Holy Land – Renewing Baptism Vows and Riding Camels

From left: Fr. Mark O'Connell, Fr. Paul Soper, Cardinal Seán, George Martell (Photo: George Martell/TheGoodCatholicLife.com)

From left: Fr. Mark O’Connell, Fr. Paul Soper, Cardinal Seán, George Martell (Photo: George Martell/TheGoodCatholicLife.com)

Fr. Mark O’Connell is the Judicial Vicar of 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 third full day in the Holy Land.

My name is Fr. Mark O’Connell and I am so fortunate to be on this pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Cardinal Seán. After we visited the place of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor we began our travel to Jerusalem. We came first to the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized our Lord. The spot is known because it is identified in the Gospel as “Bethany beyond the Jordan”. It lies in a no man’s land on the border with Israel and Jordan. There we sat down by the river and Fr. Francesco, our guide, gave us a beautiful reflection on our need to be renewed in our Profession of Faith and then all of us priests renewed our Baptismal Promises and then had the tremendous opportunity to one-by-one bow before the Cardinal as he gave us a small bath in the Holy Waters of the Jordan River, renewing our own Baptism. It was a profound experience for all.

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Later after lunch at Qumran, near where the Dead Sea scrolls were found, we went to Jericho to see a sycamore tree and remember Zaccheus and blind Bartimeus. The local people were selling things including a camel ride for three dollars. How could I resist? Having just been renewed in the waters of the Jordan I was unafraid – ok I was terrified, but it was a thrill and I survived. The key is – hang on!

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Continuing our journey we stopped at a high point to see Jerusalem in the distance; What pilgrims have seen for centuries and what David wrote of in the psalms. There I was inspired by the Cardinal who let the local people dress him in a Bedouin headdress and so my buddy Fr. Paul Soper and I wore them too. We didn’t want him to be all alone but how great to see him. I assume that picture will will be seen by a few people.

We continued our trip to Jerusalem and as we entered we sang the words of the psalmist rejoicing in Jerusalem. Later that evening we had a rooftop tour of the old city and tomorrow we begin to explore it. What an immense privilege! Not only to see these things but to be here with Cardinal Seán and twenty-nine brother priests from Boston and our guides. It far exceeds what I hoped for. I just think of how many hundreds of homilies this will shape in my own life and multiply that by thirty others and I know that the fruits of this trip will be countless for us and so many others in our Archdiocese.

Please be assured of our prayers for all who might read this blog entry. Shalom.


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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