Yesterday was gorgeous. We started early, with mass at the church of the Holy Sepulchre at 5:30 am, and then after returning for breakfeast we set out for the summit of the Mount of Olives, to visit the shrine of the Ascension. From there we descended to get a beautiful view of the old city of Jerusalem — the classic view, with the Dome of the Rock gleaming in the light. We descended further through a Jewish cemetary to the church that commemorates Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse as he lamented over Jerusalem.
Hello friends, I’m afraid the hotel where we are staying is having connectivity problems. The internet connection keeps cutting out, so I’ll have to try and post again later (I’m writing this from a cell phone, believe it or not).
In brief, here are today’s highlights: early mass at the Holy Sepulchre; walking on the Mount of Olives; seeing the Dome of the Rock up close on the Temple Mount. A full day!
We visited Bethlehem today. It wasn’t easy: the city is located in Palestinian territory, so we needed to bring our passports and we were even refused entry at the first checkpoint. It was just harassment, pure and simple, as we just proceeded to another entrance where there wasn’t even any security.
Hello friends, I’m writing from my room in the Jerusalem Ritz. Thank goodness for Wi-fi hot spots! It has been quite a trip so far. The highlights:
Nazareth: the village well, only natural source of water (and therefore where Mary went to get water for the holy family. As well, the basilica of the annunciation, where we said mass.
Galilee: The Sea of Galilee is really amazing and very beautiful. My highlight was a boat ride on the lake, which really gave you a sense of the area in which Jesus did his ministry.
St. Brendan’s parish had a special fundraising luncheon this afternoon, so I went. The parish had access to a banquet hall, and the food was all-you-can-eat genuine homemade Italian pasta. WOW, was it good — I went back for seconds! There was also entertainment in the form of Calabrese dancers and Ukrainian dancers. The first troupe was more folk/family style, while the second you could tell were semi-professional. Both were very impressive and lots of fun. I left after three hours and I honestly had the impression the party was just getting started!
I spent some time today chatting with a young man whose work includes digging graves. Unfortunately, yesterday there was a slight mishap. The cemetary map indicating where people were buried was badly marked, and the backhoe carved directly into a coffin buried only a year ago. He had to look in to assess the damage, and came face-to-face with a badly-decomposed body. It was like out of a horror film, and he was fairly shaken up.
I’ve been helping out at the Chinese Catholic Mission recently, and last night was a Bible study meeting. I gave people a brief presentation on the life of Saint Paul, and then we dove into the question box to see what was there.
One question dealt with the Rapture, and whether Catholics should believe in it or not. For an excellent summary of the questions involved, I’d like to point people to the Catholic Answers tract on the questions of milleniannism the Rapture.
I just got out of a meeting with a missionary who has been working in Papua New Guinea. Now for those of you who don’t know, Papua New Guinea is one of the last places on earth where cannibalism was frequently practiced (heck, even up until 10-15 years ago). So this missionary tells me this story:
Having a blog is like having a garden: leave it untended long enough, and it needs weeding. I spent part of yesterday cleaning up things like my blogroll (half the blogs listed were out of commission). Also, I learned how to add a second widget bar, so now the “search box” is found at the top.
I was chatting with a former seminary professor of mine today, and we got on to the topic of pastoral practices in Quebec related to sin and the forgiveness of sins. He was of the opinion that one of the major reasons that many brother priests don’t hear confessions anymore is because they don’t want to have to pronounce themselves on moral issues. For myself, I think a major reason is a faulty soteriology (theology of salvation).