Although I love to travel, I’ll admit I never had a pressing desire to visit The Holy Land. Certainly I’ve read about it, and know of event’s in the life of Jesus, the people and holy places attributed to Israel and vicinity, but a visit seemed possibly a little too exotic, and far away. After all there is substantial material available to ignite the imagination. Through reading scripture and related materials, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what a visit to the Holy Land would resemble, and with that I was pretty much content.
However my son Mountain, The Catholic Traveler, who had been arranging pilgrimages to the Holy Land, was insistent that we consider a visit. He assured us it was life changing. How little did we realize the extent our lives would change. My wife Theresa and I, finally decided to make the pilgrimage, and experience first hand what the land of Jesus, the people, customs and lifestyles associated with life in the Middle East was all about. Preparation for a trip is always exciting, but this one even more so, as we were about to experience the home land of Jesus.
We arrived to Tel Aviv, in February 2019, several months prior to Easter. Words cannot convey the pleasures of the days that followed. Senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch were awakened. Our hearts and souls were nourished. My mind gained a strengthened focus on sacred scripture. I felt at home. I felt at peace.
Upon leaving Israel, we felt compelled to return to The Holy Land as soon as time would permit. Drawn not solely by the excitement of the first pilgrimage, but a strong attraction which I could not explain. In retrospect I know it was the work of the Holy Spirit that gave us the desire and means to return. We did return in June. This pilgrimage was as engaging as the first. Again I felt at home through an intimate sense of belonging.
Although there were many experiences that defined our visit, one in particular was responsible for The Holy Land Project.
Theresa and I had been praying a Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit. We were seeking direction in our lives to know the will of God, and to have the conviction to accomplish whatever was placed before us. At that time, Theresa hadn’t been feeling well, and for several days had not left the room. The afternoon of Pentecost Sunday I returned to the room after attending mass. She told me she had been listening to praise songs that I had written, and how in the future when she listened to them, they would remind her of this beautiful day in Jerusalem. At that moment, the Holy Spirit came upon us. We both exclaimed at the same time that we knew what the Holy Spirit desired us to accomplish. We were to capture the Holy Land experience through songs. Music is a wonderful instrument for recalling memories and emotions. This is what the Holy Spirit asked of us.
We were given our answer. We knew it was from the Holy Spirit because an incredible peace fell upon us. It would be a large project, full of love, prayer, and joy, to be completed in Gods time.
We were compelled to give thanks to God for this revelation at that moment. So on Theresa’s first venture out of the room, we took a slow walk to the Western Wall, where we prayed and gave thanks.
Upon returning to our room, we were both uplifted spiritually and mentally from the blessings we experienced that day. We sat, discussing the graces and insights we were obtaining in the Holy Land, and in particular Jerusalem. We excitedly discussed various elements of what was immediately titled The Holy Land Project.
The project was over a year in the making. We hope it succeeds in bringing people to Christ, provides memories of the Holy Land to those who have travelled there, and a taste to those who have yet to visit.
The songs were not written in a particular style or genre. I worked with them as they were given to me, and hope they are accessible to everyone.
We pray the lyrics and melodies help open scripture, remind people of the miracles and events that took place in the Holy Land, and ultimately bring listeners closer to Christ.
The Holy Land, where God chose to enter into human history.