Home » Catholic Travel Blog » blog

Do you know the tradition of the “Christmas Nail”?

One of the best things about Advent and Christmas is discovering the many varied traditions that families have passed down through the generations.  When you travel….whether locally or abroad….you will often find traditions that have endured for centuries.

SAtory of the Christmas NailOne of these traditions is the “Christmas nail”.   Supposedly resembling the nails used to attach Jesus to the cross, it is a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas….that the birth of Christ was subsequently followed by His crucifixion and then His resurrection.

It is fitting that the nail is placed on a tree….since He was crucified by hanging Him on a tree.

Many families put the Christmas nail near the center of the tree, to remind them that Christ should be at the center of their lives.  It is a great way to bring Christ back in to Christmas.

Get one for your family and start a new tradition.

Home » Catholic Travel Blog » blog

Help Christians Living in the Holy Land

Although “Giving Tuesday” in the USA has passed, we urge you to consider making a tax-deductible donation to Select to Give, a charity founded by Select International Tours.

Sadly, Christians are a minority in the land where Jesus was born and preached.  They need our help.

Every penny of your donation will go directly to the aid of Christians living in Gaza, Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Ukraine.

You can find more information about Select-to-Give here.



Home » Catholic Travel Blog » blog

Forget the Pilgrims…..the first Thanksgivings Were Catholic

The image of the puritans, a decidedly non-Catholic bunch, sitting down with the Indians for the first Thanksgiving in 1622 is fairly well-documented in most U.S. history books.  However, there were at least two Catholic Thanksgivings that pre-dated this event by at least 20 years.

As I was growing up in San Antonio, Texas, our Thanksgiving dinners were always prefaced by a prayer that had been passed down over generations. I never paid much attention to the origin of that prayer, having other things on my mind.  But as I look back on it I realize this prayer came from what was probably one of the first Thanksgivings on the newly-discovered continent.

My family on my mother’s side came from Spain, landed in Mexico (then called Zacatecas, Nueva Espana).   My ancestor, Pedro Gomez Duran y Chavez, joined a group, led by Don Juan de Onate, northward on a quest to claim New Mexico for the King of Spain in 1598.  Such journeys were undertaken with the purpose of both gaining territory and spreading Christianity.

Mission Concepcion in San Antonio Texas
Mission Cencepcion in San Antonio, Texas

The expedition traveled over 800 miles through unknown territory and  finally came to the banks of El Rio Bravo (the Rio Grande River) almost exhausted. Onate  nailed a cross to a tree and took formal possession of the new land, called New Mexico, “in the name of the Heavenly Lord, God Almighty, and the earthly lord King Philip II”.  On April 30, 1598, Father Alfonso Martínez, the Commissary Apostolic, led the members of the expedition in a Mass of Thanksgiving.

After the Mass that day, the Franciscan priests blessed the tables laden with fish, ducks, geese and items from the expeditions’ stores.  No mention of Turkey though, as it was not likely a local staple.  As they feasted, a play was performed recounting the conversion and baptism of the local Indians.

The prayer of Thanksgiving that I heard growing up goes like this:

“Open the door to these heathens, establish the church altars where the Body and Blood of the Son of God may be offered, open to us the way to security and peace for their preservation and ours, and give to our king and to me in his royal name, peaceful possession of these kingdoms and provinces for His blessed Glory.  Amen“.

There are still some descendants of the Chavez clan in New Mexico that celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving on April 30th each year…. not necessarily with feasting but at least with a remembrance.

Although often disputed among some members of our clan, there is another claim to the first Thanksgiving, and that is Saint Augustine, Florida.  Again, it was a Catholic event: a celebration between the Spanish and the local Timucuan Indians on September 8, 1565. Sadly, my ancestors and I will have to settle for second billing, as St Augustine would appear to be the real first Thanksgiving in the New World.  

So….as Paul Harvey used to say….now you know the rest of the story!


Home » Catholic Travel Blog » blog

Want to do your Christmas shopping in Italy?

How about combining a great pilgrimage to Italy with a chance to do some Christmas shopping?

With all the online shopping available, Christmas shopping does not have the same hustle and bustle and excitement that many of us remember from the past.  No crowded department stores (if you can even find one), no looking at the window displays (remember the movie “Christmas Story” that has been so popular?).

