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Canisius President John J. Hurley and his wife, Maureen, continue their pilgrimage through the Holy Land. On day five the group visited sites in Jerusalem. Mass was held at the Gethsemane Basilica which purportedly holds the stone upon which Jesus prayed in the garden on Holy Thursday. The group also visited the Ascension Chapel on the Mount of Olives, a site shared by Christians and Muslims. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre holds the site of Jesus’s crucifixion (Golgotha) where the group was able to touch the spot where the cross stood.

The Garden of Gethsemane

The week-long pilgrimage to the Holy Land is sponsored by America Media, a Jesuit ministry that includes America magazine.  It is being led by Revs. James Martin, S.J., author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage; Matt Malone, S.J., editor-in-chief of America; and Brendan Lally, S.J., rector of the Jesuit community at St. Joseph’s University.

Throughout the week, “The Dome” will continue to share President Hurley’s reflections and photos from his journey (see below).

Also, click here to follow a virtual pilgrimage to the Holy Land through video links, which also will be posted daily.

Day Five – Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reflections from President Hurley

We are in Jerusalem, the Holy City in the Holy Land.  Unlike our time in Galilee where we enjoyed temperatures in the 70s and 80s, the thermometer dropped into the 40s last night and it was cold and windy with a little rain today.

The site of the Ascension

We celebrated Mass this morning at the Gethsemane Basilica.  In the sanctuary is the rock which is purported to be the stone upon which Jesus prayed in the garden on Holy Thursday.  We sat close together on stools in the sanctuary and had an opportunity to contemplate and venerate the rock.  Following Mass, there was time for reflection in a private section of the Garden of Gethsemane.  Fr. Jim Martin talked this morning about Jesus coming to grips with God’s plan for him, and he asked us if there was something that we would like to surrender to.

We visited the Ascension Chapel on the Mount of Olives where, again, there is a stone which is reported to be the stone from which the Ascension took place.  Interestingly, the site is shared by Christians and Muslims and we had a large contingent of Muslim pilgrims in the same space with us.


The afternoon was spent at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a structure dating back to the 13th century that contains the site of Jesus’s crucifixion (Golgotha), his descent from the cross, his internment in the tomb and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.  This is not legend; scholars agree that these are the actual sites.  It is almost too much to comprehend in such a concentrated space, and the hordes of pilgrims – Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Coptic Christians, Syrians, Armenians, and Ethiopians – do not make the task any easier.  But you are actually able to touch the spot on Calvary where the cross stood and you can venerate the tomb of Christ, all of which is very, very powerful.

The Tomb of Christ

Every evening, we conduct faith sharing with our group, as we do at Canisius on student retreats and during our service and immersion trips with students.  These are deep moments of reflection that reveal the many ways in which the Holy Spirit is working among all of us.  As amazing as this pilgrimage has been, the work of the Holy Spirit in so many different ways is perhaps most amazing of all.

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