The Gospel of St. John, chapter 21 relates the 3rd appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples after his Resurrection.  In this passage, Jesus cooks breakfast for 7 of his disciples, including Simon Peter, who had been fishing all night unsuccessfully.  After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves him, and 3 times he instructs him to tend his flock.  Without a doubt, Peter is placed at the head of the Church at this very moment.

The place was first marked by a Spanish pilgrim nun, Egeria,  in the 4th century A.D.. Shortly afterwards, a small chapel was erected over the stone that tradition identifies as the place of the charcoal fire.  12 heart shaped stones, about 3’ in diameter were the placed in the ground, leading from the chapel to the lake shore.  The original chapel was destroyed in the 13th century, but the stones remained, marking the place forever. The present chapel was erected in 1933 and is known as the Church of the Primacy of Peter.

During a recent pilgrimage to Holy Land, we had the privilege of visiting the chapel.  We prayed by the very stone where Jesus cooked, and we walked to the lake shore, on the same ground where Jesus walked.  As Alex, Monica and Mikey were putting their feet in the water, Mikey picked up a rock from the water. He said he wanted to bring home a memory of this Holy Site. To our utmost surprise, it turned out to be a rock in the shape of a heart, about the size of Dad’s hand.  When we saw the heart-shape, we suggested to Mikey to keep it, not as a souvenir, but to present it to the Holy Father during our upcoming audience with the Papal Foundation in Rome.

Mikey carried the heavy rock with him for over 2 weeks, in his pocket.  He had it blessed in the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  He argued with the security officer at the airport who wanted to take it away because it could not go as a carry-on in the cabin.  Finally, the rock found its way with us to Rome.

During the audience, we were asked not to give any personal presents to the Pope.  Of course, this meant nothing to Mikey. He had carried the rock with him all this time and there was nobody who could prevent him from giving it to the Holy Father.  As we approached him, of course, Dad had teary eyes and could not speak -his tongue was tied, but not Mikey.  He looked at the Holy Father, smiled at him, and proceeded to tell him with all his characteristic liveliness and excitement about the rock that he had found on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, by the Church of the Primacy of Peter and how there was nothing in the world that meant more to him than to present this gift to the Holy Father. Pope Benedict smiled at Mikey, took the rock in his hand, thanked him and held his hand with the sweetest, most loving eyes we have ever seen.

We will always remember this moment and treasure it in our hearts.  Now, we know that there is hope for our future, because our future is in the hands of our children and our children are in the hands of Jesus Christ and his Church.

The Lis-Planells Family