Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My brothers and sisters,

It feels good to be back home here at Mount Carmel. As you all know, I have been away for several weeks traveling! I would like to take this opportunity to share with all of you my experience. My brother seminarians and I were on a pilgrimage in the Holy Land from January 5-18. This was my first time visiting this amazing place and I must admit it was very transforming. It is an honor and will always be an honor to walk in the same footsteps of Jesus Christ. “Walking in the footsteps of Jesus, our Lord and God,” sums up these two weeks.

The sites that we visited were: Jaffa, Akko, Nazareth, Sepphoris ,Sea of Galilee, Jericho, Jerusalem, Ein Karem, Bethlehem, Masada, Bethany, and Emmaus. This pilgrimage offered each seminarian and myself the opportunity to encounter Jesus in this very unique and personal way. Not only were we hearing about Jesus in the Gospels but we were with Him on the land that he walked. It was indeed and still is a transforming experience. One cannot leave the Holy Land without coming into contact with the humanity of Jesus, to experience what He experience, to see what He saw.

I cannot say that there was one experience that seemed to be the highlight of the pilgrimage. Each site that we visited, each thing we saw, we found ourselves saying, “it cannot get better then this” and somehow it did. To try to understand what this pilgrimage was about, I invite you to open up the gospels and read it, because what you read or hear at Holy Mass, we were present. There is so much truth in the saying that the Holy Land is the fifth gospel.

I would like to share with you some of my experiences. Friday, January 15th we had early morning Mass at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre which is the burial site of our Lord. Please understand what a privilege it was for us to have Holy Mass at this Holy Site! The tomb of Jesus is very small and only three people could fit into it, so it was just enough room for the priests. We stood outside the tomb in a little chamber and celebrated Mass together. I had the privilege of reading at this Mass. This is the spot where Jesus our Lord was raised from the dead, so Jesus was no longer present in the tomb but during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass through the words of institution of Msgr. Swiader (Vice Rector) and Msgr. Vaccari (Rector), Christ was present in the Eucharist in His Body and Blood. After Mass, each of us at the opportunity to spend time in prayer and to venerate this holy site before the crowds came.

One other experience that I would like to share with you was walking the stations of the Cross. For years, I have always tried to imagine what it was like for Jesus to take up His cross and carry it, to experience what He experienced. I have read devotional books, seen videos, and the most famous of all, the film “The Passion of the Christ,” by Mel Gibson. Nothing in my perspective comes close, then walking in the actual footstep of Jesus. We began the stations at the Chapel of the Flagellation, where Jesus was tried and condemned by Ponius Pilate. Together we carried our own personal crosses that we carry in our lives as we retraced Jesus’s last footsteps just before His crucifixion which brought us to Calvary.

The part that made it all very special for me, was the honor of bring your prayer intentions with me to all these Holy Sites. All of you were in my prayers. What is great about bring your prayer intentions is that you were present with me in prayer at all these Holy Sites. In a spiritual way all of you were on pilgrimage with me. All the prayer request, all the crosses that we carry were left in the places that came into contact with Jesus Christ. That leaves a deep satisfaction in all of our hearts to know that our prayers are with Jesus Christ. I thank all of you for taking the extra time few weekends ago to write out your prayer intentions so that I was able to bring them to the Holy Land. All of us have benefited from this powerful experience.

On January 18th we packed our bags and spent 24 hours traveling from Tel Aviv to London and London back to New York. What is awesome about this pilgrimage is that it never ends. Every time, I open up the Scriptures, or hear it proclaimed at Mass, I go back to these Holy Places in mind and spirit and remember your prayer intentions that you all have entrusted me with. I thank you for that. If you have not yet had the opportunity, please check out the blog that myself and another seminarian posted almost daily with our experiences.


United in Prayer,

Seminarian Sean

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Video

Fr. Peter's homily in Nazareth, the site of the annunciation of Gabriel to Mary.


