Scripture will come alive for several Deacons who will accompany Fr. James Gardiner, SA, on a retreat pilgrimage to the Holy Land, taking place over the New Year. Fr. David Wathen, OFM, who is the Director for the Franciscan Monastery Pilgrimage Office in DC, will help the group navigate each site and also provide spiritual guidance. The trip will not only focus on seeing the sites where Jesus and the Apostles walked, but also center on praying at these sites, in order to deepen the group’s connection with, and commitment to, Christ Jesus and His Holy Church.

Fr. Gardiner is currently serving the Atonement Friars as Director of Special Projects at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. He is also Chair of the Washington Archdiocesan Holy Land Committee. His knowledge of ancient Jewish and Christian sites, customs, scripture, and history, will allow the group to physically see the timeline Christ’s life, while also experiencing the heart of his miracles, ministry, death, and Resurrection.

Some highlights of the holy sites the group will see:

  • Nazareth, the home of our Lord, where the group will visit the home of the Holy Family in St. Joseph’s Church.
  • Mt. Tabor, where the Transfiguration of Jesus took place.
  • The Sea of Galilee, where the group will be able to experience the fisherman’s life of some of the apostles.
  • The Jordan River, where the pilgrims will have the opportunity to renew their baptismal promises.
  • In Bethlehem they will visit the Church of the Nativity, the Manger, the Church of St. Catherine, the Grotto of St. Jerome and the Shepherds’ Field.
  • The Garden of Gethsemane to visit the Basilica of the Agony where they will celebrate Mass.
  • The Upper Room, the site of the Last Supper.
  • The Jewish quarter of Old Jerusalem to visit the Western Wall.
  • The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, to visit Golgotha and the Tomb of Our Lord. The pilgrims will be able to celebrate Mass on Calvary– can you imagine?

There is no doubt that these sites will provide the perfect spiritual backdrop for God to pour out His grace on Fr. Gardiner and the pilgrims. The pilgrims are Deacons and therefore often responsible for catechesis, pastoral care, and formation at their parishes. Please pray that God would anoint Fr. Gardiner and allow this trip to bless not only the Deacons, but every person they come in contact with at their parishes.