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Day 6 of John Feister's trip to the Middle East takes him to Mar Elias College in Galilee.

Special Features
Day 6: Galilee
Now, late in the week, some themes are emerging. The first, of course, is one we’ve known: The Holy Land is in crisis. That crisis is running Christians out. But as we scratch below the surface in our travels and conversations, it becomes clear that the political situation of the Palestinians—that is, the local Christian community—is the context for the crisis of Christianity.

I suppose we could have or even should have known this, but we Americans seem allergic to international news. “Why can’t they all get along?” we might say. Or “If only they can learn from us how democracy works, then they’ll be o.k.” Much of that energy as driven our military involvement in the country next door to Jordan, Iraq.

day 6 Mar Elias College DSC_0454
(photo by John Feister)
During our visit to Mar Elias College in Ibellein (in Galilee) today, we heard from Elias Abu, a teacher and activist who has been on extensive speaking tours in North America. The college serves 1,100 students, with a devotion to Palestinian identity. “We are not terrorists,” pleaded Abu, “We are the terrorized! We are peace lovers, peacemakers!” We sat around a conference table with Abu and a group of students who, once again, looked much like students back in the United States.

Interestingly, some reported friendships with Jewish students in various parts of Israel, via the Internet. It’s a lot more accessible than face-to-face contact. During our hour or so together, before we ate lunch with the group, Abu quoted James Baldwin, who observed the ignorance of so many Americans about  the plight of blacks. “It’s innocence that constitutes the crime,” wrote Baldwin.

On Wednesday, at Bethlehem College, I had looked out looked out from the campus over a great expanse, to the hilltop Jewish developments (a.k.a. “settlements”) and marveled at a bridge spanning the large valley. One of our Palestinian guides (he himself had spent most of his career teaching in the United States) looked at me and said, dryly, “You bought it.” He was, of course, referring to the massive flow of U.S. tax dollars into the Israeli government. I can’t say that I had ever thought of my tax dollars as paying for an apartheid system here in Israel. That bridge I was admiring is itself part of a huge Israeli highway system set up to allow Jewish Israelis to move about in the country outside of the inconvenience and dangers—real or perceived—of the Palestinian checkpoints.

On this day we also had the privilege of talking, close up, with another renowned Palestinian advocate besides Elias Abu. In Haifa, overlooking the Mediterranean, we met with Archbishop Elias Chacour, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Galilee, Akko, Nazareth and Haifa. An active promoter of peace between Arabs and Israelis, he is author of Blood Brothers, his well-known story of growing up Palestinian. We’ll take up in detail what he said in a later report at AmericanCatholic.org.

But for now, consider these words he told us: “We don’t need more cruelty; we need a committed friend. Go in peace back home to tell what you have seen.”

It reminds me of another man from Galilee





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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.


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