In about 24 hours, I’ll be at JFK Airport, waiting to board a Turkish Airlines flight that will carry me to Istanbul and then, at long last, Tel Aviv, where I’ll begin our long-awaited 11-day pilgrimage to the land we call “holy.”

I won’t be alone. There are 23 of us — including me, my wife, and my friend Father Antonin Kocurek, a priest from my parish who has generously agreed to tag along and celebrate Mass for us.

I’ve made this trip before — my wife and I did a similar pilgrimage in 2000, the Jubilee Year — but this time, I’m the leader (gulp) and pilgrim wrangler. Also, this particular itinerary is a little different. We only change hotels twice, so we have a chance to settle in and actually unwind every night, instead of hastily packing to be out the door the next morning right after breakfast. My one indelible memory of the 2000 trip is a feeling of dazed exhaustion. I’m hoping this time will be different.

We’ll be staying at hotels in Tiberias (overlooking the Sea of Galilee), Bethlehem and Jerusalem and visiting all the usual holy sites — including walking the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem at 5 am! — but there are two interesting additions to the itinerary that are different from 2000: a brief stop in Magdala, where the archeological digging around Mary Magdalene’s reputed hometown has been making remarkable discoveries; and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem.

I’m going to try and keep posting here and on social media during our pilgrimage, Wi-Fi and time permitting.

Meantime, whisper a prayer for us, please, and know I will be remembering in prayer all those who are supporting me and my little online apostolate!  I have much to be grateful for this year, but also countless intentions to carry in my heart for so many who are anxious, worried, sick or uncertain. And I’ll be praying, fervently, for peace in a place that has known so much war, in a world that is very much on edge. We live in an Age of Anxiety; more than anything, we need rest and comfort and hope.

The words of Psalm 122 come to mind:

For the peace of Jerusalem pray:
“May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your ramparts,
prosperity within your towers.”
For the sake of my brothers and friends I say,
“Peace be with you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord, our God,
I pray for your good.

To be continued …