Following in the Footsteps of Jesus

Our first full day in Israel, as we visit the Sea of Galilee, Tabgha, the Primacy of Peter, Capernaum and the Mount of the Beatitudes!

On the Sea of Galilee!
On the Sea of Galilee!

What a lovely start to the day, to be able to open up the curtains and see the Sea of Galilee in front of me!

Today, we were greeted by a perfect blue sky, overlooking the lake where so much history in the New Testament took place. The Sea, also known as Lake Tiberias, was our first destination. After promptly finishing breakfast at the hotel, the youth pilgrimage boarded the coach and made its way to the lake.

We arrived at the shore of Galilee and boarded one of the small boats. It was a great feeling, being on a boat in the lake, knowing that Jesus and his first disciples had done this too. As we glided across the lake, reflecting on Fr Greg’s words about the significance and history of where we were, I was struck by a new understanding of the reality of Jesus and his life. It’s one thing to read about him in the Bible, from the saints and so on, but to be in the very places in which he lived and worked brought fresh perspectives.

Fr Greg and David during morning prayer on the Sea of Galilee
Fr Greg and David during morning prayer on the Sea of Galilee

Together, we had morning prayer on the Sea and took lots of photos and had time for personal reflections.

After returning to land, we headed back to the coach, but not before I encountered a group of Brazilian pilgrims. Having lived in Brazil for five months, I seized the opportunity to start chatting with them in Portuguese. Indeed, during the day, we encountered the universality of the Church everywhere we went – from Brazilians to Spanish, Chinese to Nigerians.

James with Brazilian pilgims
James with Brazilian pilgims

We had a short coach journey to Tabgha – the location of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Our guide, a Palestinian Christian called Ibrahim, talked to us about the history of the area, followed by a short visit to the Benedictine monastery. In the church, there is a rock below the altar, where Jesus performed the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.

Ibrahim talking at Tabgha
Ibrahim talking at Tabgha

Once we had left Tabgha, we went on to the Primacy of Peter. Inside is the rock where Jesus and his apostles ate after they went fishing. Many people were there, showing devotion to this historic site. There was also a beautiful mosaic of Saint John Paul II outside the church, because in the year 2000 he visited the Primacy.

Into the Sea of Galilee!
Into the Sea of Galilee!

It was also at the Primacy of Peter that we had the opportunity to go into the Sea of Galiliee. Taking our shoes and socks off, and rolling up our trousers, a number of us waded into the water. It was initially cold, but we adjusted. It was so incredible being inside this historic lake – riding on the surface in the boat is one thing, but the tactile sensation of actually being inside is something else.

Entering Capernaum - the town of Jesus
Entering Capernaum – the town of Jesus

Capernaum was next on our itinerary. As I entered, I felt a stronger presence of Jesus’ life than earlier in the day. I think this was because in this town, it was easier to imagine him walking the streets and talking to the locals. The synagogue, though obviously in ruins as the centuries have passed, was still clearly present, and I could easily imagine Jesus inside. Saint Peter’s house, too, had still survived the test of time, though not to the same extent. Nevertheless, I could still imagine Jesus and Peter there.

The church above Saint Peter's house
The church above Saint Peter’s house
Inside the synagogue
Inside the synagogue

After Capernaum, we headed for lunch. We’d already done so much that it felt a bit odd that it was only lunchtime. We went to a restaurant at a petrol station that specialises in fish from the Sea of Galilee – “Peter’s fish”. A few of us were brave enough to try the whole fish, with most opting for the fillet or chicken.

Let it be known that Christine is a brave person
Let it be known that Christine is a brave person

We then travelled to the location of the Church of the Beatitudes, built by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. This had a striking design, as the architect tried to create the church in the same style and design as would have been fitting of the style at the time of the life of Jesus.

The Holy Land youth pilgrimage together with Peter!
The Holy Land youth pilgrimage together with Peter!

Both the youth and main pilgrimage groups had Mass here, at one of the amphitheatres. Cardinal Vincent Nichols gave an inspiring homily, centred on the Beatitudes, calling us to faithfully live out the mission present in the heart Christ’s message in that sermon.

Cardinal Vincent giving his homily at the Mount of the Beatitudes
Cardinal Vincent giving his homily at the Mount of the Beatitudes

With the Mass finished, our youth group then had 15 minutes to look around the Church of the Beatitudes and surrounding gardens. We then moved on, back to the coach and headed back to the hotel. After a long day, visiting the Sea of Galilee, Tabgha, the Primacy of Peter, Capernaum and the Mount of the Beatitudes, we were finished and could relax for the rest of the day.

For more photos from the day, check out our Flickr account here.

Check out the Cardinal’s first video below:

Holy Land Day 1 (Video 1) from Catholic Westminster on Vimeo.