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Oh please be careful…it’s so dangerous in the Holy Land

Anticipation

Oh, please be careful. It’s so dangerous over there.”

I knew my friend meant well, but her words were not comforting. I was only a few days away from departing for the Holy Land and my nerves were already raw from packing, checking flights, reading weather reports, finding someone to care for my cat, and scheduling a ride to the airport.

I had dreamed about visiting the places where Jesus walked since High School. That dream was jaded by year upon year of news reports featuring skirmishes and wars in and around Israel. The picture the media had painted was unnerving. I wanted to be excited, but in all honesty, I was a little scared and my friend’s words were not helping.

A family-member drove me to the airport, warning me on the way to, “please be careful.” Was I making a mistake? Was I putting myself in harm’s way? I am normally very excited to get on a plane, but all these warnings made me very anxious.

I flew through Toronto on my way to Tel Aviv. The first flight was uneventful, and I arrived with plenty of time to make my connection. I found my next gate on the monitor and headed there to wait for boarding. When I arrived, there was an additional security checkpoint…only for our gate. I had never experienced this before. I waited in the line and reached the guard who examined my passport and boarding pass and asked me a few questions. He directed me to yet another bag check.

My mind raced: Why is there so much security? Is there a threat? Is something wrong? Should I walk away from this flight? The questions echoed in my head as I eyed every passenger waiting for the flight. With each reverberation, I heard the words of my loved ones, “Please, be careful.” It was only through the grace of Our Lord that I boarded that flight. My mind was working overtime to convince my body to abandon it.
 

The Truth

If you have never traveled to Israel, I imagine you are facing the same fears that I did. I imagine that the news, friends, and family are warning you to, “please be safe,” as well. Most of all, I imagine that you are asking the same question that I did: “Is this trip even worth the risk?

Let me put your mind at ease. Yes, it is worth the risk. And, perhaps more importantly, the “risk” is unjustly amplified. I have never traveled anywhere in the world where I felt safer than the Holy Land. Now that I have traveled there and back, I would return in a heartbeat! But I did learn a lot along the way that might help you feel a little more prepared for your trip.

Additional Security
I learned that additional security is normal for Israel. In fact, the security in place while boarding a flight is only the beginning. There are special restrictions to stay in your seats while in Israeli air-space. There are multiple security stops in the immigration and customs line. And, while traveling through the country, there are random security checkpoints on roads and at Palestinian Territory borders.

It was initially unnerving to answer questions of a security officer dressed in military fatigues and holding a weapon, but, in my experience, they were always pleasant and calm. They asked simple questions, checked my passport, then sent me on my way.

Crime and Common Precautions
Crime rates, in most cases, are significantly lower in Israel than the USA*. Violent crime is significantly less common. Still, this doesn’t mean you should be naïve. Petty theft from pickpockets and burglaries at tourist hotels still happen. So, take the same precautions you would take when traveling to any major city: use the hotel safe, carry a secure backpack or purse, and keep all your belongings on you.

When you stop to rest, eat, or sightsee, keep your belongings attached to your person or on your lap. Don’t leave your bag on the ground or hanging on your chair. Additionally, ALWAYS carry your passport and leave a photocopy in the hotel safe.

Mentally Prepare
The political complexity of the Middle East requires additional patience from travelers. Mentally prepare yourself and expect to wait in security lines, answer questions about your travels, and show your passport. Pay attention to your guides’ instructions. They are familiar with the checkpoints and security requirements and their insight can significantly reduce the inconvenience. Security personnel are simply doing their job to keep everyone safe. A warm smile and friendly demeanor on your end will often be met with the same from them.

 
Upon Departure from Israel
Departing Israel from the airport is far different from most places in the world. There are multiple security checkpoints and it can take much longer than usual to get from the curb to your gate, so be patient and allow yourself plenty of time.

On my most recent trip, we were stopped in the car—before entering the airport—for twenty minutes. They checked my bag, asked me and the driver several questions, and checked my passport and flight documents. When entering the airport, I had to go through two security checkpoints before entering the bag check. At the second checkpoint, they asked me several questions then instructed me to one of four bag-check lines.