A special advantage of traveling in Italy just before Christmas is that the huge crowds of tourists are gone.  You will find yourself visiting shrines and churches in a much less hurried and crowded environment.  Also, daytime temperatures, averaging in the upper 50’s, are pleasantly brisk, but quite comfortable.

Taking a trip to Italy at this time of year also presents the opportunity to purchase some really unique gifts for Christmas giving, as you visit many of the holy places with their own special charm. They will have an extra special meaning to the recipient, since you brought them back from Italy.

We found one pilgrimage that we think will fit the bill. It is offered by Select International Tours from December 4-15, 2023.  It is a beautiful pilgrimage and there is far more than the opportunity to shop, of course.

They will take you to some of the holiest places in Italy:  Rome (of course) plus Padre Pio’s Shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo, the Holy House of Loreto, Assisi, Saint Michael’s Cave and more.  You will have a priest to accompany you, with daily Mass, and excellent group leaders and guides that Select International is known for.

Although the European-style Christmas markets are not prevalent here in the southern half of Italy, there are two that will be on the route:  Assisi and Rome.  Your daily schedule may allow you to head out to one or both of them during the free time that this pilgrimage offers.

Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome, with famous fountains such as the Fountain of the Four Rivers and the Fountain of Neptune.  A visit to the Christmas market in Piazza Navona (perfect timing, it opens on December 8, when you have a free evening with dinner on your own) or perhaps the one in Assisi (from the itinerary, it looks like you have the afternoon free in Assisi on December 10). You have the chance of mixing with locals and really immersing yourself in their culture.

You can find all the information about this pilgrimage to the Shrines of Italy here.  Time is short, so don’t wait too long!



Home » Catholic Travel Blog » blog

Pilgrim from USA Decides to Stay in Bethlehem and Serve

Editor’s Note:  We wanted to re-post this email from Select International tours for your interest.  In addition to providing excellent Catholic tours, Select International actually helps support Christians in the Holy Land with its charitable foundation:  The Select to Give Foundation.

The article below is written by Elizabeth Wellendorf.  Elizabeth is a traveling nurse turned volunteer who works with Children at Hogar Nino Dios in Bethlehem.

Greetings from Hogar Nino Dios in Bethlehem:

In the summer of 2022, I went on a pilgrimage with Select International Tours to the Holy Lands. It was a trip of a lifetime with countless blessings and a birthday present that changed the trajectory of my life. My 26th birthday happened to fall on the day that we were visiting Bethlehem. After descending into the grotto of the nativity, I kissed the star that symbolized the place where Jesus was born, and I heard God say, “Happy Birthday, Elizabeth, welcome home.” It was one of those moments I couldn’t brush off as something that was just in my head. So I said, “Make a way”.

That night, we had a representative from Select to Give Foundation speak with us about how we could help support the Christians in the Holy Lands. One of the organizations the foundation supports is a home called Hogar Ninos Dios: Home of the God Child. With my nursing background and experience with children and adults with disabilities, I knew this was the perfect fit.

The path was rough with obstacles, but with my resilience (and pestering) the calling became a reality. Select to Give made it all possible and flew me back to Bethlehem in December of 2022. I spent December until April volunteering in Hogar Ninos Dios, and everyone there, including nuns, children, international volunteers, and employees, became family. The nuns of the order Servidores de la Verbo Incarnato chose the name Hogar Ninos Dios because in each of the 35 special needs children (and adults) that they serve are faces of the child Jesus. The children are either abandoned, or their families do not have the resources to take care of them. Over here, families are trying to put food on their table and don’t have the time or money to give these children what they need. They give them to the sisters with the hope of a better life. The sisters provide not only a home for the children but also a school on-site and medical care. They rely on providence to provide everything. They have generous international donors and volunteer groups, as well as locals who do what they can to help. Select to Give Foundation is one that continuously provides for the home. In March, they even sponsored my mother’s volunteer trip here. She is a special education teacher and was able to bring sensory tools and communication devices for the children. She was also able to work alongside the teachers in the school to exchange ideas.

