Pilgrimage to the Land of the Bible

Notre Dame PatioImage

In Jerusalem, pilgrims are – well – what they are; pilgrims! To the local residents, pilgrims can sometimes be quite a spectacle to behold. They come all all colors – literally – and for every reason imaginable: religious, political and ideological, even mystical. Local residents find some pilgrims exotic, fascinating, naive most of the time – sometimes irritating, especially on politics and ideology.

A noisy group had just come back to the patio at the Notre Dame Center’s cafeteria. They were back, probably from Masada, and it was late afternoon. “The Americans!” word went around the cafeteria. My friend, Father Arbogast, came to the table where I was sitting, beaming on his face.

“Father Doyle and his group are back”, he repeated the sentiment already going around.

Every summer, Father Doyle brought a group of pilgrims from the United States. Some years he brought two or three groups in the course of the summer. As with all American groups, they were the noisiest of any group, and this returning group did not disappoint.

Father Doyle was always red on the face and even more so when he and his group settled down after a tour. He brought out his stash of whiskey which accompanied him from the United States to be shared with the group. As always, he also had a joke – several, actually – to go with the whiskey.

“In the Franciscan Order”, he was saying, “we take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The problem is, on Sundays and Mondays I observe poverty, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays I observe chastity, and on Thursdays and Fridays I observe obedience. On Saturdays I don’t know what to observe!”. He and his group burst out in laughter. It was Saturday too!.

A group of mostly nuns from the Philippines came to Father Arbogast with rosaries to be blessed. They just got back from Galilee and their tour guide had made prior arrangements to have their rosaries from Galilee blessed together to avoid too much time being spent on individual blessings.

“Wajinga hawa!” Father Arbogast remarked in Swahili as he rose to go to the table piled up with rosaries and surrounded by nuns in their habits. When he was letting me share his sarcasm, he made his remarks in Swahili. He just said to me: “They are ignorant (or naive)”. I could see him making the sign of the cross over the table then hurrying back to our interrupted conversation.

Orderliness was a sign a group was German. You could hardly hear them, they spoke in turn, one at a time, barely raising their voice. They cleaned up their table before leaving. Monsignor Martiny, the Director of Notre Dame Center, was always happiest when there was a German group in residence, obviously for more reasons than that he too was German.

Diversity, including eccentricity is always transformational in so many different ways, as the next story reveals.