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In The Holy Land – 1994

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Star ...

Church of Nativity - Birthplace of Jesus

Wednesday, February 9, 1994 . . . A sunny mild day . . . The Garden of Gethsemane lies just outside the walls of the Old City. . . I go to Mary’s Grotto in the Garden to offer the Mass of the Betrayal of Jesus.  This Grotto has a special attraction to me, a cave with a seven foot ceiling and room for about thirty people.  In the dark atmosphere, with the bar rock on all sides, I find this an ideal place to pray.

Behind the altar, a painting depicts Judas placing a kiss on the Master’s cheek.  The Readings of this Mass bring home to me the evil of sin, its destructive qualities.  After Mass, with no one present, except the Franciscan Brother in charge, I sit down and make an hour of prayer.  Here, in this place, the heart break came to the Lord as His follower, Judas, gave Him into the hands of His enemies.  I beg the Lord not to let sin enter my life.  “Death rather than sin” . . . the motto of my hero saint –  John Bosco.

In another part of the Garden of Gethsemane, I come upon an outdoor Mass about to begin. . . some 40 American priests on Pilgrimage stand on the hillside around the Altar.  Alleluia!  Another chance to join with fellow priests in celebrating Mass has come to me. . . to receive under Both Species!.  The priests with whom I feel an immediate closeness come in all sizes and ages. . . We pray the Holy Mysteries together, my prayer being for them, for their good health and spiritual wholeness . .  the thought comes, “I’m glad I am a priest.”

Thursday, February 10, 1994. . . Off to Bethlehem this morning.  A five mile ride on a  noisy Arab bus. . . One Israeli shekel (33 cents USA). . . on arrival at 9:00am, I have a chance to make an hour of prayer in the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, immediately adjoining the Basilica of the Nativity Some years ago, I was Pastor of a Church in Oak Lawn, IL., by the same name: St. Catherine of Alexandria.  My prayers in the cold, damp Church ask God to bless all the people of that Parish.  I am the Pastor Emeritus there.

At 10:30am, I stand at the altar in the Grotto of the Nativity, with room there for about twenty people.  This morning I am alone, as I joyfully offer the Mass of Christmas.  The Lord comes down on the Altar as He did in this very neighborhood 2000 years ago. . . how peaceful and still the surroundings in the Grotto Chapel.

Afterwards, an American group enters the cell of St. Jerome, next to the Grotto.  Only forty two people can fit into this Chapel for Mass . . . I am the 42nd. . . A charismatic group, with three priests, celebrating the Mass. . . The Spirit-filled assembly proclaim the Goodness of the Lord. . . All their joy flows into my heart too. . . an unexpected bonus for me!

“O little town of Bethlehem!”  Why did the Savior choose you for His Birthplace?  The Lord always blesses the lowly. 

Fr. George Mc Kenna

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March 10, 2012 - Posted by | Bulletins

1 Comment »

  1. What beautiful memories you have of your many trips to the Holy Land, Fr. George! I hope to get there one day. I am praying for you, my dear friend. I hope that you are doing well and I hope that you are able to enjoy the warm weather that I have heard is in the area lately.. 60’s in February and early March! That’s wonderful! Tim and I are doing well, but I was in the hospital over night this past week – all is OK now. Miss you, Fr. George, I will write you a long letter later today.

    Thank you for the freqent posts to your blog, it is such a wonderful way to stay connected with you and continue to hear your many beautiful thoughts.


    Comment by Nancy | March 11, 2012 | Reply

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