(From left to right) Megan Luttinen, Kersten Engle and Shannon DiSalle

Everest Collegiate senior Megan Luttinen shares some of her experiences  from her class pilgrimage to the Holy Land:

Verbum caro factum est? More like ET HIC verbum caro factum est!

 April 13, 2014

Today marks the first day of travels for our senior class of 2014 in the Holy Land!  After 10 hours on a flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv, we’re here!  I expected Israel to be beautiful, but I never expected it to be so GREEN!  Flowers, grass, palm trees, you name it!  Some was growing along the road as we drove the bus back to our hotel in Nazareth.

After a late Palm Sunday Mass, you would think we would call it a day!  But Fr. Daniel encouraged us to go out and explore, and he took us on a tour to the Basilica of the Annunciation. We came in right before closing, and the man in charge instructed us that it was time for prayer and silence. What good advice that turned out to be!  In moments of silence, we have more of a chance to hear God! (My classmate Kersten believes that our experience was more powerful because it took place at night, when the Basilica was silent and we were the only ones in there.)

The most amazing thing about the Basilica is that it has two floors. The main floor is the gorgeous present day Basilica, clad in representations of Mary from all different countries, painted and made from stone, glass, metal and wood.  Beneath the gorgeous church lays something even more precious and sacred.  The lower level is a circular room with a somewhat dilapidated stone house in the middle. The stone Basilica has the phrase “Verbum Caro Factum Est” — which translates to “The Word became Flesh” — engraved on the outside.  On the altar, in the snake stone house there is a similar phrase — “Et hic verbum caro factum est.” This sentence was probably the smallest part of the whole display, but it made the most impact. Fr. Daniel explained that the phrase meant “HERE the word became flesh.”  And it just hits you. In that very spot!

(My classmates) Becca, Christina and I were all talking about how we were praying the Hail Mary, and the prayer suddenly meant so much more than just words.  (My classmate) Lu described the place as where Mary said “yes” to the Lord, and she prayed specifically for the strength to say “Yes” to whatever vocation God wants for her.

My prayers specifically went out to all those couples who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, and for unborn children.

I’ll write more tomorrow and keep you all up to date!  Don’t worry parents, siblings and friends, God is with us here! We can all feel it, and we all can’t wait to experience more of Him!

Chris Bradley and Shannon DiSalle, and Josh Essensa and Megan Luttinen

What the Wedding at Cana Was Really About

April 14, 2014

You would never have thought that Cana of Galilee was just six miles away from our hotel in Nazareth. This city itself is very small, and we got there in about 20 minutes.

After getting off the bus and walking along the winding stone paths, we reached the Church of Marriage, built over where the Wedding at Cana took place. It was so beautiful!  And such a testimony to marriage itself.  Amer (our guide) described to us that weddings in Israel are quite different from American weddings.  On average, they normally last about 10 days. (My classmate) Owen thought it was awesome that the families extended the fun for such a long period of time.

The story of the Wedding at Cana is important to our faith because it displayed Jesus’ first miracle and the beginning of his public ministry, but it was also His way of showing us the importance, the value, and the real meaning of marriage in a world where the image and ideals of marriage have become so distorted.

Amer led us below the Church, down a staircase to the actual ruins of the cave where the wedding took place.  (My classmate) Chris told me he was very impacted by seeing the real stone cave where they would have celebrated, and it made the whole story seem more real.  At the end, we prayed in the Church.  As far as I know, many of us were inclined to pray for our future spouses and our parents’ marriages.  The next stop on our tour will be Mount Tabor and the Church of the Transfiguration!

Megan and Angela Cunningham on top of Mt. Tabor

A Happy Girl!

April 14, 2014 (continued…)

“You’re a happy girl!” Amer, our guide, told me this as we sat outside the Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor in Israel. I smiled even bigger and told him that it’s not every day you get to spend your birthday in the Holy Land!

He laughed and agreed, and went on to tell us about the incredible church we were about to enter. We talked of its history, the nature of the terrifying roads, the story of how Deborah the Prophetess conquered the Mennonites, and the Transfiguration itself.

Amer even joked that Fr. Daniel could join him for a beer overlooking the valley that was foretold to be the site of the final battle before Jesus comes.

Amer told us that saints are not dead, no matter what anyone says.  Jesus encountered Elijah and Moses on this mountain and that they are real and alive, in Heaven and on earth.

The Church of the Transfiguration is stunning. Inside the top section, there is a depiction of Jesus transfigured, with the entire scene around him encased in gold and a stain-glass window right behind the altar.  (My classmate) Daman described the view as “downright incredible.” It overlooks the Jezreel Valley. You could never fall more in love with a view — God’s painting clearly displayed in the Holiest of Lands.

(My classmates) Jackie, Becca and Christina were “dying” to get a closer view of the valley, and the last I saw of them, they were off looking for a monk to unlock the door to get even closer. With weather this perfect, great friends and a whole lot of Jesus, what more do you need?

To end our day, we were actually able to walk down Mount Tabor!!!! The view was just beautiful, and we took so many pictures! Everyone enjoyed the hike back to the bus, and after that we were able to get a little site-seeing in Nazareth. This day has been one of my “all-time” favorite days, and the most spectacular of birthdays.  So you’re right, Amer. I am a happy girl. There’s just so much to smile about!

Megan and Jackie Beltowski