Holy Land – Day 4

We go to Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle – turning water into wine at a wedding. It must have been a family wedding as outsiders would not normally have interfered in a wedding celebration. We walk up some narrow alleys and come upon a small church. We enter the chapel. Marie and I renew our wedding vows with 5 other couples in a ceremony led by Bishop Sylvain and Fr Susai. It is a magical experience and we feel renewed and very grateful.

As we head back to the bus, there is visible litter in the gutters and on vacant properties. We feel somewhat deflated as our concept of Jewish and Muslim culture is one of purity and cleanliness. Hey, this is the realty of city life almost everywhere these days.

We drive up a ridge to Sephoris – it is a Roman town that was the capital of Galilee in Jesus time. Strangely, it is not mentioned in the Bible, but Jesus must have been here as it is next to Nazareth. A monastery is built here in honour of the Virgin Mary who some believe was from here.

We walk down the main street of the town to see the remains of houses, some with beautiful mosaic floors.‎ It is raining lightly. We tour a 2nd century CE Roman mansion. Also a beautiful 4th century Roman/Byzantine period synagogue.

In the PM we go to Nazareth Village. It is an authentically restored village as Jesus would have lived in. We meet a shepherd, a carpenter, a weaver, an olive press operator and others as we are led thru the outdoor village. Our tour guide is very entertaining and we learn a lot about what it was like to live in Nazareth at Jesus time.

We finish with Mass at the Basilica of Nazareth that is built over the house of Mary where the visitation occurred. There are large panels from each country depicting their dedication to the Virgin Mary, including Canada. We also visit the Church of St. James where St Joseph is venerated.
As we leave a Polish Mass gets underway.

Buffet dinner follows at our hotel. We are all feeling good, tired but nourished.

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Holy Land – Day 3

After a great sleep, we are ready to go. First stop is the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave the sermon on the Mount. Our reader reads the relevant bible passages as we stand in front of the church built here. It is a stunning sensation to be in this sacred place filled with flowers and singing birds.

Then we stop at another church marking the spot where Jesus feeds the 5000 with 5 loaves and 3 fishes.‎ Then we cruise the Sea of Galilee on a pilgrim boat. We celebrate Mass on board. Then we sing a bit and dance – the Havn Aguila! It is an amazing time. Everyone is smiling in the moment!

Lunch at the Fish Restaurant in Tiberias, the great Roman city King Herod Antipas‎ built in 18 CE. A relatively large modern city now on a hill by the Sea of Galilee. The fish was great – whole white fish, sweet and rich taste. On the way in we run into Fr Tap Kurudeepan, OMI from North Vancouver with another group. Small world.

A note about the currency – New Israeli Shekels ‎- 2.8 to the $CDN. Because of the large tourist trade here the US$ is accepted everywhere. We prefer to use the NIS out of principle. Gasoline is priced here at 6.48 NIS, about $2.30CDN/litre.

We drive by orchards of olive trees, orange and pomegranate, bananas and grapes. This is where the fruit and oil comes from that we have on our table at breakfast, lunch and dinne here. How great is this? ‎ Everything is open air here. There are no bugs or flies.

As we enter and leave these holy places, we see the Face of God‎ in those entering or leaving. There are Asians, Africans, Europeans and Americans. Many are darker in colour. We are all seeking the same Savior!

A note about the tone of this pilgrimage. There is much laughter and singing. Everyone is having a great time. It is not in any way austere or rigid. It is like a family holiday with the extended family. ‎We are silent when we listen to the Gospel and Sammy our tour guide speaks to us. Then the chatter starts up again. Some are on their first trip here like us, others are on their 4th or 5th.

After lunch we go to a church on the banks of the Sea of Galilee at a place called Tabgha. A plaque at the door says Pope JPII was here with Cardinal Dziwitz, who we had met at his residence in Krakow when we were in Poland in 2015. We wander down to the Sea of Galilee and some wade in.

