest of
the group felt the same. Father Brownsell diplomatically summed up the site perfectly when he
said that the only thing he could agree with what we were told at the site is “He is not here
he has risen”.
Day 3 – we visited Mount Zion and the place where it is alleged that the upper room was – it
is also here that Pope Paul II celebrated mass. It is also here that Father Brownsell read the
account of the last supper that the words started to take a different meaning for me – why I do
not know I just know that I was starting to look at things in a different way. We also visited
the Church of St Peter (the possible site where Peter denied Jesus three times) and it was here
as Father Browmsell was reading the account of Peter’s denial that a cock actually crowed in
the background; even our guide had to comment at the extraordinary coincidence of what just took
The guide also reminded us that this is where Jesus would have walk in his last 24 hours on
earth – and showed us the 2000 year steps that he would have walked on as those events unfold,
and he commented on one group of pilgrims who started to chip away at the steps in order to own
a piece of stone that Jesus may have walked on; the steps are now closed to public
(the guide’s comment reflects how I see the situation at the holy Sepulchre with all the
Our next stop was West Jerusalem here we visited the Church of John the Baptist and the Church
of the visitation; again I was comfortable with the readings but troubled by the surroundings.
In the afternoon we visited Bethany and church and tomb of Lazarus – it was here that
my un-comfortableness with the surroundings came into focus, this came clear when we visited
a boy’s home supported by McCabe Educational trust (for here in action was the cause of my
concerns with the surroundings*).
Jerusalem at night.
In the evening we revisited the Western Wall and as we walked around the square one of the
group commented to me that we were worshipping too many false images and they were not happy
with it. I cannot say why I recall or I answered the person the way I did; I just know the words
came out - I asked this person if when they were younger did they listen to a popular record of
the day called the deck of cards, the words of the records describe a young soldier in church
in times of war, when the Chaplin asked everyone to produce their Bible, this soldier produce
a deck of cards. He was asked by the Chaplin to account for his none Christian act, the soldier
proceed by informing the Chaplin that the cards are his bible and using the cards he recount
all the events of the bible. I then informed this person that they should thank God for given
then the faith that is so strong they do not need anything to help them focus, however they
must not stop others from finding this faith even if it means using props to help focus on
All I can say is that this person went on to obtaining a modern picture of Jesus because
it had a spiritual effect that moved them.
Day 4 Bethlehem another spiritual day – first the journey that took us into Palestinian
territory the dramatic contrast between the have and have not is there for all to see, but
more depressing is the buildings of walls to act as dividers to ensure separation between
the Arabs and Jews. I instantly knew why I was un-comfortable with my surroundings; on a
spiritual level this is not how it was meant to be. However as we held Mass in the Fields
of the Shepherds and entered Manger Square a strange feeling of hope began to overcome me for
this is Bethlehem the deliverer of the message and the presenter of the gift of our Lord
Jesus Christ. It is here that the guide added to my understanding; for the Fields of the
Shepherds is also the place of Ruth and Boaz.
That evening I posed a question to Father Brownsell regarding his many visits to the Holy Land
and his other pilgrimages; what do they all mean to him on a personal level. His reply helped
me to refocus on my journey and my pilgrimages through life. My first pilgrimage was to Lourds
and this showed me the simplicity of the faith and the way he provides for us, the message is
in the form of the grinding wheel and the wheat. My second pilgrimage was Rome and the message
here was the conflict, the struggle and the single mindedness of love. I am now on my third
pilgrimage and the message appears to be the first and second commandment.
'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL
YOUR MIND.' And The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' From what I
see I think that there need to be a little more effort if we are going to achieve the second
Day 5 Revisit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the early morning to witness the variety of
liturgy; in this atmosphere I became completely engrossed in the Eucharist. As I finished
climbing the steps to the Calvary everything froze, in front of me and in the top end of the
room was Father Brownsell venerating the rock that held the cross, to the left and slightly
behind me was a young lady sitting on the floor crying and looking up at the rock with arms
outstretched, on the level below us was the anointing stone, below that level was the
Holy Sepulchre and below that level was the well that the remains of the Holy Cross was found.
