Holy Land – Transformed in the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu

Cardinal Seán renewed the baptismal vows of Fr. Joseph Mazzone and others at the Jordan River. (George Martell/TheGoodCatholicLife.com)

Cardinal Seán renewed the baptismal vows of Fr. Joseph Mazzone and others at the Jordan River. (George Martell/TheGoodCatholicLife.com)

Fr. Joseph Mazzone is Pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Hull in 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 fourth full day in the Holy Land.

By Fr. Joseph Mazzone

April 12


“O Happy Fault!” One of the most powerful moments in the Holy Triduum Liturgy is the singing of the Exsultet. Before it begins, the Church is cloaked in total darkness. In some ways, it is meant to remind us of the darkness of the Tomb. It can also remind us of the darkness of our shame, the darkness of our sins. All seems lost. It appears that death has won. And then …

… Into the darkness comes the light of the Paschal Candle. The Light of Christ pierces the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. The Exsultet begins, a song that is in many ways a song of triumph. About a third of the way into the Exsultet, we hear these words: “O Happy Fault!” I’ve always been struck by this line, and moved by it, too. If I let Christ into my heart, if I open it to receive his healing mercy, my sin can be the cause of abundant grace, and can bind me even more closely to my Redeemer.



I thought of this line as we visited the Church called “St. Peter in Gallicantu.” The Church commemorates Peter’s denial of Christ at the house of the High Priest. Tradition holds that Jesus’ trial was held here as well; in fact, beneath the floor of the Church, down a narrow, steep flight of stairs, is a cistern which may have been uses as a prison which held Jesus the night of his arrest. While gathered in the cistern, Fr. Michael Harrington gave us a powerful reading of Psalm 88: “I am reckoned with those who go down into the pit … My friends shun me … Caged in, I cannot escape … My only friend is darkness.” One can imagine those words going through the heart of our Savior.

Listen to Cardinal Seán’s homily from Mass in St. Peter in Gallicantu:



As we were in the Church, I couldn’t help thinking that this Church could easily be seen as commemorating the shame of Peter, but it isn’t. No, it is a testimony to the transforming love and mercy of Christ. I imagine Peter that night. I imagine The Lord looking at him as He’s led to His trial and execution. What did Peter see in His face? I imagine not anger. Compassion; yes, and unconditional love and forgiveness. I think this is what allowed Peter to run to Christ after His resurrection, not away. As we were praying in the Church, I prayed that all of us, in our moments of guilt and shame, may see in it a moment to turn to The Lord, not away – that our sins, like Peter’s, can be transformed into moments of grace by Christ’s healing Love, that it may give us the strength to boldly proclaim Him as Peter did after the Ascension in Solomon’s Portico. O happy fault, that has merited us so great a Redeemer!

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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