Then the highlight of the day – Capernaum – the town Jesus went to after leaving Nazareth. The foundation of the synagogue he preached in is here. A 4th century Roman church is built on top and we tour the ruins of it. Surrounding it are the excavated stone walls of many houses. We can see the entrance and the individual rooms in each. The house of Peter is also excavated here and now partially covered over with an octanganal shaped church. Jesus was resurrected on the 8th day we learn and that is the significance of the 8 sides.

We wander down to the Sea of Galilee at sunset on a calm afternoon. The birds are singing. Wow, what a spiritual day!

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Holy Land – Days 1-2

We leave Ottawa in a small snow squall. Toronto is clear and we meet our group. We are being accompanied by Archbishop Emeritus Sylvain Lavoie, OMI and Fr Susai Jesu, OMI‎. Our tour provider Maria Drueco is also with us. We are a group of 28 pilgrims. Mostly from Edmonton but some from Sask and Manitoba.

‎A small mishap. John and Christine from Arnprior board an earlier flight to Toronto. When they get to the gate for Tel Aviv, their bags have apparently not made it to this flight. After a tense search everything is resolved. A smooth flight to Tel Aviv on Air Canada in their newest B787 Dreamliner.

Leaving the plane, another mishap. Marie inadvertently leves her wallet on the plane. After another tense wait, they find it and bring it to her. Hey, we are pilgrims and these things happen.

We head for Nazareth with a tall concrete wall on our right separating the Jewish State of Israel from the Palestinian West Bank settlements. There are gaps so it seems artificial and not needed but this is Israel we learn.

Our hotel is comfortable. Nazareth‎ is very hilly and a large city. Much bigger than in Jesus time. The streets are narrow. We stop for a chicken shawarma sandwich lunch, yum.  As we leave the restaurant, the call to Muslim worship sounds. A man looks at me and says to slow down. It’s time to pray. I say we heard this too in Istanbul. He says that is a good place.

That night we celebrate Mass and enjoy awonderful buffet dinner complete with humus, mediteranean style lamb stew, beef, roast chicken and dozens of sauces and spices.
We sleep and sleep at last. Thanks be to God for this pilgrimage and safe journey.

Dave and Marie

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Holy Land Pilgrimage

HL Map

We soon leave on our long-awaited pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We will be travelling with a group from Edmonton, 2 Oblate priests and another couple from Arnprior. Over the 13 days we will be touring, walking, praying and celebrating the Eucharist in many of the places Jesus ministered, as depicted on the map above.  We will also be visiting many old testament sites.

In preparing for this trip, Dave has been studying the Historical Jesus and the Holy Land Revealed, two great video courses from The Great Courses Plus.   What Dave is left with is a profound sense of regret over the “great split” that occurred many years ago between the three Abrahamic faiths namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

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Jesus’ Tomb, Church of the Holy Sepulchre

839 The relationship of the Church with the Jewish people.  When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, “the first to hear the Word of the Lord.”  The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant.  To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to their flesh, is the Christ”, “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

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The Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount

841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place are among whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the truth of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.

 

 

So it is with a profound sense of hope for a brighter future that we embark on this holy pilgrimage.  It is time to meditate on the great mystery that God is about to reveal to us.  Please pray for us.  We will by praying for you.

Dave and Marie

 

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Who do you say I am?

He pressed the disciples! “And how about you?  Who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”  He swore the disciples to secrecy.  He made them promise they would tell no one that he was the Messiah.

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“It’s really happened!  The Master has been raised up – Simon saw him!”  While they were saying all this Jesus appeared to them and said “Peace be with you.”

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As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, was crucified for our sins, died and rose again from the dead before ascending to heaven.

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In his 2014 book How Jesus Became God, Prof. Bart Ehrman asks the question “But what did Jesus really say and do during his life on earth?”  As a historian, based on historical evidence, he concludes that during his lifetime, Jesus’ followers understood him to be an apocalyptic preacher who predicted the world would soon be ending and that the Son of Man would come down from heaven, to vanquish evil and save those people who had repented and lived by God’s rules.  It was only in the years after his death, that Jesus was elevated by his followers from being a man, to being a pre-existent divine being, equal to God himself, professes Ehrman.

