Tag Archive for: Holy Land

Why No Gloria In Advent?

My husband and I enjoy watching A Charlie Brown Christmas every year. Who could forget that classic moment, when a deeply perturbed Charlie Brown yells, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!” and Linus recites from the Gospel of Luke…? It’s a real tear-jerker.

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Have you ever realized that this historic event is commemorated during Mass on Sundays and major feast days? Each time we sing, “Glory to God in the highest…”, known as the Gloria, we are echoing those words of the angels that forever changed the world and sent a message of hope for all people! Wow!

However, have you noticed that at most Masses during Advent, we skip the Gloria? Why?

Why Shepherds are Significant for Us

Imagine spending your days and nights outside with a flock of sheep. (Not the most exciting gig in the world!) Shepherds were servants, hired by landowners to tend their flock. An ideal shepherd was a patient, loyal, strong person, willing to stay with his job despite boredom, bad weather, and the occasional predator or wandering sheep.

To these simple servants, the host of heaven revealed itself!

Advent is a time of preparation and waiting. Unlike the world around us which is already celebrating Christmas, we are called to patiently wait for our Savior. Just like the shepherds, we must stay awake and alert. Then, when heaven reveals itself to us, we will be ready to run and greet Christ!

We do not normally sing the Gloria during Advent as a reminder that we are waiting, like those shepherds. For me, Christmas Mass is one of the most emotional of the year, because I can sing the song that, along with millions of other Catholics, I have been waiting to sing. Together, our Church family sings the song that brought hope to a people longing for a savior; the song that the host of heaven sang to some humble little “nobodys”…

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will!

Let’s treasure this time of waiting, and work on becoming more open to God’s presence in our everyday lives.


Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate for nearly 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.

Cana at Galilee – Holy Land

Join Deacon Tom Fox & Robert Rodriguez as they travel to Kafr Cana in the Galilee-region of the Holy Land. This is the site confirmed by the Vatican as Cana of Galilee where the Wedding Feast and changing of water into wine took place.

During this program you will also discover:

  • what one will encounter when visiting the site on pilgrimage
  • the significance of the Wedding at Cana in the public ministry of Jesus
  • the symbolism connected to Christ’s first miracle
  • insights from the Church, Saints, and Popes

Jewel for the Journey:
Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church.  — St. Pope John Paul II

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Church of the Transfiguration – Lower Galilee, Israel

Join Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox for a virtual pilgrimage to the summit of Mount Tabor, site of the Transfiguration of Jesus (celebrated on August 6). During this program you will learn more about:

  • The significance of mountain heights chosen by God to give important messages to His people
  • The Basilica of the Transfiguration
  • The conversion story of Italian architect Antonio Berluzzi, the Basilica’s designer
  • Spiritual Life Lessons we can learn from the Transfiguration

Jewel for the Journey:
Being here enables us to understand that we need to detach ourselves from material things, to look to heaven, as earthly things often separate us from Jesus. It is no coincidence that Jesus choose this mountain for His Transfiguration.   Rabab

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Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org for more information.

Birthplace of St. John the Baptist – Jerusalem

Take a virtual journey to the Holy Land with Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox as they visit the birthplace of St. John the Baptist, located in the hill country of Jerusalem in ancient Palestine. During this program, you will learn more about:

  • The Church of the Nativity of St. John
  • The Story of Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth & Zechariah
  • The Canticle of Zechariah
  • The Life of St. John the Baptist
  • How we can emulate John & proclaim the Good News

Jewel for the Journey:
Celebrating the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist also reminds us – Christians in our own times – that we cannot give into compromise when it comes to our love for Christ, for his Word, for his Truth. The Truth is the Truth; there is no compromise. The Christian life requires, as it were, the ‘martyrdom’ of daily fidelity to the Gospel; the courage, that is, to allow Christ to increase in us and to direct our thoughts and actions.       – Pope Benedict XVI

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What Does It Cost to Be Free? My Experience of Forgiveness

During a Holy Land pilgrimage, I saw a beautiful bush full of soft leaves, red berries and tiny white flowers. Our guide called it Spina Christi. She explains that when dried, the supple branches become sharp thorns. It is this plant which was weaved into the Crown of Thorns and pressed into the head of our Lord Jesus Christ, causing his blood to flow.

