Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus



Jerusalem, October 20, 2016
John Langan, sdb


On Thursday, October 13, 2016, early in the morning all twelve first-year students with Fr. Karol Kulpa, sdb, Fr. Aloysius, the rector of the Jerusalem community of the Missionaries of Africa and Fr. Aloysius SJ, a Jesuit priest, set out on a study trip to Galilee.


We began by listening and reflecting on a reading of the Good Samaritan. We were following the same route as the man in the passage, out of Jerusalem. He was leaving Jerusalem, God’s city, and heading toward the cursed city of Jericho. I wondered if Father Karol was trying to tell us something as we followed the path of this man’s footsteps. As we continued to descend from Jerusalem into the Judean desert there were many things that drew our attention. we passed a sign that indicated we were now traveling below sea level, and a settlement of the nomadic Bedouin people. Our first stop was Jericho, the site of the Temptation, where we listened to the Luke's Gospel account of Jesus' Temptation in the desert, looking out over the vast valley and lands. Next we drove to a sycamore tree in Jericho and listened to the account of Zacchaeus being called down by Jesus. Fr. Aloysius bought everyone dates from a local vender there.


We stopped at the Jordan river and reflected on three distinct but related readings; Elijah going up to heaven as Elisha watched, the Israelites passing over the dry Jordan river-bed as the priests stood with the Ark in the middle stopping the flow of the river water, and finally Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist. Fr. Karol helped us recognize some connections between the Old and New Testament from these passages; just as the Israelites passed into the Promised Land through this river, John the Baptist is the prophet who links the Old and the New Testament. Jesus shows us the way into the true Promised Land though baptism. We took the opportunity to renew our baptismal promises here and then all had some fun sprinkling the water around.


We continued on to the Sea of Galilee and stopped off at Magdala, a recent archeological site that found an ancient synagogue and a unique stone named the Magdala stone. The stone is a miniature replica of the temple carved out of stone. We celebrated Mass here in their chapel overlooking the Sea of Galilee. It was a beautiful experience. Next, we took a boat ride across the Sea while listening to various Gospel accounts of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. The boat ride was completed with an impromptu photo shoot on the bow of the boat and singing along with the traditional Jewish music and some Christian worship songs. When we arrived at the other side we feasted on a delicious lunch of St. Peter’s Fish. It is actually tilapia, but it takes its unique name here on account of Peter catching this kind of fish with coins in its mouth.


Finally, we arrived in the Salesian residence in Nazareth and were warmly welcomed by Fr. Tony and the community there. After dinner we walked down into the old city in Nazareth to the Centre International Marie de Nazareth where a Sister from the Chemin Neuf Community greeted us and gave us a fantastic multimedia presentation on Mary’s role in the Salvation History. We saw incredible views of the Basilica of the Annunciation from the rooftop gardens.


On Friday, we woke up early in the morning and started off after a delicious breakfast provided by the Salesian community in Nazareth. We headed out and stopped off quickly at the wedding of Cana site and the House of the Bartholomew. Next, we headed to a nature reserve where Mount Hermon stands and saw the remains of the Roman temple of a god called Pan where Jesus spoke to Peter about being the rock of the Church, meaning he would be greater than this enormous mount and temple here in front of him. We walked along the trail next to the stream all the way to the Banyans Waterfall. Along the way we had views of Lebanon just across the valley. Next, we headed off to Capernaum or the town of Jesus and visited the Church above Peter’s house for the second time and spent time in the surrounding remains of the city Jesus ministered to so long ago. From there we went to Tabgah where the Mensa Christi church where Jesus revealed himself to the Apostles as they were fishing after Jesus’ Crucifixion. It was here that Jesus asked Peter three times, "Peter, do you love me?" Fr. Karol pointed out the difference in the Greek that is not easily translated to the English. Jesus first asked Peter twice using the verb form “agape”, which carries the connotation of a love, which is complete ready to die for him, while Peter responded only with the verb conjugation of filial love. Jesus then asked Peter using the verb of filial love, coming down to his level of understanding. Then, again we visited the site of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish; we were reminded that when we give Jesus all that we have and trust in Him, how much he is able to do with our small offerings. We celebrated Mass this day at the Mount of Beatitudes and spent a little time reflecting on this sacred place. Then, we returned to Nazareth for dinner with the entire Salesian community, followed by a few games of volleyball with the young people who gather there for the Friday night oratory. We had a few exciting games with them and then had an opportunity to talk and laugh with them over sodas and chocolates.


Saturday, was our final day in Nazareth. Again, we started out early to get as much as we could into our trip. We visited some beautiful sites around Nazareth, including Nazareth Village, a piece of land within the city that replicates the village of Nazareth in Jesus’ time. We went to Sepphoris, also called the Ornament of Galilee, an incredible archeological site with remains including the “Mona Lisa of Galilee” a mosaic from the 4th century made up of 1.5 million stones. Before lunch we went to the Basilica of the Annunciation, a beautiful church that was relatively new compared to a lot of the structures we had seen, but we learned that this was because of an agreement to have a massive archeological dig on the site to see what kind of evidence could be found to authenticate it. This dig proved to be very fruitful finding ceramic remains that dated to pre-Byzantium times and had intercessory prayers to Mary written on them, giving the location even stronger evidence for its authenticity than it previously had. We visited the Church of St. Joseph just next door to the Basilica and prayed to St. Joseph to continue to intercede for us as we journey through our formation toward priesthood. We also made a stop at Mary’s well, the sole water source in Nazareth during the first century and a place where Jesus or Mary probably made daily stops. Here, I was reminded of Don Bosco’s directions for sainthood in living out our seemingly insignificant daily duties in an extraordinary way.


We had lunch back at the Salesian residence and had a quick tour of the Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent that is adjacent to the school and residence. We packed up our things and said our goodbyes to our confreres who had made our visit to Nazareth so enjoyable and comfortable and then we journeyed out onto the road one last time. We headed for Mount Tabor where Jesus was transfigured in front of Peter, James, and John. We were blessed with the experience of celebrating Mass on top of this Holy Mount and then had a little bit of time to reflect and pray. As our trip came to an end it was a beautiful place to reflect on all the sites we had visited and to remember Jesus’ call in our own lives, those moments when Jesus revealed Himself to us so profoundly and called us to follow Him. It was a moment of consolation when, after this incredible trip to the place of Jesus’ youth and early ministry, we had to return once again to our daily responsibilities and classes. Like Peter, James, and John we didn’t want to leave this place, but we stayed faithful and returned once again to Jerusalem with much to continue to reflect on.




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