The main tool he uses to justify historical truth is “plausibility”.  If it is mentioned in multiple sources, (e.g,  in multiple Gospels) it probably happened.  If it is somewhat negative, it probably happened. (e.g. Jesus recruited lowly fisherman and tax collectors as his disciples.)  However, if it is mentioned only once, particularly if it somewhat enhances the stature of Jesus or if the multiple reports are inconsistent, it probably did not happen like that, or at all (e.g., the passage from Mathew above was a single report only.)

Ehrman admits that there is no ‘historical’ doubt that the disciples had “visions” of the risen Christ and that led them to firmly believe that he had risen from the dead.  Otherwise, Christianity could never have established itself as a religion.  However since there is no way to prove historically that Jesus actually did rise from the dead, it seems that it was man and not God who raised Jesus up to the level of a deity, in the initial and subsequent 300 years of theological debate after his death, says Ehrman.

It is interesting to note that apart from the quote in MT above and when he was before Pontius Pilate, Jesus never acknowledged himself to be divine, ie. the Messiah and the Son of God.  Rather, he refers to the mysterious “Son of Man” over 50 times in the Gospels, but does not say that he is that being.  It was like Jesus did not seem to know during his lifetime that he was divine – further evidence of his lack of divinity according to the author.  The passage from Luke quoted above differs from the reports of this in the other Gospels, hence it is suspect according to Ehrman.

A lot happened particularly in the first 20 years after Jesus death. By the 300s there was no doubt Jesus was God, the arguments were more about was Christ two persons or one, the nature of his soul and how Mary could be the Mother of God given God is pre-existent. The author uses the term contextualize a lot. By nature we humans contextualize our views of things based on our lived experience. An example is that today about 80% of Catholics believe that anyone can get to heaven by following their particular religious beliefs. 50 years ago this figure was more like 10%. The context has changed.  Now many of our neighbours and family members practice a different religion, no religion or are of a different race.

Ehrman is a great teacher and very respected New Testament scholar.  A former evangelical Christian, he now admits to having become an atheist.  Hence he is the darling of those who wish to apply “scientific” tools to debunk the Christian faith, e.g., too many of today’s youth, atheists and the so-called “nones.”  Don’t get me wrong, he is a very credible researcher who clearly presents his ideas in a convincing and scholarly way.  He then makes his conclusions and recognizes that others are free to make theirs.

So it comes down to a matter of faith of whether Jesus resurrection really occured or not.  In order to believe, man needs the interior helps of the Holy Spirit.  When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood” but “from my Father who is in heaven.”

A good read but I disagree with the author’s conclusions.

 

 

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Engulfed in Mystery

It is great to be home.  Within the first few days we have been engulfed in mystery – the mystery of birth, marriage and death.

First, we learned of the passing of Dave’s friend Paul.  He had not been well for sometime and it was a blessing that God finally took him home.  His daughter contacted us about her dad’s passing and invited us to attend his interment service in Norway Bay, QC.

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Marie and I have fond memories of visiting Paul and going for a ride in his 1932 Chevrolet roadster named Dixie and, in his canoe.  We had brunch at Pine Lodge several times and Paul accompanied Dave on a couple of nostalgic rounds of golf there.  Dave and Paul met more than 10 years ago at the Ottawa Civil War Roundtable and became friends.  In 2009, they journeyed to Gettysburg, PA and toured the Civil War battlefield that Paul loved so much to visit.

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Dixie

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Hole No. 2 Pine Lodge, Bristol, QC

Paul was a very interesting character, a lover of history with a photographic memory.  He collected antique gramophone players and musical instruments as well as lovingly restored vintage cars.  The interment ceremony was held in Norway Bay just down the street from where he had lived with his dog Babe. We met several of his family members and friends.  Miss you Paul, rest in peace.

