Today we had a day of reflection to review our entire pilgrimage. We are leaving after tomorrow, so we wanted to take a day just to think and pray about all that we’ve experienced. Part of this we did at Notre Dame, but the most important part of the day was our trip to the Mt. of Olives one last time. We had Mass and reflection time at the church of Dominus Flevit. There is a wonderful view of the city from here as I’ve mentioned before. It was amazing to sit there and pray the Rosary and literally look at each site where the mysteries of the Rosary took place. I thought of the Holy Sepulcher and the resurrection. Jesus ascended to heaven only a few yards from where I was praying. I could see Mt. Zion where the Holy Spirit came to the upper room on Pentecost. There too is the Church of the Dormition so readily visible where Mary was assumed into heaven. As I sat looking over the whole city I prayed that Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, and Queen of Peace, would rule over this city whose very name means the City of Peace. We wrapped up our day with some group sharing about our pilgrimage experience. What an amazing time it has been. It seems like only yesterday we arrived in Bethlehem.
Speaking of Bethlehem, to end our pilgrimage where we started we returned to Bethlehem tonight for a special farewell dinner. As we crossed the checkpoint and entered the city the streets all seemed so familiar. In many ways it felt like coming home. The restaurant prepared an entire stuffed lamb for us (literally, lying right on a big platter) and all the traditional Palestinian salads that we’ve come to love. It was a time to thank all those who made our pilgrimage possible and to really thank God for all the blessings we’ve experienced. After visiting one of the shop keepers who we had come to know very well I got to say one last goodbye to the Church of the Nativity. I thanked Jesus for coming as one like us and making not just this particular land Holy, but making the whole world and each one of us holy. Although I have enjoyed the entire pilgrimage, I found it difficult to leave Bethlehem for the last time tonight. It is a special place and I know I will return there many times in prayer in the future.