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“We awoke early for a simple but filling breakfast then a walk right next door to the Basilica of the Annunciation. As our tour guide, Hani, told us, we were beginning our pilgrimage where Mary began her journey with Jesus – in her home in Nazareth. Fr. Thomas celebrated Mass for us in the main chapel and after Mass we were guided below the Church to visit the small altar where  the Angel Gabriel brought God’s message to Mary. “Verbum caro hic nunc est” (the Word was made flesh here) – many were moved to spend time just sitting on the steps before that altar, reflecting on the depth of meaning in those few words. We were encouraged to think of our own Angel Gabriel moments – when God has asked or will ask for our “yes”, when we allow ourselves to trust in His goodness and love to guide us.

Nazareth’s name comes from Nazer which means “off shoot”, a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy: a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse. We visited many holy sites here including the Church of St. Joseph with ruins from the house he and Mary raised Jesus upon their return from Egypt. We saw “Mary’s well”, where Our Lady would have taken the little boy Jesus with her to fetch water and meet with the townswomen every day. Hani’s description let us see what a joyful place it must have been – and it still produces water!

We had  lunch at a small restaurant in Cana, then on to our next stop – the Wedding Church at Cana where we all celebrated the renewal of wedding vows for the Plantes and the Nalepas. Hani took us below the church to see a huge water jar from the Jesus’ time like the one that became filled with “the best wine”. Miracles are all around us! As soon as we got back on the bus, Mr. Nalepa gave everyone a memento of the renewal:  ring pops!

The bus took us on to the Church of the Transfiguration on Mt Tabor.  It really is a mountain. We took taxis to the top but hiked all the way down! The church is another huge church with altars on two levels plus an altar on the left for Moses and on the right for Elijah. Here we prayed especially for an increase in faith and perseverance.

We had dinner at the hotel, then another evening of strolling the nearby streets of Nazareth. We were ready to get some sleep, ready for our second full day of pilgrimage.”

Guest post written by Mrs. Kathie Nalepa