Next we learned the great family news that Elias Blaze Morgan was born on Oct 7, 2018, weighing, 7 lbs. 13 oz.  Thanks to God’s grace, Elias, Ashley and Kyle are all doing well.  We have received a bunch of photos and have done the first of many face chats.  Elias has gorgeous dark eyes, looks like his mother but definitely has the Morgan look to him.  We are so proud and happy!  Congratulations Kyle and Ashley!  Welcome into the world Elias Blaze, you are so loved.  We can’t wait to meet you in person.

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(Photos by Gabrielle Touchette Photography, Winnipeg, MB)

Finally we experienced the mystery and beauty of marriage.  Dave’s nephew Nick married Heather in a beautiful ceremony held at Strathmere, just south of Ottawa.  They have a wonderful blended family – 2 boys and 2 girls.  We had a great party with great food and music and wished them well in their new life together.  It was a beautiful thing to see and tears were flowing.  Congratulations Nick and Heather, may you have a long, happy and love filled marriage!

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Engulfed in the mystery of birth, marriage and death –  in hope, love and heaven.  We give thanks to God for his great glory, mercy and love in our lives.

Dave and Marie

 

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Great Plains Tour by the Numbers

We finished out our Great Plains tour with a return stop in Winnipeg. We played a great scrabble like card game called Quiddler with Ashley’s family, with son Kyle nudging out Ashley`s dad Rick to win. It was great family fun. Thank you Kyle and Ashley for hosting us at this joyous time. We look forward to meeting Baby Morgan soon. All our love!

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Ashley, Kyle and Baby Morgan

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With Ashely`s parents Tina and Rick and brother Kyle 

By the numbers our Great Plains tour:

  • 21 days, 10 in the U.S, 11 in Canada
  • Ottawa to Winnipeg return by air
  • 6025 kms of driving in a rental car
  • 5 states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana
  • 3 provinces: Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta
  • 18 sunny days, 2 rain and 1 dusting of snow
  • stayed in 5 Best Westerns, 1 park lodge, 2 other motels, 1 prayer house
  • 3 family stays, 2 friend stays/visits
  • best attraction Old Faithful
  • best wildlife – buffalo in Yellowstone Park
  • weight gain – won’t say
  • best little town – Cody, WY
  • best Canadian experience – Saskatoon
  • best all round place – Winnipeg
  • most peaceful stay – Qu’Appelle River Valley, SK

A few highlight pics follow.

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Brenda and Greg

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On the Boise River

 

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Linda, Michael and George

 

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Christine, Linda, Brian, Maggie and George

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Angela. Julius, Valentino and Victor

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Rick and Gaylene

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John and Anita

 

 

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John`s baby

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Why did we call this the Great Plains tour rather than the Prairies tour?  Because of a remarkable little book by Walter Prescott Webb.  Written in 1931, it tells the interaction of people with the vast central plains of America and into Canada, starting with the Plains Indians, then the Spanish/Mexicans and finally the Americans.  Overcoming relentless geography, the lack of water and very little wood took much technological ingenuity and trial and error in order for colonization to proceed.   The horse was indeed the sacred animal of the west that enabled the progress to happen.  Highly recommend this book to educate about this fascinating piece of our history.

Great Plains

Thanks again for travelling with us.  It`s good to be home again!

Dave and Marie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great Plains – Days 18 – 19

On our last day in Saskatoon we head out to the Wanuskewin Interpretive Centre. It is a Prairie Cree historical winter camp site that is still being excavated. We learn how to raise a teepee and watch a young man do a traditional hoop dance with 24 hoops. Wow, he manipulates the hoops on the fly to become an eagle or. A buffalo shape. Dave helps raise a teepee until some younger more skilled kids takeover.

We head south of town to visit friends John and Anita. They have a lovely country home and 8 acres of property that keeps them busy. We catch up over a wonderful dinner and make plans to meet on Sanibel Island in future. John and Dave met in university and keep in touch.