As I moved forward to venerate the rock everything was in slow motion – although I had
rehearse a prayer beforehand my mind was now blank, as I touched the rock the only words
that came to mind was Lord please remove the cloud from my mind, the blindfold from my eyes,
the blockage from my ear and the hardness and coldness from my heart. It was not until I was
on the lower level that normality return and I remember the prayer that I had rehearsed;
concerning my family and all those friends who asked me to pray for them. In my embarrassment
I entered the Holy Sepulchre and with my head on the stone where our Lord was laid I said the
The rest of the day was very enjoyable as we transfer hotel and headed towards Tiberias, passing
through Jericho and stopping for a dip in the Dead Sea also known as the sea of Sodom and
Gomorrah, we continuing the journey through the Jordan Valley.
Day 6 Mount Tobor, Nazareth and Cana. A very pleasant, and informative day. We started by
having mass on Mount Tobor at the place of the transfiguration, as Father Brownsell read
from Matthew 17.1-2 the account of the transfiguration, I had to wonder if I was understanding
what he was telling me for although I had read this countless of times, yet I did not associate
the place of the transfiguration with the place of Armageddon.
My surprise here is that at 6am that morning (while having a shower) I found myself repeating
the words of a hymn
The strife is o'er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!
The picture I was seeing in my mind along with the transfiguration is that we are looking at
our Lord looking down on the battle field after his victory. I have always felt that the battle
is indeed over and the outcome is assured; if only we would believe.
We moved on to Nazareth and saw a very pleasant reconstruction of a 1st century village
before moving on to both St Gabriel Church (here is Mary’s Well – unfortunately here the
water is contaminated) and the Church of the Annunciation – here the water was drinkable.
We then visited Cana the place of the first miracle – here we were fortunate to see the
church dress for a wedding, which was about to start – the bride at the door waiting for us
to come out that she could go in.
commemorate the Sermon on the Mount
Day 7 Sea of Galilee – the day started with a visit to the ruins of Capernaum, its
Synagogue (where Jesus would have teach) and Peters’ mother – inlaw’s house (where Jesus healed
many who were sick), and we celebrate mass on the shore of the sea of Galilee beside the church
of loaves and fishes, we then visit the convert of the Beatitudes where a church and garden
commemorate the Sermon on the Mount. All of these moment are special but the most outstanding
of the day was the boat trip across the sea of Galilee, for as we were midway across, the
engine was switch off and Father Brownsell read from the text followed by a hymn – the crew
of the boat played some appropriate hymns of which one was
Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed;
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
and as the boat drifted for a while (about the area where Jesus might have walked on water),
everyone was caught up in their own peaceful spiritual world
In the evening after dinner Father Brownsell called us together in the garden to reflect on
the time we spent and to give him feedback. Everyone unanimously agreed that this was an
experience of a life time, and also agreed that the difference between the hustle of Jerusalem
and the contrast of Tiberias stood out for all to see.
Renewing our faith
So what have I gained from this pilgrimage!
I started by saying Over the month that we waited for the day of departure to arrive I had
time to reflect on what this journey would mean and the effect it will/should have in my
life – in short what I was hoping for was for a clearer insight and understanding into the
mysteries that is set before us, but the words of a recent reading kept playing in my mind.
If one truly is a follower of our Lord Jesus you must realise that he will not allow you to
choose who you'll forgive. This is because Love is his command and forgiveness is your act of
obedience to him.
He sets the bar high because grudges are like diseases, and forgiveness is the instrument that
removes the disease, without leaving the bitterness that chains us to the past, destroying
families, divides churches and sours relationships. Let us thank God that his command to
forgiveness is the key that unlocks the handcuffs of hate.
Therefore let’s not forget Jesus words “Love thy neighbour as thy self.
God knows that it will be hard to forgive deep-seated hurts, that why He will give us grace to