Click here for more pictures of our final days!
With the Nuncio to the Holy Land

With the Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of the Holy Land

Msgr. Swaider celebrating the Eucharist in the Holy Sepulcher

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Coming Home

Right now Deacon Alonzo, Sean, and I are sitting in the airport having a croissant and cappucino waiting for our 7:30 flight to London. No problems getting though security, now just tired and waiting. Pray for a safe flight.

Last day

Well, it's just about over. We are getting ready to head over to the Latin Patriarchate to meet with the Chancellor at 4:30 to learn about the Church in the area. We will have our farewell dinner tonight and then our wakeup calls begin around 1:30am. We leave Jerusalem for Tel Aviv at 3:30, hopefully the weather will be good and we should land in JFK at 4:30, after a brief lay over in London.

Keep an eye out for pictures...

Friday, January 15, 2010

I give God the praise both now and forever!

Here is a guest post by Rodnev Lapommeray a seminarians for the diocese of Brooklyn, to be ordained a deacon in less than a year:

I give God the praise both now and forever! By His grace, this pilgrimage has been a moving and deepening experience for me. This pilgrimage to the Holy land—the 5th Gospel—has deepened my appreciation for the Gospels. There is a special privilege to be able to go to the places where Jesus ministered and walk in His path. Each time I think I have reached a climax experience, the Lord just keeps blessing me with further graces.

This morning we, united as brothers, celebrated the Eucharist in the actual tomb where Jesus was buried. Words cannot describe the experience. Every morning at 5:30 AM, Fr. Peter has been taking anyone who’s interested to visit and pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is quite a testimony of faith to see the different people making the trip through the windy roads (really walkways) of the Old City to the church in the darkness and chill of that early morning. There was certain stillness as people seem to be moving with purpose—to praise God. This morning we made the journey pass the Israeli security guards at watch by the entrance to the old city gates and we were part of that background people scurrying in the darkness of alleys to reach the church. There is something just moving about this witness of devotion.

In the holy city of Jerusalem, I have been witnessing people’s great devotion throughout this pilgrimage. There have been plenty of other experiences which have been leaving an effect on me. Thursday we went to the Western Wall, which may be familiar to some as the Wailing Wall, where the Jewish people place their prayers in a wall connected to the temple before the desecration of the Temple. We were able to go to this wall and pray individually. There was something very powerful to seeing the men and boys praying so monastically. Their prayer involved many movements. Placing my own prayer there and praying with them at the wall moved me. We must not forget our Judeo-Christian roots.

The dynamics of how religion and society and culture intersect are present all around us. At the Western Wall, I saw Jewish youth in shorts putting on the prayer shawls and phylacteries—and then commencing to pray. There was just something interesting about the whole thing. Interesting also, the cloth used that day came from Brooklyn, NY—how funny. Despite all these minor points, there was something deep about these men praying so somatically. As we were leaving the area, like clockwork, a Bar Mitzvah party comes through with drums and singing. I had not realized before that Jewish prayer could be so animated.

During this trip we have been remembering people’s different intentions,

--.our family, benefactors. Of course, he have been calling on our Blessed Mother under the national tile of OU Lady of Perpetual Help, for the Haitian people. Our hearts go out to those who suffer as well as the many family members in the states who cannot get in contact with their relatives back home. In a special way, we continue to remember our brother seminarians from Haiti who are trying to contact their families.

By the grace of God, we were able to celebrate Mass at Dominus Flevit church, the church built on the mount where Jesus looked over the whole Jerusalem and He wept because Jerusalem missed the hour of its visitation. It was at this site that we were able to offer Mass for the people of Haiti and for our brother seminarians and their families. I ask if you would please join us in praying for the people of Haiti.

May Our Lady of Perpetual Help watch over us as we conclude this privilege and seek to let the graces of pilgrimage live in our hearts. May she intercede to God the Most High for the people of Haiti.

Mary, in the wake of this most recent disaster, comfort and console us

Be a mother to us in our times of despair, confusion, and heartlessness.

And lead us to the Holy Trinity.

Mary our Mother, protector and refuge pray for us.