We checked with Kyle and Ashley and all is calm on the pre-baby front. We decide to book our flight home a few days hence. There are snow flurries here and more in the forecast.‎ We tour the Cathedral of the Holy Family and marvel at it’s moderness and stained glass beauty. We attend Mass there and laugh as the little ones run up to put a coin in the children’s collection basket. This is a truly butteful Church that we hope to visit again.

Then it’s off to Fort Qu’Appelle and the Oblate House of Prayer there for a night. Our hosts‎ are Tim and Cathy, lay volunteers from Winnipeg. Residents Fr. Glenn and Sister Margaret are ‎away on retreat. We hike the coulees (indented hills) followed by a delicious dinner. Our evening ends with a contemplative prayer service.

We are very thankful for the rest and peace and glad to be returning to Winnipeg tomorrow after a great activity packed road trip.

Thanks Rick and Gaylene, John and Anita and Tim and Cathy for your hospitality and warm welcome.

Dave and Marie

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Great Plains – Days 16 – 17

Only a few more‎ days to go on this pilgrimage you will be happy to know…

We drive from Lethbridge to Saskatoon. It is raining for the first time on the trip but the sun comes out after Swift Current. There are more and more wheat farms, elevators and terminals as we go. We descend a hill and as we cross a small lake we notice thousands of white dots floating on the lake. There must have been 5000 of them. ‎ These are snow geese on there way south we learn.

Arriving at Marie’s brother Rick’s in Saskatoon is most enjoyable. He and wife Gaylene roll out the red carpet for us. Over a great dinner we catch up and reminisce. Their daughter Angela drops over with her family. We have a great time seeing them again.

The next day we visit Queens House an Oblate Retreat Centre. We tour the facility and marvel at the beautiful chapel and prayer room. We chat with Brendan the Director and then walk down to the S. Saskatchewan. It’s cold but sunny. We have time to visit the Sask Berry Farm and pick up some jam. Then it’s off to tour the Canadian Light Source. It is one of the largest research centres in Canada. The light produced is fast moving electrons that are used in applied health, agriculture, environmental and materials research. E,g, they have found a way of converting A and B blood types to O here.

We finish our great day with Rick and Gaylene at a Greek restaurant.‎ The trees are in their prime colour, there is a snap in the air. This is Saskatchewan in the Fall. We love it.

Dave and Marie

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Great Plains – Days 12 -15

We leave Boise today for Lethbridge, AB. We drive out through a desolate region of Idaho and stop at the ‎Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. It is a vast lava field that is black. Some vegetation has crept back. It’s spooky.

We make good time along the deserted highway and arrive in Butte, MT. It is a small city nestled between steep colourful hills. All the buildings are one story and visible as there is only a tree here and there. We are up and at it first thing in the morning after the best Best Western breakfast yet.

We continue north and cross the Missouri River again in the most beautiful of canyons. The golden hills are dotted with green trees and the majestic Missouri wanders calmly through them lined with trees and green vegetation. Glacier National Park mountains can be seen on our left. Huzzah!!

We cross into Alberta at Sweet Grass. We get pulled in for a random inspection at Canadian Customs. Oh, oh, we are slightly over on our declared wine import allotment…After a few minutes of tense waiting they hand us back our keys and passport‎s and say you are free to go. It pays to be low risk seniors we figure. Phew!

We arrive at Marie’s brother George’s in Lethbridge. Linda cooks us a wonderful meal as we catch up. It is good to be back in Canada. Their lovely condo is situated at the east end of the Lethbridge Viaduct – the largest train bridge structure in the world – over 1.5 km long and 100 m high over the Oldman River. This place used to be called Fort Whoop-Up for the contraband liquor sales to the Blackfoot nation in the 19th century. We whoop it up a bit over a bit of wine and turn in early.

The next day we visit their son Michael for lunch and Brian for dinner. We visit Henderson Lake Park and hike through the “buttefull” Old Man River basin park. Lot’s of laughs and hugs are in order. The it’s on the road again after a great family visit. Thank you George and Linda!

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