Through the months of volunteering, I fell in love with my little Bethlehem family. I came to help them, but I know that God put them in my life to help me. As I neared my “end” date, I knew that He had more in store for me here. I went back to the United States and procured a Volunteer Visa that was valid for one year. In late August, I was finally able to come home. My time back started off typical Hogar style with a party and greetings from everyone. I got to experience some beautiful highs like walking with one of our children for the first time (17 years in a chair!!), being surprised by literally running into a friend at church, and spending an hour in the Grotto of the Nativity after hours with only 4 other volunteers. I did not know it then, but God was preparing me for what was to come because a little over a month after I got here, war broke out.

War broke out on October 7th, and despite countless people trying to talk me into going home, I never wavered in my decision to stay. God called me here at this time for a reason. His timing is always perfect. After my family realized I was unwavering, some suggested I would be useful on the front lines, helping as a nurse. This was a thought I was having myself, and I felt guilty for not doing more in this time of war because I have the skills. God reminded me that there were many times when He shut the door to nursing missions, but He opened the door to this home. He called me to be steadfast in love like a mother. If I just look at my body, it reveals my purpose. I get to be the arms that the children find safety and love in. I get to speak comforting words or shower them with kisses. I get to walk with them through this time of uncertainty. Even though we are not in the war zone, that could change in a moment, and I need to be here for them. It is beautiful that even though they are not children of my flesh and blood, I get to love them like my own. I am not afraid of losing my own life, but the thought of one of our helpless children getting harmed because there were not enough hands to help scares me more than anything.

After a few tense days, life in Bethlehem went back into a new normal. We are all on our toes in case we need to bring the children to a safe place, but life must go on. At home, our children still go to school in the mornings. In the afternoon, we play, or I stretch and exercise the children. One girl had an operation at the end of August and still needs intense physical therapy multiple times a day to maximize the benefits of this surgery. I know she is one of the many reasons why God called me back.

The biggest changes since the beginning of the war that I see are not in our house but outside our walls. The streets, once teeming with tourists, have gone quiet, and the Basilica of the Nativity is empty in the afternoons. The people of Bethlehem rely on tourism, and now there is none. The locals who work in Israel cannot cross the border to go to work and, therefore, do not have the money to spend locally. The people here were finally getting back on their feet after the detrimental effects of COVID, and now this happened. I find consolation in the strength of the faith of the people, especially the Christians. This is the place where Jesus physically entered the world, and they will keep practicing the faith despite all the hardships they face.

Through this experience, I’ve learned to appreciate what we have at home in the United States. There, we have the security of power, food, water, and even life. Right now, none of that is guaranteed here. I do have a beautiful love here, and it is a love worth giving up everything for.

I do not know what my future holds, but I know that He holds my future. With that being said, I do have something to ask of you; first and foremost, we need prayers for peace and safety. Prayers are the only thing that can change the hearts of the people and end this war. I would also like to ask for providence. The Select to Give Foundation supports not only us but many Christians in Bethlehem. If you are able to donate, the American dollar goes a long way and will help provide for the basic needs of the people. Finally, please hug your family for me tonight because some of us over here do not have that luxury. Many in Gaza have lost parents or children in the war and will never be able to do so again. As for those of us who are safe, distance separates us from the ones we love. I thank you for your prayers and continuous generosity, and continue to pray for you as you do for us.

Since the terrorist attack on October 7, 2023, Select to Give has sent $61,000 in direct aid for Christian families living in the Holy Land and Gaza.

Individuals use this money to feed their families while out of work and without government assistance. They donated $ 25,000 to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which is using the funds to help Christian families in Gaza with humanitarian aid during the horrors they are facing there. Note:  there is one Catholic Church in Gaza City that has welcomed refugees of all faiths.

This is in addition to the continued support Select to Give provides for organizations like Hogar Nino Dios and Ninos Dios, which need our help to continue operating.

Select International has paid their guides and drivers for the cancelled groups (something we don’t readily think about, but when a group is cancelled, that means they do not earn the money they need to feed their families).

Select International hopes to be able to continue sending funds for food and medicine to the Christians of Gaza and Bethlehem in the coming months.