In Israel, they profile every traveler and send them to a specific line depending on their “reading” of the individual. Don’t let this frustrate you. It is just part of the trip. While standing in the bag-check line, you will be asked the same questions you were already asked several times. Again, a warm smile and friendly demeanor will serve you well. They will check your bag thoroughly…meaning they may remove every item and inspect it, x-ray it, chemically test it, or even ask you questions about it. The process takes significantly longer than a TSA check in the USA, so exercise patience.

On my most recent trip, I arrived at the airport 3 hours and fifteen minutes before my flight. After all the security checkpoints and bag-check, I arrived at my gate, ready to board, with forty minutes to spare. The whole process took two hours and thirty-five minutes.

After a long flight, I walked to the Immigration officer at Newark International Airport. She glanced at my passport and asked how long I had been in Israel. “Seven days,” I replied.

“Wow. Short trip. Welcome home.” She waved me through.

I found my friend waiting for me outside the bag check. “Well, how was it?” She asked.

Great. Israel is nothing like I expected. I can’t wait to go back.” I said.

Really?

Yes, really. My trip was short, but life-changing. There really is no way to translate all that happened to me in the Holy Land. I know that I’ll never be the same after the trip. I can see the whole story of our faith so differently now. And when friends ask me if Israel was frightening to visit, I tell them, “It was, no big deal.” They think I’m an intrepid traveler, but really, I’m just being honest.

*According to nationmaster.com (accessed September 12, 2019)

Above article reprinted courtesy of Select International Tours, organizer of this tour and many others.  Be sure to check out their many offerings to the Holy Land and elsewhere.

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Send your prayer requests to the Holy Land

Maybe you can’t make it to the Holy Land right now, but would love to have some prayers offered for you in this special place.  Well you can…..by checking out Select International Tours….they offer the opportunity to submit your prayer requests online and they will be taken to the Holy Land by one of their departing groups each month and carried to all the Holy Sites in the Holy Land.

The group will pray for your requests at each site they visit and the spiritual Father of each group will offer your intentions at all Masses.

This is a really great way to get your prayers said at some of the most famous…and holy…sites in this special place.  That is, until you get to travel there yourself someday!

All requests are kept confidential.

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New additions…and some corrections….to The Catholic Travel Guide

Thank you to our readers!!

It is impossible for us to cover all the places of interest to Catholics….so we want to say a BIG THANK YOU to all our readers who help us out.

We have quite a few new pages that cover some places we did not know existed, so thanks to those who wrote in to tell us about them.

And one major correction….we always like those, because sometimes we are wrong…and other times things change and we need to update our information.

One major correction:

One church in Rome…the church of St. Alphonsus Ligouri…is noted for having the original painting of Our Lady of Perpetual Help hanging over the altar.  We described the church as rather plain and un-inspiring….which it was, on our visit.  We thought it was such a shame that this famous image was hanging in a rather plain church.  But what we did not realize was that is was undergoing some restoration, and so with the scaffoliding and coverings over just about everything but the image, and we did not get to see what a beautiful church that it actually is.  Fortunately, one of our readers corrected us...and sent us photos as well.  We think you will agree that this is one of Rome’s most beautiful churches.

Here are just a few of the new locations that were recommended by our readers:

Columbus, Ohio:  Jubilee Museum; Shrine of Blessed Margaret of Castello

Fort Mitchell, Alabama: Blessed Trinity Shrine Retreat

Greenville, S.C. Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church

Pinner, London, U.K. SEC Youth Retreat Center for Young People

Waverly, Nebraska: Knights of the Holy Eucharist (founded by Mother Angelica)

Waverly, Nebraska:  Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House

 

Have any suggestons for The Catholic Travel Guide?

We thank all those who help with suggestions…and corrections!  Our goal is to help all Catholics with their travel plans whether near or far.  If you have any recommendations or suggestions for us, please email [email protected]

 

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Hopeless? Turn to Saint Philomena

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One of the most popular saints among Catholics is Saint Philomena, patroness of impossible causes.  As Saint John Vianney said: “To Saint Philomena God refuses nothing.”   Or as Pope Gregory XVI said:  “Whatever you ask from her, she will obtain for you”.

