Cardinal Roger Mahony’s 29 steppers – Living stones of Jesus

By: Joe Micatrotto

The old saying “not our first rodeo” would have seemed appropriate for the Catholic Travel Centre’s (CTC) Cardinal Mahony’s Holy Land Pilgrimage of October 4-10, 2014. After all, this was our third trip to the Holy Land in less than six years and we had “already” visited so many sites.  Wrong!  Oh, do not misunderstand; the first two trips were amazing, especially the 2014 CTC Pilgrimage.  So, what transpired to bring the “29 STEPPERS” to a new level as pilgrims? Firstly, anyone’s trip to Our Lord’s “home base” is a private one on one experience. But, Cardinal Mahony made this trip not only unique, but also a Pilgrimage of Personal Spiritual Responsibility…PSR!

It began three months earlier when we were beckoned to LA’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for a group meeting to review this pilgrimage and what to prepare for.  Also to make us realize that we were visiting the Holy Land NOT as tourists but as TRUE pilgrims and to act as such!  We received the daily prayer and spiritual guide books personally prepared by Cardinal Mahony. The guide book contains specific readings connected to each location to be visited. The readings relate both to the days of Christ and their relevance to our current walks with our Lord.  We were given 10 books each so that we could bring “prayer partner pilgrims” to spiritually travel with us.

Everyday, the 29 STEPPERS’ designated assignments included daily Rosary leaders, Mass lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and daily previewers of the history of each site. Seemingly tedious, but enriching and allowed us to spiritually prepare for the pilgrimage. Connie said, after her opportunity to lector next to the Holy Sepulcher…”reading the words of St. Peter next to the EMPTY TOMB was indescribable!”

Our pilgrimage covered in detail the key sites: three days around the Sea of Galilee and six days throughout Jerusalem and surrounding areas. To detail our total experience would be a tremendous task, because as St John the Apostle said, “so much to write that I doubt there would be enough volumes to hold it all.”  However, here are highlights that made the pilgrimage a very memorable Holy Land trek.

October 6th, day one.  Mass next to Our Lady’s home of Annunciation in Nazareth. It’s not only where Mary’s beginning of motherhood took place, but also where our own enlightenment commenced.

October 7th, at Mt. Tabor for Transfiguration Mass. We saw a large group of Nigerian pilgrims dancing in praise of our Lord, joined by Father Ken and Sister Kathy!  Here, and at other locations, Cardinal Mahony was asked for blessings and pictures.  He was a true Rock Star!

October 8th. We all got a good Baptist dampening at the Jordan River by Cardinal Mahony.

October 9th. One of the most energizing days at the Seminary in Jerusalem. Our Order sponsors 100% of these wonderful seminarians and they are so grateful.  The fabulous meal they prepared for us made it clear they know their culinary ABC’s!

Sir Michael Feeley gave Connie and me the unique opportunity to do an initial visit to HOGAR NINO DIOS.  This is a home for abandoned and special needs children in Bethlehem and one of our lieutenancy’s newest causes. By far, this was one of the greatest blessings in our lives. We witnessed first hand, our Lord’s calling to each of us to be our “brother’s and sister’s keeper.”

October 10th. Cardinal Mahony gave us the very rare opportunity to be alone and meditate in a completely private area of the Garden of Gethsemane. If there was a soul searching moment, this was it!
Not to be missed on this same day was the 29 STEPPERS’ visit at St. Vincent’s in Ain Karem, another children’s home supported by the Order. Ask any of us to describe what we experienced, including the gentleness of Cardinal Mahony’s individual blessing of each child, without tearing up….IMPOSSIBLE.

October 12th. A most joyous day! Highlighted by six Area Councillors receiving their Pilgrim Shells.

Fr. Pizzaballa, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, awarded the Pilgrim Shells to the Brehm’s, Luchetta’s and Schanzlin’s. All 29 STEPPERS witnessed this blessed achievement, the highest form of honor granted by our Order.

At each new day, we were drawn very close to Our Lord and his Living Stones and to our Catholic Arab family and community. Space for this article is limited but when you visit and pilgrim your way through the Holy Land, you have unlimited space for all the Lord’s blessings.

As Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a visit to the Holy Land is really a MUST. As adults, how many of us would love to go back in time and see, touch, taste and experience what our parents and ancestors did as children growing up? What type of teenagers were they? What type of neighborhood did they grow up in? What environment helped to form and affect their lives? When you become a pilgrim Stepper, you will see how our Lord did just that; you will see, sense and feel his true and real presence.

At Calvary, we had an incredible opportunity to spend quiet time at the site of the foot of the cross. As we crouched down on stone steps in deep meditation, next to Cardinal Mahony, we kept repeating …”Thank you Lord”…We were both imagining that 2000 years ago, at this exact location, our Blessed Mother, her companions, and St John were mourning the death of our Lord Jesus. We had 2000 years of praising and thanking him for coming as our Emmanuel!

At the last evening, we were saddened by the thought that we had to go our separate ways. Yet, so blessed that, as the Apostles did 2000 years ago, Cardinal Mahony told us to do the same. …GO proclaim…

God’s Blessings to You and Those You Love.

Joe and Connie Micatrotto