This year, please consider donating to Select to Give. Every penny donated directly assists Christians in the Holy Land. Their organization is 100% volunteer-administered and transparent. Receipts are provided by the donors and posted on their website, so you know where your donations are being sent.

Learn More and Donate Today

Home » Catholic Travel Blog » blog

Why all the interest in Garabandal?

Why all the recent interest in Garabandal?

Plaque in Garabandal where St. Michael the Archangel appearedThe apparitions of both Saint Michael the Archangel and the Blessed Virgin Mary took place in 1961.  So why the increasing level of interest in these apparitions today?

Perhaps it lies in the fact that so much of what we took for granted in the world has recently been turned upside down. 

Things just don’t seem quite right compared to the world of just a few years back.   For example:

Covid-19 response:

In some countries churches were closed under the guise of “preventing the spread” of Covid, but bars and clubs providing so called “adult entertainment” have remained open.  Meanwhile economies have been destroyed (although the pharmaceutical companies seem to have done quite well), families torn apart and people live in irrational fear (ever seen a person driving in a car, alone, with a mask on?).  Australia set up “internment camps” for those with Covid-19, in England people have been arrested for holding an outside church service…….and we could go on and on.

Destruction of traditional Christianity:

Sexual Deviation is being normalized and even encouraged, both by certain governments as well as the entertainment industry……especially to vulnerable young children.  Drag shows in public venues have become all too common in many cities and towns….all in the name of being “inclusive”.

The U.S. now issues passports for non-binary people….you don’t have to declare yourself male or female.  And, in many states you can change the sex assigned at birth on your birth certificate.  

They want you to “follow the science” but not when it comes to physical anatomy, apparently. 

Socialism and Marxism are promoted as ideals, even though there is no evidence that either has ever worked.  You cannot find a single example of where socialism has worked.  Perhaps because people are so poorly educated that they cannot even define socialism.  The basic definition of socialism is that people have private property, but the government owns the means of production (factories, farms, etc.)  Countries such as Sweden are held up as examples where socialism works…..but Sweden is not Socialist…you can read this article from a former President of Sweden.

In the U.S. racism is raising its head in the form of “anti-racism”, which is in itself a form of racism, since everything is seen through the prism of skin color.

Attacks on the family:  everything from our schools to our society aim to diminish the importance of the family.  The family unit is the basis of society and therefore is the first target of the Devil.  The United Nations and the European Court seem inclined to view your children as theirs, not yours.  And it goes on and on.

Abortion has become a Sacrament to some:  killing of the unborn is the rallying cry for many as life is continually de-valued.  How ad it is to watch the 2024 U.S. elections, where many abortion restrictions were voted down.  Of course, many European countries have already progressed further down that path.

Division within the Church:  Even within the Church there is division:  why did Pope Benedict XVI resign?  Why do not more priests and bishops speak out against the sin of abortion? Why does the Vatican some times seem to embrace ideologies not in keeping with Catholic beliefs?  Why do many Catholics not believe in the True Presence of the Eucharist?  Why did the U.S. elect a nominally Catholic president who promotes abortion?

Why was the Bishop of Tyler, Texas removed by Pope Francis in November 2023?

The list goes on and on with no end in sight.  We are not defeatist...we realize that God is in charge…but we do look for trends that will help us discern the messages given at Garabandal.

War in Europe and the Middle East:  The war in Ukraine goes on, although the news has now taken a back seat to the ongoing war in Gaza, which could easily widen to involve the U.S. in a “third world war”.

So what has this to do with Garabandal?

It is no surprise that people are beginning to think that these things cannot continue and that we are approaching a time when God will intervene in a way similar to what has been foretold by the children in Garabandal.  Of course, this is not unique to Garabandal, since others have predicted such events as well.

"The Pines" in Garabandal Spain
“The Pines”

The visionaries of Garabandal were told of a world-wide warning (an illumination of conscience for everyone) and, within a year of that warning a miracle to be left in the pines of Garabandal….a physical sign to be seen around the world.

Within the context of such an unsettled world, people are expecting the warning of Garabandal to take place very soon.  Note that Mari Loli, who knows the date of the miracle, said it would be “within the same year“.  So is that a mis-translation, a mis-understanding, or is that correct?

Could this be the year? 

