Two of Sydney’s pilgrims added an extra-special highlight to their World Youth Day journey, receiving the sacrament of confirmation from Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP in Nazareth, Jesus’ childhood home.
Law student Deon Testore and nurse Sandy Dankha were confirmed in the Church of the Annunciation, which stands over the cave traditionally believed to be the place where Mary accepted the call to be the mother of the Lord.
“You were baptised as a boy but following an archbishop’s award, an ACU school leaver’s trip, and study at Campion College, you have been journeying to the completion of your initiation into God’s family, the church,” Archbishop Fisher told Deon during his homily.
“Sandy Dankha, you also entered the waters of baptism as a child—not so far from here, in Kuwait. You’ve arrived at this moment by serving others selflessly as a nurse, by adoring Our Lord in his Blessed Sacrament, and by acting as a Catholic videographer.
“Deon and Sandy, God is excited like he was at the Annunciation and at Pentecost to be sharing his long-promised gifts.
“From all eternity when he conceived you in his mind, from the instant of your conception in your mother’s womb, from the moment of your rebirth in baptism, he’s been waiting patiently for this day.
“Now the potential he gave you from the beginning will be realised by the power of the Holy Spirit as it has been in the saints throughout history if you let him.
“In witnessing your confirmation we are all given an opportunity to contemplate what being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit has done in us.”
Italy, Spain and Holy Land pilgrimages draw to a close
Before travelling to Lisbon two groups of Sydney pilgrims concluded their journeys through the Holy Land and Italy.
A third group flew from Sydney to Spain for walking tours of the medieval cities of Avila, Segovia and Salamanca where St Teresa of Avila instituted her reform of the ancient Carmelite order with St John of the Cross.
“Throughout all of this we were blessed to understand more about these great saints, their fervour for the faith, contemplative wisdom and influence on the church,” said Sydney Catholic Youth’s Anna Harrison.
The Italian group left Rome and visited the magnificent basilicas of Cascia, Assisi, Siena, Florence and Venice with one of the school student pilgrims remarking that the Aussie chaplains’ preaching at daily Masses was also a highlight.
“I usually find the homilies boring at Mass but this trip I loved listening to the homilies explaining the church artwork, the saints, and our experience,” the pilgrim said.
After experiencing sunrise on Mt Arbel above the Sea of Galilee and visiting Capernaum and Cana, the Holy Land group went to Jerusalem and prayed at a number of special sites including a holy hour spent at the Mount of Olives on 28 July, where Jesus often prayed alone and where he was arrested in Gethsemane.
“Separated by no more than a stone wall from the surrounding city, what you can hear from this most holy garden is traffic, sirens, crowds, the Islamic call to prayer and all this late into the evening too,” wrote pilgrim Juliette Khoury.
“Nevertheless, despite the sound of chaos, the garden remains still and uncorrupted.
“It remains hauntingly peaceful, serene, and somehow inspires silence. Maybe we could try to be more like Gethsemane in that when the world threatened our sense of clarity and calm, we would remain calm and unshaken, deeply rooted in faith.”
Preaching the homily at Mass at the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane, Fr Roberto Keryakos reminded the pilgrims that Jesus Christ willingly entered his Passion out of love for all, including his betrayer Judas.
“We may not be betrayed as spectacularly as he was, we may not experience much physical, emotional or spiritual suffering as he did,” Fr Keryakos said.
“But when we are called each day to love others intensely, especially those who hate us, praying for those who persecute us, or when we have been misunderstood or when we feel despised and rejected, when we are called to suffer and be acquainted with grief, let us lean on his sufferings, lean on his love, lean on his being misunderstood, despised and rejected, so that our suffering can bear fruit in our lives, in the lives of our family and friends, and for the entire world, just as it did here in this place 2000 years ago.”
Carrying a large cross, pilgrims also walked the Via Dolorosa in the oldest part of Jerusalem which represents the path Jesus walked enroute to his crucifixion, and entered his tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Pilgrim Mary El-Kazzi said walking in the footsteps of Jesus in places like Bethlehem and Nazareth was “awe-inspiring” but especially moving was being in the Church of the Annunciation.
“As I am named after Our Lady that devotion has always been instilled in me and to literally be there yesterday was amazing and the highlight for me,” she said.