In contemplating why God would create this plant knowing its ultimate purpose in his Passion, I realized it is because he desires for his Precious Blood to be poured out for our salvation. He says at the Last Supper, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Luke 22:20).

It is important to know that Jesus was totally in charge of all that was happening to him. In the Gospel of John (10:17-18) we read, “I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.”

In God’s Justice, he deemed what is the cost for our salvation. God fulfilled his justice in the Passion and Death of his own son, Jesus Christ. God paid the price himself, “By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Spend time contemplating the Passion, and our only adequate response is gratitude. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced” (no. 1432).

To be set free costs you nothing… to remain free, costs your all.

I encountered Jesus a year following my tubal ligation. I knew when I said yes to this sterilization procedure that it was in opposition to Church teaching, but I was never taught why… nor did I seek to find out.

A merciful encounter with our Lord returned me to the Catholic faith. It was a slow process receiving the grace of forgiveness, as I blamed everyone for my sin but myself. I even blamed God for letting me fall. In the gentle care of the Holy Spirit, I eventually accepted responsibility. In confessing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I found consolation. However, I harbored a resentment towards the priests who had not properly catechized me. The fault of my sin is mine, but I do not carry this burden alone.

During the pilgrimage, we visited the Sacred Pit into which Jesus was thrown on the night of his arrest. It is carved from rock and is deep at the bottom of a hole that extends from where Jesus was questioned and beaten before the high priest, Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57).

From inside the Sacred Pit, you can hear voices above. I imagine Jesus listening to his high priest (John 11:50-51) condemn Him. I think about His New Covenant priests, the Apostles, who at that time are fleeing, denying and betraying Him. In my hands is the Crown of Thorns. This is a grace of wonder given through the pilgrimage experience. I understand in it that God is acknowledging the injustice of His priests done to me; an injustice He shares.

In that moment of wonder, Jesus looks at me. He wills me to place the Crown of Thorns on his head so he can shed his blood; the price for our salvation which includes those who have trespassed against me.

This is a costly moment. It requires my all.

His gaze brings tears of sorrow, joy and a profound understanding. I know that I cannot stop Jesus from shedding his blood for sinners, but I can stop being the source of his suffering through my failure to forgive. In gratitude to our merciful our God, I pray, “I will to forgive them all, Lord.”  Note this is not a feeling… it is a free-will choice and has required of me multiple offerings.

To my unexpected delight, I soon discover a transformation which can best be described as freedom. This freedom has a divine power that has brought me continual healing, a growing compassion for others, a constant peace, and a closer relationship with God. It is this freedom that Saint Pope John Paul II writes in his encyclical, Dives In Misericordia (Rich in Mercy),

“Forgiveness demonstrates the presence in the world of the love which is more powerful that sin. Forgiveness is also the fundamental condition for reconciliation, not only in the relationship of God with man, but also in relationships between people.”

It is the same as our Lord promised on the Mount of Beatitudes; “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).


Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

Mary of Magdala at Christ’s Tomb

When you read or hear the Scriptures about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, do you imagine what the disciples must have thought or how they felt when they saw the empty Tomb of Christ? Or what about Mary Magdalene who was one of his followers and witnessed the crucifixion?

She is mentioned in all four Gospel accounts in relation to the resurrection of Jesus. How interesting! The four do not mention that the apostles or other disciples were the first to see the empty tomb where the body of Jesus was placed after his crucifixion. They were informed later by Mary of Magdala and the women with her. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke; we learn that Mary Magdalene and women with her discover the empty tomb and see angel(s) informing them that the Lord Jesus had been raised. He is not there.

However, in the Gospel of John 20:11-18, after Mary of Magdala saw the empty tomb and ran to tell Peter and the apostles, she returned to the tomb and wept. Jesus appears to her, although she thought it was the gardener; she was deep in sorrow.

