There are many people who are planning on going to the Holy Land in the upcoming year and these are things that you should be aware of, and your land tour operator will never tell you. I was very much like many of you wanting to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land for the first time and finally got permission and nerve to go with a Catholic Group out of New Jersey. I was so excited about going that I didn’t pay too much attention to the itinerary.
On our first day of touring, we spent almost two hours at Rachael’s Tomb, and I didn’t know that much about Rachael and how she died giving birth to Benjamin and Jacob buried her in this tomb. I didn’t know that this was the 3rd holiest site for the Jewish faith, and we had a Jewish guide. The next day we were walking through the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and I asked our guide who’s tomb is this one on the right and he said this is Christ’s Tomb and he continued walking. I said aren’t we going to stop and visit it. No, he said, we don’t have time. I very upset and said we had time for Rachael, but we don’t have time for Christ. I said to our Jewish guide that you know Rachael is out and Christ is in and we should of spent more time here than at Rachael’s tomb. This common feeling was felt by all the pilgrims, but the Jewish guide wants you to see the Jewish sites not all the Christian sites. The Jewish guide was mad at me and never talk with me again for 4 days. You see this may very well happen to you when you go visit the holy land with a Jewish guide. They know a lot of Jewish history and the Old Testament, but they know very little about the New Testament and the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Most of the Jewish guides don’t have a bible with them so you can’t read scripture at all the holy sites. Masses have to be ordered sometimes two months in advance in order to get Masses said at a certain holy site. The guides don’t do that, and they often try to convince the Franciscan priests at the holy sites permission to have Mass and the answer is no most of the time. The holy sites are reserved for Catholic Mass only and you must have a certified certificate from the Franciscan Office to have Mass said at any of the Franciscan control holy sites. I left the Holy Land with a bitter taste in my mouth as I never got to see all the holy sites of my faith and saw mostly Jewish sites.
I came home determined to change things on the next trip. I sat down with several priests and asked them what holy sites are important for you to see when visiting the holy land. I put together a very Christian pilgrimage itinerary. This new Christian itinerary was designed for priests only. Within a few weeks I had sent a flier out to 54,000 priest in the United States and Canada offering them a chance to go on a very traditional Catholic Pilgrimage. As result of this flier I was able to take over 1200 priests from all over the United States during a 10 year period. The priests have said this is such a good trip why don’t you open it up for laity as they could use it as much as do. As a result of making this trip available to laity I am now taking my 85th pilgrimage to the Holy Land in February 2022.
Here are 10 things we do differently than all other tours
- When we land, we go directly to Jerusalem first and see all the holy sites in and around Jerusalem. Other tours all go north so they can stop at a diamond factory because guide and driver make commissions. I don’t go over there to buy diamond. Sorry
- We have Mass each morning in the Tomb of Christ and on Calvary.
- After early morning Mass I take everyone on early morning walk through the Old City before the tourist get there.
- We also have a second Mass during the days in Jerusalem at many of the holy sites.
- We have a Holy Hour in the Garden of Gethsemane on one of the nights we are in Jerusalem.
- We do the Brown Scapular enrollment on Mt. Carmel
- Those who are married get to renew their wedding vowels in Cana and receive a beautiful certificate commemorating the event.
- We read scriptures at all the holy sites so you will remember the site.
- We visit all the mystery sites of the Holy Rosary and will say one decade at each of the mystery sties.
- Going with licensed guide from the United States who has 85 trips under his belt and a good friend of all the Franciscans in the Holy Land. I also guided EWTN crew for 10 days.
Check out my web site at www.Catholicholyland.com