Here is an email we received from the EC Sr. Trip to the Holy Land:
“The group was happy to sleep in today until about 7:00-7:30. After breakfast we packed our bags for the trip home tonight; then, we drove a few minutes to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This church, under which lies the cave of the nativity, is the second oldest Christian church, second to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is under the shared care of the Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Catholic churches. After listening to Amer, we all gained new insight regarding what consisted of the ancient ‘ inn’ that Joseph and Mary sought.
On the same property and connected to the Church of the Nativity, sits the Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria. This church is owned by the Roman Catholic church, establishing a Roman Catholic presence at the site. Here is a picture of us standing in Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity. This is where thousands gather outside the Church on Christmas Eve for Midnight Mass.
A quick stop at Shepherds’ Field, where the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds grazing their flocks on the outskirts of Bethlehem, and then we headed back into Jerusalem to see Mt. Zion. On Mt. Zion, our first stop was the Church of Mary’s Dormition. Here we prayed a decade of the rosary in the lower level where, in the Greek Orthodox tradition, Mary’s ‘falling asleep’ is commemorated prior to her Assumption. From there, on the same site, we walked a small way to the Upper Room where the sacraments of eucharist, holy orders, and confirmation were instituted. Two special events occurred for us there today. We read from the scriptural account when Christ ate His Passover meal with his apostles; we also ran into Fr. Gomez and his group outside the doors of the upper room.
Upon leaving the Upper Room we headed downhill a short piece to the Church of Peter in Gallicantu. This is the place where the home of Caiaphas the high priest was located and where Christ was tried in front of the Sanhedrin. Right outside this beautiful church, that has a rooster perched atop the steeple’s crucifix, is also a statue of Peter that commemorates the location of his denial. In the lower level of the church is also a holding pit, into which criminals were lowered and held overnight in chest-deep water. There are not a large number of these pits on the site, so conceivably this pit could have been the very pit in which Christ was held for the night after his trial. We read from the Psalms inside this pit, the account that foreshadows Christ’s passion. Also, ascending the hillside right next to the church are the Sacred Stairs upon which Christ was led during his Passion. Here is a picture on the road outside of Peter in Gallicantu. This shot overlooks the Mt. of Olives and Gethsemane in the background.
From there we made our last stop in Jerusalem. Entering the old city again, we were very near the Western Wall. We stopped at the wall to take pictures and to leave our prayers. Then we walked once more through the narrow streets of the city on our way back to the Notre Dame center where we had Holy Thursday Mass in the church there. We were blessed also to have the Papal Nuncio of the local Patriarchate as the main celebrant of this Mass.
We are presently heading for the airport in the bus, and the students are recounting their stories and experiences from the trip one at a time over the bus’s speakers. What incredible depth in our students – your sons and daughters! I am so happy for them and proud of them. They have fully embraced this experience, and their faith has been so bolstered and enriched through all of this.
I want to thank each of you for your prayers and support to make this trip possible. God has truly blessed these students and our school! We’ll soon be in Tel Aviv and on our way home. All are excited to see family again, but the Holy Land will certainly be missed! We’ll see you soon.”