It has been a whirlwind of a week since returning from our pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome. My three seminarian brothers from Minnesota drove back the day after we returned to witness the Diaconate Ordination of our brother Matthew Wagner and then a few days later to witness the Priestly Ordination of our brothers Brian Mulligan and Thế Hoàng.
This week I have been asked many times, ‘How was your trip?’ A pretty loaded question after seeing and touching the exact sites where the mysteries of our faith were born into history. I was blessed to be in the very places where our Lord Jesus Christ became man, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, taught and fed the multitudes, cast out demons, and where he died for my sins and rose from the dead in order to raise me to newness of life. Such experiences cannot be summed up in a word. I have found it necessary to break down the question when I have been asked… What was the most beautiful place we went? What was the most moving experience? What was the most unique experience?
But my favorite question to answer is, ‘What was the most meaningful part of the trip?’ The most meaningful part of the trip was praying for YOU. Every holy place we visited seemed to have so much more meaning as we prayed for our benefactors and those who had asked for our prayers. It first hit me a few days into the pilgrimage as I was praying alone at the pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed a man who had been ill for 38 years (John 5:1-18). I prayed for a dear friend of mine who suffers physically from a debilitating disease. It was here I realized this pilgrimage was not my own. I realized this pilgrimage was meant for many people and that I would carry them with me to the various holy sites through my prayer.
So everywhere I went I prayed and carried you with me. You who are now reading this. In the various sites Christ healed the sick, I prayed for you who are physically suffering. At the Church of the Nativity, I prayed for the holiness of your family. At Cana, I prayed for your joyful, holy, and Christ-centered marriage. At the Sea of Galilee, I prayed for you to take courage, to set out into the deep, to let down your nets for a great catch, and that you may leave everything and follow Him. Where Christ healed the Gerasene Demoniac, I prayed for you who are oppressed by the lies of Satan that accuse you of being unloved by our all-loving God. At the Jordan River, I prayed you may remain faithful to your Baptismal promises. In the Upper Room, I prayed for your deeper devotion to the Holy Eucharist and that you would seek to activate the gifts of the Holy Spirit that dwell within you. In the desert, I prayed you may be able to overcome all temptations through Christ. At the Basilica of the Annunciation, I prayed you may respond with a joyful yes to the invitation of God’s perfect plan and I prayed for you who are struggling to conceive a child. On Mount Tabor, I prayed you may be gloriously transfigured by the light of Christ. At Ecce Homo where Christ was condemned to die, I prayed for you who are unjustly persecuted. On the Mount of Beatitudes, I prayed you may actively live them out and so grow in holiness all the days of your life. At Tabgha, where Christ fed the multitudes, I prayed you would find nourishment in His Word. At the Church of the Visitation, I prayed your soul may proclaim the greatness of the Lord by your holy life. At the church of the Ascension, I prayed you may find new strength to go out and make disciples of all nations. At the church of the Assumption, I prayed you may trust in our Holy Mother’s loving intercession and protection over you.
At the Church of Gethsemane, I prayed for you who suffer from mental illness. At the place where Peter denied Jesus, I prayed you may receive the merciful gaze of Christ and know that you are forgiven. In the pit where Christ was held in prison overnight, I prayed for you who think there is no way out of your darkness, that you may find Christ who is the light. At Ecce Homo where Christ was condemned to die, I prayed for you who are unjustly persecuted. At the place where Christ was scourged, I prayed for your purity of heart. As I walked the Via Dolorosa, carrying my own cross, I also prayed for you, that you may carry your cross faithfully and persevere through all persecution. At Calvary, I prayed you may crucify your sinful desires and live in the freedom of Christ. At Calvary, I prayed for all of you who have ever lost a child and the pain you still carry. At the Holy Sepulchre, I prayed for your beloved deceased.
Our pilgrimage was a pilgrimage of constant unceasing prayer. I loved sharing my experiences with many of you, even when I get choked up as I speak of them. To me, it is evidence that what I have seen, touched and heard are real and that they matter. Thank you for being a part of my pilgrimage and making it an incredibly deep and meaningful experience I will carry with me forever. I now have an abundant spring from which to draw for the rest of my life.