BY CHRISTINE HOGAN
Apologies for the absence of a pilgrimage blog yesterday, but a couple of things got in the way.
The first was that a member of our group had been unwell, so as the tour leader in charge of that aspect of our trip, I had to spend some time helping her to sort out options for her return flight.
Thankfully, she is on the mend, so requires not much more than a wheel chair at the airports for our return journey, and some TLC.
The second was that I had to spend some time processing our visit to Yad Vashem, the museum of the Holocaust.
I still don't know that I can assess its impact. But our guide Lauren ensured that, before our pilgrim group was taken into the depths of the sadness which resides here, she began with stories of Jews who were protected and cared for by Christians, Muslims, atheists, and agnostics as the Nazis developed their final solution to rid their lands of all Jews.
The walls of names of people who helped were inspiring, and as we stood there, Lauren honoured Soeur Jeanne, a French nun who, with other members of her order, was responsible for hiding and saving Lauren's aunt Lotte and five other little Jewish girls who were sent on a train from Germany by their fathers.
The nuns insisted that the girls retain their own religious beliefs, telling them that if they did not, the sin would not be on the souls of the girls, but on those of the sisters.
The nuns cared for them in France, and then when the Nazi threat became intolerable, walked them over the Pyrenees into Spain, and finally to Gibraltar. Finally, the girls were out on a ship to the place which would become Israel after 1947. Soeur Jeanne had visited her girls in Israel when she was well into her 80s.
The memorial to the children who died in the Holocaust was simple, and tremendously moving. It was also harrowing to walk in its candlelight hall and remember that these were real people denied the right to life and happiness and a future.
After that introduction, I got into the first hall of the museum itself, and felt so suffocated by sadness, and so claustrophobic, that I had to leave.
The museum is a terrible reminder of what can happen when one race of people, one group, is dehumanised by another. It's hard to kill a person but easy to kill a non-person. Or 6 million of them. As the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Lazzarotto, told us on Monday, pilgrim means effort - and Yad Vashem was certainly that, emotionally speaking.
It was with some expectation that a group of 20 of us went to Mass last night at the Vicariate for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Rabbi Kook Street, not far from Notre Dame of Jerusalem. There are just 600 souls catered for by this vicariate, but what they lack in numbers they certainly make up for in spirit.
We were warmly welcomed in from a drowned street, settled down, and effectively inducted. The Mass would begin with Vespers, moved on to the Eucharist, and end with the Magnificat, Fr Piotr told us.
After Mass, he spoke to us of the history of the Vicariate, and some of the priests associated with it, and generously shared his understanding of the role of the Vicariate in Israel today.
It is always interesting to me to go to Mass that is celebrated in a language other than English. I have an idea of how it must have been for more that a millennia for people hearing Mass in Latin and having not much of an idea what was happening. So I decided to open myself not to the words, but the spirit and was rewarded for that. When the host was consecrated, I was intensely aware that this was probably as close as I would ever be to hearing how many early Christians heard Mass.
Today we were back on the bus for a far less emotional time... First to Mt Carmel, and then on to the Crusader stronghold at Acre (modern day Akko) and then a mad rush to Caesarea before the gates slammed shut on the ruins of Herod's Palace at 4pm.
It was a lovely day on the Mediterranean, and tonight we are having Fr John, the Vatican Charge for Notre Dame of Jerusalem, talk to us about the new project he is nursing along at Migdal. As the Nuncio reminded us, there were joys in pilgrimage, and today was full of them.
Christine Hogan is the Publisher for the faith-based publications produced by Church Resources. She is currently on the CathNews Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and is blogging regularly for the duration of the journey.
Disclaimer: CathBlog is an extension of CathNews story feedback. It is intended to promote discussion and debate among the subscribers to CathNews and the readers of the website. The opinions expressed in CathBlog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference or of Church Resources.