Holy Land – Meditating on This Rock

Fr. Dan Hennessey stands beside the source of the Jordan River in Caesarea Philippi. (Photo by George Martell/theGoodCatholicLife.com)

Fr. Dan Hennessey stands beside the source of the Jordan River in Caesarea Philippi. (Photo by George Martell/theGoodCatholicLife.com)

Fr. Dan Hennessey is Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Boston. He is one of 29 priests joining Cardinal Seán O’Malley for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land between April 8 and April 15. We’ve asked him to share his experiences on their second full day in the Holy Land.

By Father Dan Hennessey

April 10

This morning we set out from the Domus Galilaeae, a retreat center and seminary of the NeoCatechumenal Way, where we are staying while in Galilee. It is an absolutely beautiful facility (only ten years old) with a stunning view of the Sea of Galilee. It is located, basically, on the same small mount on which our Lord delivered His sermon accounted in Matthew, Chapter 5–7. From each room there is a view of the lake, and at the bottom of the hill upon which it sits is the town of Capernaum.

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We drove north for about an hour and a half along the same road traveled by a man named Saul nearly 2,000 years ago. That man, changed by his encounter with Jesus Christ along that road, became a powerful instrument of God by preaching the Gospel to virtually the whole known world of his time. It was almost surreal to be on the same road as Saint Paul, and I pray that he intercede for all of us priests on this pilgrimage, that we also be powerful and humble instruments of God’s grace in Boston.

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When we arrived at Caesarea Philippi, we had a beautiful preaching on the significance of the location based on the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. In this passage, Jesus asks the disciples who properly say that he is and then also asks the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” The priest, Father Francesco, who gave us the teaching, made many points about how this gospel passage is significant because of the location. For example, the place where Jesus asks the question and then renames Simon to be Peter was the site of popular pagan temples built into a rock formation. Peter, whose name of course means “rock”, is the one on whom Christ will build his Church. Jesus, I think, was making it clear that the pagan temple and its false gods and worship would not lead to fulfillment but that following Him and associating oneself with His Church does.

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I also found the visit to Caesarea Philippi beautiful because it is the location of one of the springs that feeds the Jordan River. It is from the Jordan River, of course, that the springs of salvation flow, because it is where Jesus was baptized, making all the waters of the earth, beginning with the Jordan, life giving water through Baptism.

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The visit to Caesarea Philippi was especially meaningful to me because of its association with the establishment of the Church. It is there that Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter and assured him that the “gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Jesus did this jar before he began his descent down to Jerusalem and His Passion and Resurrection. It was also six days prior to the Transfiguration where he appears to three of his apostles in all of His splendor. It was amazing to know that I was standing at that place, and that tomorrow we will go to Mt. Tabor where the Transfiguration took place, and later on the week we will be in Jerusalem.

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As we go to all these holy sites, we will be praying for everyone in Boston, especially for those who are who are feeling far from God and from his Church, and those who are feeling called by God to be priests. Please pray for us that we will receive many graces to make us better priests and preachers of the gospel.


Cardinal Seán and a group of 29 priests of the Archdiocese of Boston have traveled on an Easter pilgrimage to the Holy Land this week, and they’re bringing the readers of TheGoodCatholicLife.com blog along with them.

All this week, our colleague George Martell is traveling with the pilgrimage, embedded with the Cardinal and his priests so we can bring you photos, blogs, videos, and audio reports from the Holy Land from the pilgrims at such places as the Basilica of the Annunciation, Mount Carmel, the Sea of Galilee, the Church of the Transfiguration, Qumran, the Mount of Olives, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Upper Room, and more. This once in a lifetime opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Jesus with Cardinal Seán and the Archdiocese’s priests as an Easter retreat experience.

Please stay tuned to www.thegoodcatholiclife.com, as well as www.BostonCatholicPhotos.com and www.YouTube.com/BostonCatholic and our Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/bostoncatholic and Twitter account: www.twitter.com/bostoncatholic for the latest updates from the Holy Land.

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