Fr Brendan’s Pilgrimage to the Holy Land 2017

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New Dawn Magazine Fr Karl Burns Editor

Fr Benny McHale led a pilgrimage from the archdiocese to the Holy Land from 26 June to 5 July, which was a most enjoyable spiritual ,journey.

Pictured here at Via Dol Rosa was the Tuam travelling party, which included: Fr Brendan Kilcoyne, Mutassem (guide), Mary McDonagh, Christina Murphy, Siobhan Murphy John and Dorinda Flannery, James and Eileen McNicholas, Ann Marie Daly, Chris Lally, Mary Hernon, Brid Mylotte, Fr Benny McHale, Hubert O’Reilly Martin Flatley, Lily Reilly, Marion Daniels, Michael Loftus, Margaret Fahy, Kathleen Flaherty, Aislinn Flaherty, Tom and Margaret Monahan, Bridget Browne, Mary and John Joe Holleran, Naomh Reilly, Martina Farragher, Shirley Keogh, Jimmy Feeney, Anne Keogh, Kathleen Ronan, Gertie Foley, Roger Power

‘Abba, Abba” shouted a little girl in Istanbul airport as she ran towards her amused father.

We were all waiting for the flight to Tel Aviv. A large party of Jewish people were there and l glanced covertly as often as I dared. The People. His People. The same astonished people he told to run to the God of Abraham, the Lord of Hosts, crying ‘Abba, Abba”. Like a little child. Exactly.

Of all the things l had been meaning for years to do, visiting the Holy Land was always the big one. Like some of the good china which used to be kept for that special occasion which never seemed to arrive, the plan was left to gather dust on the shelf. This year, and my 25th anniversary of ordination, seemed the ‘now or never’ moment. l went to the Holy Land with Fr Benny McHale for about ten days last summer and I can only repeat the cliche: the scriptures have not been the same for me since.

We are, as CS Lewis often liked to point out, physical beings. We live in times and places, we come from blood relatives and broader tribal stock, with shared experience of location, speech, food and all the rest. If you want to understand a person, as any biographer might agree, visiting their place of origin and their people is a crucial part of the journey.

Fr Benny McHale and Fr Brendan Kilcoyne under the mosaic, which was donated by the people of Knock to the people of Nazareth.

It you want to understand and come closer to Jesus Christ, you cannot do better than to move from the encounter in the church and to the physical theatre in which the great drama of Jesus’ life on earth was played out. His land. His people. Forget the manners your mother taught you, just for now, and stick to the faith she gave you. l spent the ten days pointing and staring. The physicality’s. Not words anymore. What Chesterton called “the strong dark meat of reality”. The Jewish people, his crowd, so to speak, his people. The view from the Sea of Galilee. What he would have seen when he looked up: Mount Arbel, the Golan Heights. The Dove Valley, narrowing to a rocky path and a ‘stream by the wayside’, where he had to have walked. Little Nain, on the side of the hill, where he rose the dead. Capernaum and the remains of the synagogue where he delighted his listeners. The well in Nazareth, where she would have drawn water. The Jordan, surprisingly leafy and green and then the desert: nothing. It compares to nothing here.

Forget the bog – we don’t know what a wilderness is! And the Jericho, and Jacobs Well and Bethlehem and Jerusalem and Gethsemane and mass on the day of my anniversary at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

And that was only the half of it. There wasn’t enough time in the day or enough days in the trip.

We came back three months ago but I’ll be unpacking for months to come.

“Abba, Abba”. And I‘ll return, please God. “Next year in Jerusalem”.

See also: Fr Benny McHale’s Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

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About this record

Written by Fr Brendan Kilcoyne

Published here 12 Mar 2024 and originally published 2017

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