Carrying the cross at the ‘Via Dolorosa’ ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was buried.

Updated: November 17, 2017, 4:52PM

British Columbia

Religion:

In Jesus’ footsteps: Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

By Ted Alcuitas

We were a diverse group of people, all 34 of us from different backgrounds, cultures, ages and coming from different parishes in the lower mainland.

Couples married for more than 50 years, 40 and even just three years.

A mother and daughter of three.

Two sisters, and a mother and young daughter.

We began as strangers, each with his or her own reason for wanting to follow the footsteps of Jesus.

In the end, we became a family bonded to each other by a common faith.

Companions in the journey

Fr. Rey Usman (AM) of St.Michael’s Parish in Burnaby and Fr. Rajesh Martha (OCD) chaplain at St. Pauls’ Hospital in Vancouver accompanied us in the journey. The two priests provided deep spiritual meaning to the pilgrims by concelebrating mass everyday at each step of the journey.

Transforming moment

For Kristina who came with her sister Hazel it was a “transforming moment”.

“Seeing Jesus’ birthplace, where he lived and preached made it real for me,” said the Business Administration graduate of Capilano College.

Germana and Renato of St. Mathews Parish, Surrey had always wanted to come and this time the trip fitted their schedule.

The trip coincided with their 50th wedding anniversary so the renewal of marriage vows the Church of Cana was one the highlights of their trip. Cana was where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine.

Couples renewed wedding vows at the Church in Cana where Jesus had his first miracle of turning water into wine.

“ Carrying the cross at the Via Dolorosa was like putting myself there – right where the gospel said it happened.”

“Having studied renaissance art, it was really cool for me to see the art in the churches and various places, and it made me appreciate it more,” says Isabel who grew up in a deeply devout family of six siblings.

She said she approached the trip from a “literary” perspective but “seeing the art made it more real for me and made real the stories I read and grew up as a child.”

The spirit was working…

As we progressed in our pilgrimage, it was evident that a spirit of peace and compassion grew within the group – in the little acts of kindness shown to each other when someone felt weary or tired or felt sick.

I was not feeling well one day and people offered comfort – a word of advice here, a banana or even some medication to ease the pain.

There were bursts of unexpected joy upon hearing the voice of three-year old Alexa sing while we settled our tired bodies in the bus for the next destination.

The experience of actually seeing where Jesus was born and lived and where he died touched me to the core.

Now the parables were replayed right before my own
eyes.

In seeing the barreness of the land and so understanding Jesus’ parable of the sower – some seed fell on barren ground and others on fertile soil. Am I open to Jesus message?

Marvelling at the vastness of the Sea of Galilee and on a boat that crossed to the other shore. Reminds me of the song ‘Pescadores’- “Lord you have come to the seashore..I will seek other shores..”

Contemplating how Jesus suffered on his way to Golgotha to be crucified and touching the thorns from a branch that Fr. Rey managed to bring.

Jesus in so many ways, lived among us during those days. We were companions on the journey and found Jesus in each other without perhaps realizing it.

Fr. Rey summed up the journey in his homily at the farewell mass and invited us:

“ All of you answered the call. Now you have to share your experience with others and be evangelizers…”

Fr. James Martin, SJ, in his book, ‘Jesus, A Pilgrimage’ also invited us to meet Jesus:

“so I invite you to meet Jesus you already may know, but in a new way. Or, if you don’t know much about Jesus, I would like to introduce him to you..”

I know I meet Jesus in each one of you during this journey.

For this, I am truly grateful.

Our group getting ready for the ‘Via Dolorosa’ – retracing the footsteps of Jesus as he was led to Golgotha to be crucified.