Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Homily Podcast



Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 58

January 27th, 2007, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

I took the morning today to return to Mt. Zion for some quiet prayer on my own. I stopped first at the parish church for the Latin Rite Catholics in the Old City. It’s got a big tower, so you see it from everywhere. It is actually a very big church that reminded me a lot of the churches in Rome. Next, it was on to Mt. Zion. I prayed Morning Prayer from the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday in the Church of the Dormition. It was kind of neat to pray psalm 122 which talks mentions “and now are feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem”. One priest that came to talk to us the other day said that coming to Jerusalem is such a rare opportunity for people he meets in other parts of the Middle East that people will kiss his hands, not because he’s a priest, but because he’s been to Jerusalem. They have a special word for it like the Muslims do for people who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. This is truly a great blessing to be here.

St. Savior
St. Savior Parish Church in the Old City

After praying in Dormition Abbey I went on a bit of an adventure. I wanted to find the tomb of Oskar Schindler (of “Schindler’s List” fame) whose tree I saw on the Avenue of the Righteous the other day at Yad VaShem. I had a dot on the map that pointed to a cemetery, but that was all I knew. I finally found the Christian cemetery on Mt. Zion, but there were many graves there. If you haven’t seen the movie, the summary is that Schindler is a factory owner who is able to save 1200 Jews by creating jobs for them in his factory and hiding people to protect them from the Nazis, all at great personal risk. If you remember at the end of the movie, all the surviving “Schindler Jews” as they are called process by his grave in the cemetery and place a rock on it. That’s really all I had to go on as far as locating his grave in the cemetery and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie. So, I was looking for a grave that I thought would maybe have some rocks piled on top. There were multiple levels to the cemetery which is located right on the edge of Mt. Zion. I finally saw a tomb with some stuff piled on top and it turned out to be his. I prayed there that all Christians might stand up to defend the dignity of every human person and thanked Oskar Schindler for his witness.

Oskar Schindler Tomb
Tomb of Oskar Schindler

From the cemetery, Peter in Gallicantu was not far, so I decided to go back there and take some time. I mentioned previously that the church is built on top of the place where Jesus was imprisoned on the night of his arrest. You can actually go down into the ruins, so I decided to that. You can see in the walls the hooks that were used to hold the chains of the prisoners. The most moving part is the “Sacred Pit” where Jesus spent his last night on earth. In the crypt church there is actually a hole in the floor that allows one to look down into the pit. It was a powerful place to pray.

The Sacred Pit
The “Sacred Pit” Where Jesus was Imprisoned

Back in the upper church of Peter in Gallicantu there was better light today so I could see the mosaics. I was again moved by the association of this church with repentance, specifically that of St. Peter. On that theme, I found the two mosaics on either side of the main altar to be interesting choices. The featured saint on the left is St. Dysmas, the “Good Thief” crucified with Jesus. On the right is St. Mary Magdalene “The Penitent”. When I was in the gift shop, I saw that they had priest stoles for sale and remembered that our leader had mentioned this to us. I decided that it would be nice to have a purple stole from this place for hearing confessions. It will remind me how powerful conversion can be. There is a mosaic in the upper church that shows Peter denying Jesus and right connected with it is Peter seated on his throne as Pope in all the beauty of Papal vestments. God’s forgiveness is truly amazing.

St. Peter in Gallicantu
The Upper Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu

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