Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This week I would like to share with you some experiences of the youth from the parish who recently arrived from a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. While we were there, we prayed for our Parish. This year, all the youth from the Neocatechumenal Way in the US were invited to participate in a national vocational meeting in the Mount of the Beatitudes. There were 35 pilgrims from our parish who participated in the meeting that gathered 8,000 youth. They were not there as tourists just visiting the holy sites, instead they had an opportunity to have an encounter with Christ who passed through places where they prayed. Some of them forfeited their summer vacation plans and made sacrifices to be able to participate in this pilgrimage. Below is the testimony of some of them who would like to share this beautiful experience with the whole parish.
“Coming into this trip I was very well excited, mostly because I was able to get away from everything, like a vacation I needed. My first couple days in Israel, I was more of a tourist rather than a pilgrim but I got helped by those with us shortly after and thanks to them I was able to enter the pilgrimage. I was struck the most when doing the procession of Jesus Christ where he walked the streets carrying the cross [Stations of the Cross], repeatedly being beaten. It was in that moment where I, as a son of the Lord, realized I have been very ungrateful. I have so many blessings in my life and simply because I want to do my own will, I push away, I run from the Lord. Yet, this pilgrimage has opened my eyes and to appreciate the blessings the Lord has given and continues to give me, to be grateful that I am still alive, that I have a family, and most importantly the Neocatechumenal Way. Coming back home, I still feel this happiness in my heart, I feel the Lord in my life and I will continue to do so if I let Him lead my life. I am beyond grateful for this experience, this connection with the Lord and all the blessings I have in my life.”
“This pilgrimage was life changing for me because it helped change my mentality. I went into the pilgrimage feeling like I didn’t know anything. I felt very lost, with no purpose to my life. As we visited some sites, it became more clear to me that God lets us suffer in order to mold us into the people that he sent us on this Earth to be. One of the locations that really got me thinking was the place where Jesus Christ got crucified. It’s unbelievable the amount of suffering Jesus went through without complaining and I can’t even go an hour without complaining. This pilgrimage helped me understand what it is that Jesus did for me and sadly I never appreciated him enough. So now that I have come back I have been opened to a whole new mentality and I look forward to what God has in store for me.”
“One of the moments I liked the most was when we visited to the House of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Nazareth. It was very profound. As a proud and weak man, it also humiliates me to ask for help. Praying at the site of the Annunciation brought me to tears as I saw my sins and my weaknesses. Yet the presence of the Mother brought me consolation, by knowing that she doesn’t get scandalized at my weaknesses and my sins but she intercedes for me. Praying there for her intercession also gave me the confidence to keep praying to her for help. Moreover, I am always called to be open to the will of God. Essentially, in this site, Mary also showed her openness to God’s will when the angel Gabriel announced to her the plans that God had for her and she said YES. To me this was the same question that the angel asks me today am I open to the will of God?”
“I had the blessing of turning twenty-one in the Holy Land and this pilgrimage was very significant in my life because as a seminarian, I am constantly searching for God through prayer and scripture. I can put into perspective the agony Christ suffered when they were condemning him to death on the cross. A pivotal point of my pilgrimage was based on the Passion of Christ. This is where Christ entrusted himself fully to God the Father. This event is also where we Christians receive Christ mercy, although we do not deserve it. As seminarians, we had the privilege of carrying the cross through the Old City, just like Jesus did while he was being persecuted. As we carried the cross the rest of the pilgrims prayed the stations of the cross. Everything was a blessing and a grace, to walk on the land where Jesus performed miracles like resurrecting the dead, curing the blind, and saving peoples souls. I want to truly thank you for helping support me and my fellow seminarians embark on this pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will continue to pray for you and I ask that you pray for me, so that one day we may enjoy each other’s company in the eternal banquet with Christ. Shalom. Thank you.”
Father Steven Clemence