Monday 13 June 2016

We are safely returned! It was a little sad to see our group starting to disband upon our return to the UK after we had shared so many wonderful experiences together. Everyone is determined to spend time reflecting upon all that we have seen and done, and perhaps we will be able to meet up again to chat through all that we have learned.
As you can imagine, the day was a bit hectic, as we had certain deadlines to meet, like getting to the airport on time! Security was pretty tight, but as it was for our safety, we did not mind this.
We did have time to visit Magdala, which is on the Sea of Galilee. This is the town of Mary Magdalene, but the site, only unearthed in 2009, and which is still be excavated by archaeologists, is proving to be extremely important. A first century synagogue has been found, and, most likely, Jesus would have taught there. Also, a stone "stool" in the centre of the building, and probably used to rest the scriptures upon, contains the only known images of the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 79 AD. The "Magdala Stone", as it is called, is so valuable, that the original is being studied in a secret location. We had to make do with a copy! Below are some pics.
Before I sign off for the final time, I would like to thank everyone for following this blog. I hope that you have been able in some way, to share in our pilgrimage. I am amazed that we already have over 2000 page views from across the world, and the numbers continue to grow! I would encourage anyone who is able, to make their own pilgrimage there. Without exception, everyone in our group was astounded at how much they learnt, and how their understanding of the Bible  had dramatically improved.
If you are able to help the School of Joy in Bethlehem, that would make my keeping this blog even more valuable. You can find the justgiving page at This is a small thing that each of us can do to support the very few Christians left in the Holy Land. Having spent the last ten days there, I can honestly say, that I would be devastated if it just became a theme park. Please be generous.

Sunday 12 June 2016

The Cloister of the Benedictine Monastery was badly damaged by fire a year ago, the work of extremists, who are currently on trial. As our pilgrimage has progressed, we have become very much aware of the need for world peace. Please keep peace, and especially in the Holy Land, in your prayer intentions.
Below are some pics of the inside, and you will see that it contains some very fine Byzantine mosaics, with Egyptian influence. The one of the bread and fishes, which I hope you can see just in front of the altar, I am sure you will recognise, as it has been used throughout the world. Underneath the altar is the stone, where it is said, Jesus prepared the bread and fishes, for the feeding of the five thousand.
We fly home tomorrow evening, but we still have a busy day, so I will let you have an update from home on Tuesday! Love Rina

We have just had a joyous evening with entertainment from members of the group out on the terrace of the Pilgerhaus. (I did not take photos for fear of spoiling the occasion.) Thanks must go to Fr. Dominic for putting on an intriguing magic show, Rupert, Richard, and Phil for their readings, and Trudie for singing, and leading us all in "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". The finale comprised seven Old Boys of Downside School (Fr. Leo, Fr. Dominic, Simon, Mickey, Rupert, Zak, and Sergio), with guests, Annabelle and Alice, singing the School Song. I was really surprised that they could remember the words!
Today has been a rest day, but despite this, it has been very busy for everyone. We started with a "full works" Mass, including Gregorian Chant, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, next to the German Benedictine Monastery of the Multiplication, where we are staying. Mass was combined with a Memorial Service for Dee, John's fiancee, so it was a very important occasion. Here are some pics, including a couple of the group.

Saturday 11 June 2016

Our day ended on a bit of a sad note, as we said goodbye to our wonderful guide, Khalil. He has been the source of so much amazing information, and inspiration, during our travels. This has been to the considerable benefit of our three priests (especially Fr. Dominic, who has already written a number of future Homilies based on what he has learnt!).
Here is Khalil in action at Capernaum, and a 'photo of him wearing the T-shirt signed by us all!

We have Mass at Capernaum on Monday, but for now, this ruined synagogue is built upon a previous one where Jesus taught.
The final part of our journey today, took us to the far north of the country, in fact, very close to the border of Israel with Lebanon, and Syria. We visited what today is called Banias, but which in Jesus' time, was called Caesarea Philippi. This comprised a complex of temples devoted to the worship of the god, Pan. Worship involved the sacrificial offering of goats into a watercourse at the back of a large cave. This was regarded as the gates to the underworld or Hades, which really unpacks the meaning behind the Biblical passage which I have printed out for you;-

Matthew 16:13-20New International Version (NIV)13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.”20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

This is the sort of amazing information that you discover on these pilgrimages, that totally changes your understanding of  the Bible. Even if this was considered to be such an awful place, it was very interesting, and beautiful, so here are some pics!

Then came the great excitement of the day - a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee! The water was quite choppy, but we managed to say the Rosary, and had a fishing demonstration, with a net of the kind used in Jesus' time.

Our next stop was the Primacy of Peter, where Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved Him, and to "Feed my sheep". The Church is constructed on, and is beside, an old Roman jetty, that Jesus may very well have stood upon. The water level of the Sea of Galilee has reduced since those times, so it s now out of the water. Not surprisingly, lunch was St. Peter's fish! Here are some pics for you.