It wasn’t until she heard her name Mary called out; when she turned and saw Jesus. She then went and told the disciples: I have seen the Lord!

Imagine yourself there with Mary of Magdala, seeing her weep—and then Jesus appears and calls her name. There would be a change in her face; from sadness to an immense joy, seeing her Lord before her! The gaze of the Lord Jesus upon Mary of Magdala transformed her when she first encountered him in Galilee. She was from a predominant fishing village by the Sea of Galilee called Magdala. She was the woman from whom seven demons had gone out (cf. Luke 8:2). Her encounter with him changed her life. She received her dignity as a child of God, began to follow Jesus and provided for him and his apostles out of her resources. Yes, Mary of Magdala met Jesus, believed he was the Messiah, was healed by him, and embraced his teachings. Her fidelity led her to follow Jesus to his death on Calvary.

Mary of Magdala was the first to whom Jesus appeared to after his resurrection, and for this reason she is given the title the Apostle to the Apostles, referenced by Pope John Paul II in his 1988 encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem.

The gaze of Jesus upon Mary of Magdala is a gaze, we too, can experience! Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains it well:

Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. […] There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.

Would you like to see the empty tomb? Would you like to experience bending down to enter the tomb where the body of Jesus laid after his crucifixion, the very site where he resurrected? Would you like to sit before this sacred place and ponder what happened here? Would you like to see a prayer area nearby commemorating where Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene? I invite you to join us on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land! My husband, Deacon Tom, and I are pilgrimage leaders and have been there 56 times. Yes, I have visited the empty tomb, have venerated numerous times and never tire of it. It is sanctified by the Lord; how can one tire from seeing, touching the place where his body laid? Alleluia!


Mary Jane Fox, D.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with her husband, Deacon Tom Fox. The two left their careers after a profound conversion experience and began working full-time in ministry at their parish in 1986. After several years and having impacted tens of thousands of families, the Foxes founded Pilgrim Center of Hope in 1993 as a response to the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. Mary Jane is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Dame of the Holy Sepulchre.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

Bethany

Journey with Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox to this small town near Jerusalem where Jesus often stayed. Hear all about the home of Mary, Martha, & Lazarus. Located on the spot of present day Al-Eizariya (Place of Lazarus) in the West Bank, it is just south of the Mount of Olives, the place associated with the Ascension of our Lord.

Jewel for the Journey:
God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle.  In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal. 
– St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Basilica of the Nativity – Bethlehem

Travel with Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox to the most sacred spot in the world, the site where Jesus was born. Meditate on this holy place as you pass through bronze gates to the spot, marked by a silver star, where the Savior was born. Also experience the Chapel of the Manger & the Altar of the Three Kings.

Jewel For The Journey
We desire to be able to welcome Jesus at Christmas time, not in a cold manger of our heart, but in a heart full of love and humility, in a heart so pure, so immaculate, so warm with love for one another. – St. Mother Teresa

Capernaum – the Town of Jesus

Come on a journey with Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox to this town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, which was at the center of Our Lord’s public ministry. This fishing port and market for merchants was also where St. Peter lived. It was also the town where Jesus invited Matthew the Tax Collector to “follow me.”

Experience the village where a number of the Apostles lived, where Jesus announced the Holy Eucharist, and where he healed and taught.

We will take you to Peter’s house, travel down the Via Maris, and go to the synagogue where Jesus went on the Sabbath day.

Jewel for the Journey

The more Christians immerse themselves in the circle of Christ’s light, the more capable they become of understanding and accompanying the path of every man and woman towards God. – Pope Francis

Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

Come on a journey with Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox to this ancient basilica, shared by many faiths. It encompasses the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, anointing, and burial, as well as many other ancient tombs and chapels.

Jewel for the Journey

Pope John Paul II during Mass in the Holy Sepulcher Church in 2000: “From this place, where the Resurrection was first made known to the women and then to the Apostles, I urge all the Church’s members to renew their obedience to the Lord’s command to take the Gospel to all the ends of the earth. At the dawn of a new Millennium, there is a great need to proclaim from the rooftops the Good News that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).”