My wife Carmen and I had the blessings to be able to go to the Holy Land July 6-16, 2016. We were blessed to be able to go with the Pilgrim Center of Hope out of San Antonio, and Tom and Mary Jane Fox were incredible leaders! This was their 49th trip leading pilgrims just to the Holy Land. Their insight was invaluable, as you will be able to tell by the rest of this story, and I cannot thank them both enough for their faith, professionalism, courtesy and knowledge. We were able to do so much more than the average pilgrimage because of their numerous contacts. As the old saying goes, “It is not how much you know, but who you know,” and they knew the people of the Holy Land. That made our trip incredible. I am not trying to make this sound like a commercial for the Pilgrim Center of Hope, however I would be remiss if I did not give them the credit that they deserve.
Arriving in Nazareth, what struck us about this town is that there is an upper Nazareth and a lower Nazareth because of the steep hills. You can see why when Jesus told the Nazoreans in Luke 4: 29-30 that he had fulfilled Scripture, and they became angry and tried to throw him over the cliff, how easy that would be to do. This is what is so incredible about going to the Holy Land, because the Bible becomes so much more alive.
The Rosary will never be the same for me after this trip. We actually visited 19 of the 20 mystery sites where they actually occurred, with the only one that we did not visit was the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. I hope that you and I will also see that one as well one day, when we are in our glorified bodies.
In Jerusalem, we stayed at The Notre Dame Hotel, a Pontifical Institute which is owned by the Vatican. We were blessed to have a gorgeous chapel within the Hotel. Carmen and I were able to go to Eucharistic Adoration, and what a great way to prepare oneself for the sites we were about to see. Looking at the old city within the walls reminded me of all the history that has taken place in this city.
We were blessed to have Mass not only in the Holy Sepulcher Church, but at the very tomb of Jesus. During the Mass, Carmen and I were able to go into the tomb for a couple of minutes. Can you imagine that?
I would also be remiss if I did not mention how important it was for our pilgrimage to have a Christian guide. Without going into detail, just know that having a Christian guide is a must! I just want you to know that our guide was from Jerusalem and his family have been Christians for 2,000 years. His Christian insight to the Holy places we visited was unbelievable. His perspective on the Holy Land and the relationship between Palestine and Israel was also eye-opening.
As we left Jerusalem, I again was so thankful for the Pilgrim Center of Hope for making this not a site seeing trip but an actual pilgrimage that increased my faith in such a tangible way. Jesus was real and I was able to walk in his footsteps! Reading the Bible, praying the Rosary, listening to the Scriptures in Mass have become alive. In the event that my account of our pilgrimage, which barely touched the surface of what we saw and witnessed in the Holy Land, inspires you to make this journey, please contact Tom and Mary Jane.
– Jimmy and Carmen Reno