We have no idea, but the miracle is supposed to occur during the lifetime of one of the visionaries, Conchita, who is now in her 70’s.  So obviously we need to stay aware of the signs.and it is useful to point out that often times prophecies don’t seem to make sense until after they occur, and when we look back we say “of course, now I understand”.


Garabandal:  A warning and prophecy for our time?

Garabandal, Spain

An American president, Ronald Reagan, talking about nuclear disarmament with the Soviet Union, said “Trust, but verify”.  This is not a bad policy to follow when evaluating the various stories about Garabandal and the prophecies.  Every year we see a lot of interest in Garabandal, especially early in the year, since the miracle is supposed to occur in March, April or May.  The world-wide warning is to occur prior to this, then we could be on the cusp of that event.

Having visited Garabandal many times, and talked to the villagers, we are believers in the sincerity of the villagers and the overall message of Garabandal.  But that does not blind us to reality, so we with so many interviews given by the visionaries realize it is possible through mis-translation or otherwise, that the details and timeline of the events can become blurred.

You have to remember that these were simple village children with little knowledge of the outside world…there was no internet or other communication available to them and Garabandal was a tiny hamlet miles from what anyone would even consider a village.  And their parents were simple as well.  One day back in the 1990’s (we can’t remember exactly when) we happened to be in Garabandal when a helicopter landed….and the whole village was in an uproar because they had never seen a helicopter before!  So to think that these people suddenly made up the apparitions and their message is just too incredulous to imagine.

And, of course, there were many witnesses to the events of Garabandal…..including skeptics, who went away believing in the apparitions.

Setting the record straight about Garabandal:

As the Bible says in 1st Thessalonians:  “Do not despise prophetic utterances.  Test everything; retain what is good.”  Prophecies can be confusing in their interpretation.  It has been said “It would not be a prophecy if we knew ahead of time its exact meaning, and if we could guess the right date of its happening.”

Garabandal was a sleepy village in 1961 when reported apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary (preceded by Saint Michael the Archangel) to four young girls took place. Important messages for the world were also given to the girls at that time. Not that long ago…and yet the messages or apparitions have not been approved, nor disapproved, by the Church.

The “bottom line” from what we understand is:

1. A worldwide warning where everyone sees their soul as God sees it (an illumination of conscience).

2. A miraculous sign to be left at the Pines here in Garabandal within 12 months of the warning.  Mari Loli is quoted as saying “within the same year“, so we are not sure which is correct.

3. A final chastisement if mankind does not repent.

For a more detailed look at the prophecies of Garabandal, check out our page here.




Home » Catholic Travel Blog » blog

U.S. State Department issues a world-wide travel warning…what does that mean?

The U.S. State Department has issued a World-Wide Travel Warning….but what does that really mean to you?

While this sounds rather ominous, Travel Advisories have become the norm for the U.S. State Department, especially since the pandemic.  In the beginning stages of the pandemic the State Department issued a “Worldwide Caution” warning that was lifted in August 2020.

The current warning comes amidst major geopolitical tensions over the war in the Middle East, and, of course, the ongoing war in Ukraine.

These advisories are numbered according to importance, with Level 1 (Exercise normal precautions) ranging up to Level 4 (Do not travel).

The current advisory is not advice to avoid travel. Rather, it’s advice to exercise increased caution and “stay alert” in locations that are frequented by tourists. In most cases where travel to another country is involved, that is always good advice regardless of any travel warnings.

You can find the various warnings on the U.S. State Department website here.

The State Department is also advising all travelers going abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts in case of an emergency.  This can help in many ways, such as arranging evacuation flights in some cases.  Canada and other countries have similar programs.  Bear in mind there are no guarantees, as independent travelers coming home from Israel will testify (evacuation flights were not available and most had to buy their own tickets at fairly high prices).

Of course, if you are traveling with a group such as Select International Tours, and if problems should arise,  and you need to return home, you can rely on their team of professionals to make those arrangements for you.  This was the case most recently for several of their groups traveling in Israel….and they all made it home safely.

Those of us who travel often….and especially tour operators….have been through this before.  We’ll never forget the chaotic days of 9/11 when troops were stationed in airports as the burning Twin Towers were being shown on the TV screens all over the airport.  Since that event, it goes without saying that travel has changed significantly. Today, we tend to check out locations a bit more carefully than before (realizing that the news media will always try to find the worst stories possible).

