Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity invited Father Bill Burton, OFM to lead a virtual tour of the Holy Land. Sister Kathryn Klackner blogs about her pilgrimage experience June 20-24, 2011. Father’s new assignment is teaching at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary, Boynton Beach, FL.
Did you ever wish that you could trace the steps of Jesus in his homeland? The quicker and cheaper way, you say, is a virtual tour ….is there an app for that? Well not quite, but for five days 60 Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity embarked on a 75 minute per day pilgrimage to the Holy Land with biblicist, Father Bill Burton, ofm through maps, pictures, and lecture.
On the first day, we anxiously awaited a “landing” in Tel Aviv to begin our journey. “Not so fast!” warned Father Bill. One must first have an understanding of the geography and history of the region and hone your archaeological skills to appreciate the holy sites to be visited. Additionally, this information provided some insight into the current day dilemmas in Israel and Palestine. After gaining this foundational knowledge, we did indeed “land” in Tel Aviv and began the picture and tour guide pilgrimage from northern Galilee, along the Jordon River Valley, and into Jerusalem. The cultural influences and the archaeological advances that lead us to these sacred places are truly amazing! But whether the sites can be authenticated as true places of Jesus’ presence or traditional sites of veneration for important biblical events, one is still led to deeper appreciation of the awesome plan of God and the incarnation of Jesus among us.
There are many motives for joining this pilgrimage. Mine was one of renewal. I had the great gift of a parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land and celebrated my 33rd birthday in Jerusalem. I desired to relive the heart’s fire of that experience and the realities that have inspired my Scripture prayer. A generation later, there are many new archaeological discoveries and insights, as Father Bill described, but I remain awed by the reflections of my personal time in the Holy Land—-the sites, authentic or not, are awesome and humbling, and the landscape, Sea of Galilee, and Dead Sea were actual scenes Jesus saw and walked, but the unimaginable reality is that Jesus, the Son of God, came to live among us. And any reminders of that faith story and Jesus’ indwelling are well worth the time!