Her shrine in Italy at Mugnano de Cardinale, Avellino, is a short distance from Naples.  Churches around the world will honor her on her Feast Day August 11th.

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Confused about the Great Pardon of Assisi?

August 1 & 2 are the dates to obtain a plenary indulgence through the Great Pardon of Assisi. 

If you are confused about how to obtain the Great Pardon of Assisi, you are not alone.  We have been confused ourselves, and finally want to let you know the real story.

There have been some mis-leading posts and emails as to how one can get the plenary indulgence as a result of the Great Pardon of Assisi….not their fault, because, as we said….there is a lot of confusion.

 

We want to give you the exact details:

The great pardon of Assisi cannot be obtained at just any parish church, as some websites have reported.  It is confusing, but after a great deal of research we have the actual conditions here.  Taken directly from the Saint Anthony Shrine in Cincinnati, Ohio, here is the straight scoop:

However, it is now possible to receive the indulgence at all the parish churches in Assisi…….and at all Franciscan churches throughout the world, when meeting the conditions of Communion, Confession and praying for the Pope’s intentions“.

Our guess is that if there is no Franciscan church in your area, then you cannot receive the Great Pardon of Assisi.  If we find out differently we will let you know.

Please help spread the word so that those wishing to get the Great Pardon of Assisi will know where to go.

To learn about the Great Pardon of Assisi, check out our page here.

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August 1st & 2nd The Great Pardon of Assisi

About the Great Pardon of Assisi:

From the evening of August 1st until sundown on August 2nd each year, you may take part in the Great Pardon of Assisi.

Origin of the Great Pardon of Assisi:

When Jesus and the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Francis in the year 1216 in the tiny Portuincula (the chapel he built) Jesus asked Francis what he wanted for the salvation of souls. Francis humbly replied that he would like to obtain a plenary indulgence (elimination of temporal punishment due to sin) for all those who entered the Portuincula. who were truly contrite and had confessed their sins.

Up to this point in history there were only three such places to receive a plenary indulgence:  the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, or the shrine of Saint James the Great in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.  Such journeys were beyond the reach of most people in Italy, where Saint Francis was, and that is why he made that specific request.

Jesus granted him this wish but stipulated he should first present his request to the Pope.  He obtained approval from Pope Honorius III in 1216 and this came to be known as the Portuincula Indulgence, or the Great Pardon of Assisi. 

 

You can obtain the Plenary Indulgence of Assisi by doing the following:

If you happen to be in Assisi on August 1st or 2nd,  you can also earn this pardon for yourself or for any departed.

It is now possible to receive the indulgence at any church in Assisi as well as all Franciscan churches throughout the world when you meet the conditions as shown below.

There is some confusion…so be careful what you read on some websites.  Some have stated your local parish church, that is not correct….it is actually any church in Assisi or any Franciscan church worldwide.

The conditions to obtain the Plenary Indulgence of the Forgiveness of Assisi, as it is properly called, are as follows:

 1.  Sacramental Confession within 8 days either before or after visiting the Portuincuca or any Franciscan Church in Assisi or anywhere else in the world.

2.  Participation in Holy Mass and Eucharist.

3.  Recitation of the Apostles Creed, Our Father, and a prayer for the Holy Father’s intention.

The Portiuncula or Tiny Portion inside the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels AssisiThe Portuincula is now inside the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels at the foot of the town of Assisi.

Almost all tours stop here either on the way to Assisi or upon leaving.  The Basilica is immense and the Portuincula is actually inside the Basilica.  As you can see here, it is quite small but open to visitors.

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Fliers in the U.S.A. face new ID requirements in October 2020

Nothing can ruin a trip more than being denied boarding at the airport….absolutely nothing.  For U.S. travelers, you need to take a look at your driver’s license. Does it have a star in the upper right corner?  Most do not…unless they have been issued fairly recently.  Of course if you are traveling internationally you most likely have a passport, so that is not a problem.  But if you are on a domestic flight, new rules require that driver’s licenses be REAL ID compliant (meaning that they are more secure than the old style).  This rule goes into effect October 2020……which is not that far away!

