Sailing on the Sea of Galilee
Feb. 1, 2012
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Sailing on the Sea of Galilee

My New Year of 2012 began as no other year in my life. I was privileged to join a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, sponsored by the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C. It is an American arm of the Franciscan mission to the holy places—not only in Israel, but elsewhere in the Middle East. The Franciscans of the Holy Land care for both the “Stones of Memory,” that is, the shrines that mark events in the lives of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Christ’s apostles, as well as the “living stones” of the Church, nearly 30 parishes where contemporary Catholics seek to live their faith in a land where simply living in peace is often a challenge.

My purpose in going was to help the Franciscans promote this mission. I also hoped to gain new insights into the four written Gospels, by visiting what is often called “the Fifth Gospel,” the geographic locations associated with the Good News.

This “Fifth Gospel” is the land, the hills and valleys, desert wilderness, mountain peaks, rivers and, of course, the Sea of Galilee. Here you will find ancient ruins, many excavated by Franciscan archeologists and others,; these date from the time of Jesus and the early Christian centuries.

History in the Holy Land is a complex, layered thing. It is ancient dwellings, with ovens and cisterns and shards of pottery which speak of the life of Jesus and his followers. It is the record of where early Christians came to venerate places where Jesus walked. It is the ruins of churches built by Christian emperors and the conquering armies who came from Europe to the Middle East. Over these layers, Christians from the Greek and Armenian and Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, as well as Christians of the “Latin” (Western) rite, have built shrines visited today by pilgrims.

The Franciscan Friars, from the late 13th century, have had a presence in Holy Land, after the first visit of St. Francis himself in 1219, when he met Sultan Malik al-Kamil and started a tradition of peaceful dialogue and reverent presence. In 1342, Pope Clement VI, set forth the Franciscans’ mission. Friars could come from any part of the Franciscan Order and serve under the “Father Custos,” the friar who today heads the Custody of the Holy Land. This international mission of the friars now draws men from all across the globe. They staff the shrines, parishes, schools, study centers and other efforts of the Franciscans. (You can see their story in Terra Sancta: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land, available at www.FranciscanMedia.org.)

On my pilgrimage, I was lucky enough to wear my Franciscan habit and walk in religious processions at key shrines in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. I felt a part of an ancient tradition—in a land where so much is “ancient.” But I was also aware that our friar-mission is very up-to-date, meeting the needs of Catholics living and working in a place where three great religions meet and seek to coexist. We toured a vibrant school in Jericho, serving 460 students, predominantly Muslim. We stopped at a facility that cares for elderly people in Bethlehem, where poverty afflicts the Arab population living in the shadow of the wall marking the boundary of the “Occupied Territories.” Palestinians are seeking an independent state. We saw renovated housing, sponsored by the Custody, within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Ancient structures are being remodeled to serve families not far from where Jesus died and rose from the dead.

I have many memories—some processed, some yet to emerge fully energized—from this pilgrimage. But first of all, I am proud to be a Franciscan and to be a small part of a time-honored mission. Look for my stories over the coming months as part of American Catholic Radio and other resources from Franciscan Media.

Father Greg Friedman, O.F.M.
American Catholic Radio: Upcoming Episodes (#12-07 , #12-08)
Use the links below to preview the shows or download them in MP3 format for broadcast.
Highlights from this episode include:

Living Faith
Judy Zarick talks with Sister Clissene Lewis, aYavapai-Apache and Pima Indian, about establishing a religious institute to serve Native Americans in the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona. She will be the first Native American woman to establish a religious community that ministers to Native Americans.

Ask a Franciscan
Franciscan Father Hilarion Kistner answers four scriptural questions: What do we know about the author of the Book of Sirach? Why does the writer of Ezekiel point out that Pharaoh was buried among the uncircumcised? How does the Church reconcile the Genesis accounts of creation with what science tells us, especially about evolution? Are we born again at Baptism or is being born again a separate experience?

On Faith & Media
Direct from Hollywood, ACR presents Sister Rose Pacatte from the Daughters of St. Paul. Her mission is to help people of faith understand what we’re seeing and hearing all around us. She’s an educator, author, movie reviewer for the Catholic press, and she’s won numerous awards for her passion to illuminate what’s good in today’s popular culture. This week Sister Rose will talk about Native Americans in popular culture, especially in the film Smoke Signals.

Exploring Our Faith
John Feister's guest is the Reverend Mr. Arthur L. Miller, director of the Office for Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut. Deacon Miller is also Catholic chaplain at Capital Community College in Hartford and president of the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators. This retired businessman, known nationally as a preacher and Catholic radio host, is also the author of The Journey to Chatham. This book details the brutal murder of Deacon Miller’s 14-year-old schoolmate, Emmett Till, who allegedly whistled at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955. John and Deacon Miller discuss how our faith in Christ can help to heal racial divisions.

Minute Meditations
Barbara Beckwith reads fromMarriage: It’s a God Thing, by William P. Roberts and published by Franciscan Media.
Highlights from this episode include:

Living Faith
Judy Zarick speaks with Deborah Kristen, program director for The Clearing, which hosts intensive, four-day retreats for couples whose marriages need help. This Christian-based program has had much success in helping couples work together and with God to heal their relationships.

Ask a Franciscan
Franciscan Father Greg Friedman answers two pastoral questions: Must the dead wait for Jesus to return before they are judged? How can I know that Jesus loves me?

On Faith & Media
Direct from Hollywood, ACR presents Sister Rose Pacatte from the Daughters of St. Paul. Her mission is to help people of faith understand what we’re seeing and hearing all around us. She’s an educator, author, movie reviewer for the Catholic press, and she’s won numerous awards for her passion to illuminate what’s good in today’s popular culture. This week Sister Rose will consider shows about "nothing"—from Seinfeld to reality TV.

Exploring Our Faith
John Feister’s guest is Andrew Lyke, currently the African American community outreach coordinator for Family Bridges, a local coalition of the Healthy Marriage Initiative. Andrew, co-host of the monthly radio program Catholic Families Today, and his wife, Terri, have been leaders in Christian marriage preparation, education and enrichment since 1982, giving retreats, workshops, seminars, and keynote addresses on marriage and family issues to national Church, community and business audiences. Andrew Lyke spoke with John about how the Church can and does support the vocation of marriage.

Minute Meditations
Franciscan Father Hilarion Kistner reads from Travelers Along the Way: The Men and Women Who Shaped My Life, by Father Benedict J. Groeschel. This Servant audiobook was published by Franciscan Media.
 
 
Franciscan Radio
Link to audio features Saint of the Day, Sunday Soundbites, Sharing the Word and American Catholic Radio.
American Catholic Radio
A weekly half-hour catechetical program, in the popular style of the Franciscans.
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