Well, our decision is to keep traveling….with certain precautions in mind.  Traveling with a group is a pretty good idea…..most everything is handled for you and a lot of the details are up to them.  And, of course, certain destinations may not be advisable.  For now, Israel trips have been cancelled by almost all tour operators.

But if you want to travel to Europe there are good options:  The one we like best at the moment is Poland…a traditional Catholic country that has survived Communism and kept the Faith.  And, of course, river cruises are another great choice.

Finally, for those in the U.S. and Canada who might wish to stay on the North American Continent, we suggest Mexico (yes, it is in North America).  Although parts of the country are not safe, tours to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine and the area around it pose little threat to pilgrims.  The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe makes a great pilgrimage.

Like everyone else, we continue to monitor the situation and pray for peace.


Home » Catholic Travel Blog » blog

Thinking of cancelling your trip to Israel? What about refunds?

With the current war (we’re not calling it “unrest” any more) in Israel, most tour companies have postponed their trips to Israel for at least the next few weeks…..while others have cancelled all scheduled trips remaining in 2023.

We do not expect a quick resolution to this conflict, so we certainly agree with those decisions.  Here is what we have been able to find out so far….but you need to check with the tour operator for exact terms and conditions.

Will I get a refund if I cancel my trip to Israel?

If the tour company cancels the tour to Israel, then you should be entitled to a full refund in most cases.  Postponement is something different, you are not likely to  be offered a refund, even if the dates are not convenient for you.  Most of the tour companies we have looked at will offer to transfer the funds you have paid and apply them to a trip to a different destination or to Israel on a different date in the future.

If you cancel, you probably won’t get all your money Back.    The situation there is so volatile that we are not sure how things will develop.  If you do decide to cancel, will you get a refund of what you have paid?

Most tour companies have cancellation policies that go in to effect almost immediately after you make your first payment and get steeper the closer you get to your departure date.  Let’s face it, most people don’t read the fine print regarding cancellation policies.  So, if you decide to cancel, you may get a partial refund depending upon that companies cancellation policy, and whether you have paid a deposit or the full amount.  You will need to check with your tour company for the exact terms and conditions.

This is not because the tour companies are greedy, but they have to put deposits down with various suppliers that are likewise subject to cancellation fees.

What about travel insurance….won’t that cover my cancellation?

Some time ago, we put a page on our website titled “Travel Insurance….don’t leave home without it!”

That is still good advice…..but not all travel insurance policies are the same.  There are various terms and conditions that must be met in order to get a refund, and, (the cost of the insurance itself will not be refunded).

Even if you have travel insurance, you still might not get a full refund if you decide to cancel.

Under most travel insurance policies, war, acts of war, and political unrest are excluded from cancellation coverage, meaning any resulting claims likely will not be paid.  The problem is that most travel insurance policies typically do not have specific definitions for war.  These are very vague terms, and give the insurance companies plenty of latitude to deny a claim.  We’re not beating up on travel insurance companies….just stating our observations.  Certainly what is going on in Israel right now would be considered a war by most people, but that doesn’t mean that the insurance companies will look at it that way.

There is a type of travel insurance that will cover this…..”Cancel for Any Reason“.  But hold on….you have to meet certain conditions and some of you may have already lost the opportunity.

In order for a traveler to be eligible for Cancel For Any Reason, many travel insurance companies require that certain conditions must be met. 

According to Traveldefenders.com, there are typically three conditions that must be met to purchase a Cancel For Any Reason Rider:

  1.   Purchase the policy within 10 – 21 days of First Trip Payment
  2.   Insure ALL prepaid and non-refundable travel expenses prior to departure;
  3.   Trip arrangements must be canceled more than 48 -72 hours prior to the departure date.

If you have already passed that first date, then you will most likely not be eligible to purchase a “Cancel for any Reason” insurance policy.  Again, you should check with your insurance provider, since companies may vary in their terms and conditions.

