Fr. Paul Soper, Director of Pastoral Planning for the Archdiocese of Boston, 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 Fr. Paul Soper
There have been a number of bloggers about this rather amazing day. I’m glad your getting a multiplicity of points of view. These events have struck us in different ways, and each of us is taking away from it his own experience.
I want to write to you about the experience we had at the Chapel of the Primacy of Peter. This is a chapel located on the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus saw seven of the disciples after the Resurrection. The account is given in John 21 (which, by the way, is my favorite part of the whole Bible).
At this site, seven springs flow out into the Sea of Galilee (which, in Chapter 21, John calls the Sea of Tiberius). These springs are warmer than the rest of the Lake, and thus in the area around the springs the largest fish –which prefer the warm water – congregate. Remember that the disciples, at Jesus’ behest, caught 153 large fish? In the net that was not torn? The springs are the sacraments, drawing the fish into the untorn net which is the Church, and Peter drags the net to shore to encounter Jesus.
There Peter finds Jesus. The rock on which Jesus was setting out the fish and the bread is there – at least, we know the site of the rock which very early pilgrims venerated. Peter expresses his love for Jesus – three times for three denials – the Primacy of Love – and Jesus commissions him to care for the Church.
This site is called the Primacy of Peter, but it could also be called the Place of Starting Over. That’s why I love it so much. I’m poor, like Peter was. I’m broken, like he was. I have failed so often, like he did. But there – do you love Me? Yes, oh yes, I love You, and will go where You send me and will be for You all you call me to be, but I can’t do it without the springs of grace which flow to warm the cold around me and I can’t do it without a second chance and a third chance and a fourth chance and I can’t do it without knowing that You love me and hearing Your words of forgiveness and rebirth over and over and over again.
In the evening we celebrated Mass at the Church of the Beatitudes. There, like so many other places, we were warmly welcomed by the Franciscan custodians of the place; here, a group of sisters who, when Cardinal Seán came, pulled cameras out of the folds of their garments and all got their pictures with him. The Cardinal spoke about the beatitudes, of course, but also the “extra” beatitudes – Gabriel’s to Mary, “Highly favored” – and Jesus’ to all of us through Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed.”
This place was simply marvelous. To be within a few hundred yards almost certainly of where Jesus delivered his great discourse – to reflect right there in my own heart about what it means to be meek and to be a peacemaker and to hunger and thirst for righteousness – and to be doing it with people I love so much and praying for those I love so much – well, I don’t know what to say, really. Words don’t work. Sorry. Pray for us, and know that we are praying for you.
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.