Thursday, May 2, 2013

My experience as a Christian began as a child when I was baptised. At age seven I received instructions in my faith as a Roman Catholic in order to receive the sacraments of First Reconciliation and Communion.

We continued to attend Mass as a family whilst I was growing up, mainly to worship and praise as part of the Catholic Community where I lived but also because my mother had a very deep faith and relationship with Christ which she wanted us children to have as well. My father and my siblings did have faith but I really found everything so much more interesting than they seemed to.

For some reason the words of the scripture readings made sense, the beauty of a God that became man and born into lowly poverty in a stable or cave whilst on the run from the authorities who were trying to kill him seemed to make profound sense to me. I also remember meditating on the words and sentiment of the Lord’s Prayer during the Mass one time and reflecting that it was a “perfect prayer, utterly complete”. I was seven years old.

After I left school and went into full-time work, I suffered a lot of untreated and undiscovered mental health issues (depression, anxiety, neuroses and phobias). Also, I was abused and mentally, verbally and physically bullied and I became disillusioned with life, so I turned to alcohol and drugs and away from my Christian upbringing and left that all behind.

After years of chaos and misery and consequences, I was touched by grace. My partner said she wanted to take our two children to Mass, in order to get to know our local priest so that we could have our sons baptised. I agreed to come along. I am glad I did.

For the rest of the story, click HERE.

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View from all of our balconies

Note: Family and friends, please leave comments below and I will read them on the bus. It always gives great joy to the pilgrims.

This group is very excited – a whole bus full. Many came from my invitation, many from Catholic Digest and their sponsorship and generous advertising and others came from Franciscan University of Steubenville. In all it is a great and enthusiastic group.

No luggage lost, everyone arrived in good order and we drove straight to Galilee for Mass on the shoreline at St. Peter’s Church in Tiberias. Today is Holy Thursday for the locals – Sunday here is Easter.

Everyone is full of excitement and laughing at the fear of danger that they’ve been warned of back home. It is a beautiful country and very safe. We, Steve and Janet Ray, have been here over 100 times and have brought thousands of people without ever once having a problem.

Ready for a swim? See of Galilee or the warm pool?

Over 3.5 million people a year visit Israel and never has one visitor been victimized as CNN and MSNBC would like you to believe! I’d be more afraid to go to Boston, Chicago or New York than to Israel!!

We are all settled in along the shore of Galilee. Reverent Mass, great dinner and beautiful hotel. Everyone is now asleep getting ready for a busy day tomorrow…

…Mass on the Mount of Transfiguration, renewal of wedding vows in Cana and a spiritual tour of Nazareth where it all began. Without Nazareth where the Word become flesh – there would be no Bethlehem, Capernaum or Jerusalem.

We will pray three Mysteries of the Rosary tomorrow at the site where they happened, especially in Nazareth where the actual cave where the words of Gabriel were first heard, “Hail Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee!” (Luke 1:28)

Everyone will have free time from 4:00 PM to swim in the Sea of Galilee, meditate on the shoreline, rest, and have a good time getting to know the other pilgrims from around the country and even Ireland!