Real id photo
Photo courtesy N.Y. State Dept of Motor Vehicles

Your license will be accepted if it has a star in the upper right hand corner.  If not, be sure to have an alternate form of I.D. available such as a passport; a trusted traveler card, or a border ID card.  If your license is due for renewal before that date, almost every state will be in compliance (a few have gotten extensions, so check with your state).

Our advice is to get a passport….even if you are not planning to travel overseas right now, they are good for 5 years, and universally accepted.  Then, if you have a sudden opportunity to travel out of the country, then that is one less thing for you to worry about.

While we are on the subject, here are a few other passport tips.

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June 14-23: Feast of Corpus Christi in Spello, Italy

The Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated around the world, but most especially here in Spello, Italy.  It lasts a whole week….in 2019 it will be from June 14 to 23.

Events during the whole week include: the Competition of Hand embroidery “Flowering Windows, Balconies and Alleys“, the competition of Flower Cake Design “Cakes in Bloom”, the floriculture exhibition market of “Spello in Bloom”, night tours of the citizen art sites “InfiorArt”.

Throughout the event it is open the Museum of Infiorate, you can see the beautiful flowered balconies and corners of the city and you can eat at the “Tavern of Infioratori”, menu based on flowers.

Preparing the streets for the celebration of The Feast of Corpus Christi in Spello, Italy
Preparing the streets for the celebration of The Feast of Corpus Christi in Spello, Italy

The townspeople work throught the previous day an in to the evening, then the highlight comes on Sunday, the Feast of Corpus Christi:  the streets are covered with a carpet of polychrome and perfumed of 70 infiorate by the religious theme, ready for the passage of the Sacred procession led by the Bishop.

You can check out our webpage on Spello here.

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Father Augustus Tolton moves one step closer to Sainthood

 

Augustus Tolton from slave to priest by Dcn Harold Burke-Sivers
Get this great book by Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers

A former slave, he obtained his freedom and was baptized and reared Catholic.  He went on to study formally in Rome and was ordained on Easter Sunday of 1886 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, thereby becoming the first native born Black Catholic priest in the U.S.

Although he wanted to become a missionary in Africa, he was sent back to the U.S., and so in a way he did become a missionary……but not in the way he had planned (God does like to ruin our plans, doesn’t He?).

Assigned to a parish in Quincy, Illinois, where his dynamic preaching he attracted worshippers from all parts of the city, both black and white.  He overcame many obstacles in his priesthood….most notably from some of his fellow priests, who were jealous of his popularity.

With the promulgation of the decree of heroic virtue, Servant of God Augustus Tolton is granted the title “Venerable”.

The next stage in the “causes” would be beatification, where he would be proclaimed “Blessed”, followed ultimately by canonization, when he will hopefully be Saint Augustus Tolton.

You can read more about him and where to find his grave here.

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FRANCE (Paris) Annual Paris to Chartres Pilgrimage

The Paris-Chartres Pilgrimage occurs every year on the Feast of Pentecost in early summer, and is a multi-generational, multi-national gathering of Catholics who draw closer to God through the centuries-old act of pilgrimage.

The walk is roughly 62 miles over 3 days—beginning at daybreak on the Saturday before Pentecost, and ending with an afternoon mass on the Monday after Pentecost.

Chartres Cathedral
Chartres Cathedral

The trek takes 8,000-10,000 pilgrims from the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, through the French countryside to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres. Participants brave the weather, blisters, and humble food and accommodations as an act of faith and an act of reparation in these modern times.

The theme for the 2019 Pilgrimage is “THE PEACE OF CHRIST THROUGH THE REIGN OF CHRIST”.

Pilgrims will meet in front of Notre-Dame de Paris at 6:00 am on June 8th, 2019 where the journey of faith on foot begins.

Click here for the official Chartres Pilgrimage  website.