Home » Catholic Travel Blog » blog

Travel to Israel Cancelled Due to War

Not long ago we wrote a blog article pointing out how safe it was for pilgrims to travel to Israel. At the time, that was true….pilgrims found, to their surprise, that they were perfectly safe.  Although there have been long-simmering calls for the elimination of Israel by Hamas, there was did not appear any imminent threat.

Airstrike in IsraelBut now, everything has changed….and perhaps permanently.   We seem to have reached a tipping point.  Obviously this will go down as one Israel’s rare intelligence failures.  Mossad, Israel’s Intelligence agency, has had a reputation as perhaps the premiere intelligence agency in the world.  Apparently they were not prepared for a wide ranging attack by Hamas within the borders of Israel, even though this attack took place not only on the Jewish Sabbath, but also on the Festival of Sukkot, which is one of the major feast days and often a time when militants have been known to attack, it would have called for the highest alert on the part of Israeli defense forces….and yet, they were caught by surprise. Our guess is that there will be a lot of second-guessing amongst the intelligence staff of Mossad.

This situation is too complicated to cover in depth in this blog post….there are many parties involved and many moving parts.  Some progress was recently reported in the effort to get Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel…something that would have changed the dynamics in the region significantly. And that may be why Hamas schedule this attack at this time…to disrupt these talks.  And, Iran has been known to fund activities of both Hezzbollah and Hamas….but little is known specifically about the Iran’s involvement in these attacks.

The Israeli military response will undoubtedly result in civilian casualties in the occupied territories, which of course will be held against them…..despite the fact that they were attacked in the first place.  And so the cycle of violence will continue.

The danger of this spreading in what is a volatile region (to say the least) is worrisome.  Already, in Egypt, two Israeli tourists and their Egyptian tour guide were shot dead in Alexandria, apparently by a policeman.

Israel is at War

When you have armed militants in your country kidnapping innocent civilians, executing them at will, then this is now more than just a brief incursion, and must be considered an act of war. as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Sunday October 8.  Just how far things will go we cannot say, but the outlook as of today (October 9) does not look good.  Israel has issued a complete blockade of the West Bank, cutting off water and electricity as well.

Meantime….rockets continue to be launched not only from the West Bank, but…even more worrying….from Lebanon.  The latter threatens to expand the hostilities further than just Israel, Hezbollah (consisting mainly of Sunni Muslims aligned with Iran) controls most of Lebanon and Iran provides Hezbollah with most of its funding, training, and weapons.

And….there are still some fighting going on within Israel between the Israeli Defence Force and Hamas in occupied towns and buildings.


Status of pilgrims scheduled to travel to or return from Israel:

Pilgrims in Israel looking for flights home
Photo courtesy Times of Israel

So far as we can tell, all tour companies have cancelled their scheduled trips to Israel through the end of 2023, and have worked feverishly to bring any pilgrims already in Israel home as quickly as possible You can read one such response here from Select International Tours.

As a side note, many people on various blogs were talking about something happening in October. We cannot say…only time will tell.  In the meantime, please pray for peace in the Middle East.  Events like this have been known to spiral out of control beyond what we see now.


Home » Catholic Travel Blog » blog

Relic of Carlo Acutis available for veneration in Washington, DC

The International Week of Prayer and Fasting, in collaboration with the Legion of Mary, runs from October 20-28, 2023.

The International Week of Prayer and Fasting campaign is a grassroots movement of Catholics and other Christians from around the world participating in a global network of prayer and fasting.

Most of the presentations are virtual. This entire event will be available FREE via livestream on the day of the events. An all-access pass will be available for a donation, which will allow unlimited access for a year following the events.

The Week culminates on Saturday, October 28th, featuring speakers Fr. Timothy E. Byerley, Ray Grijalba, Dr. Carlos Parellada, Sister Deirdre Byrne, and Ted Flynn.

In addition to all-day Adoration, there will be the opportunity for veneration of a relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis,

At noon, October 28, Mass will be held in The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and celebrated by Bishop Emeritus Robert J. Baker, STD.

This event also includes a procession of the nations, a global living Rosary recited by people representing Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The participants will be wearing traditional dress from their countries of origin. There will also be the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and the opportunity for confession.

To register online and to receive more information, visit their website at www.IWOPF.org or call +1 888-478-PRAY.