Journey to Jordan: the deacon in the desert

Yesterday, we found ourselves in a vast sandy wasteland called Wadi Rum, also known as “The Valley of the Moon.” Here’s how Wikipedia describes it: Wadi Rum has been inhabited by many human cultures since prehistoric times, with many cultures–including the Nabateans–leaving their mark in the form of rock paintings, graffiti, and temples. In the West, Wadi [Read More...]

Journey to Jordan: meet the mayor of Amman, in the “land of the sunrise of faith”

If you were looking for a figure representing the diversity and religious harmony of Jordan, you couldn’t do much better than a man who was born in Gaza, was raised a Quaker, married a Muslim, and now serves as the mayor of the capital city of Amman. Meet Mayor Akel Biltaji. Read the rest over [Read More...]

Journey to Jordan: and now, incredibly adorable pictures that will make you go “Aawww”

Is there anything more adorable than a baby camel? Yes. A baby bedouin! With Frank Weathers! I made new friends yesterday at Wadi Rum.  Camels just crack me up. [Read more...]

Vatican announces end to overhaul of LCWR, after group agrees to enact changes

From AP:  The Vatican has unexpectedly ended its controversial overhaul of the main umbrella group of U.S. nuns, cementing a shift in tone and treatment of the U.S. sisters under the social justice-minded Pope Francis. The Vatican said Thursday it had accepted a final report on its investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious [Read More...]

Journey to Jordan: witnessing a Melkite wedding

After leaving Petra this morning, bound for The Dead Sea, we stopped at a Greek Melkite Catholic Church, St. George, and caught part of a traditional wedding ceremony. This was something to see. And it was, literally, a shotgun wedding: someone in the wedding party fired a pistol into the air as the bride and [Read More...]

Journey to Jordan: I’d walk a mile for a camel

Well, here we are in scenic Petra, Jordan. We arrived last night at the Mövenpick Resort, just a short walk from the historic site. The hotel would never be mistaken for a Holiday Inn or a Motel 6. We are in Jordan. And every detail enforces the rich heritage surrounding us. How about donuts dusted [Read More...]

Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike! What day is it, Mike?

Happy Hump Day from these guys in Jordan. [Read more...]

Journey to Jordan: seeing, at last, where everything really began

Tuesday morning we were up bright and early to pack our bags and head out the door, leaving Amman behind and heading into the wilderness: Bethany, where Jesus was baptized. But first: breakfast. We departed the Sheraton a little before 9 and headed up the road to Bethany, about an hour away. Along the way, [Read More...]

Journey to Jordan: where Elijah was born and where Mary wept tears of blood

Monday took us to two remarkable sites: a hilltop adjoining the village where Elijah was born, and a parish church that has become a popular shrine devoted to Mary. Atop a hill, overlooking Elijah’s birthplace, we visited the ruins of a 6th century church. Below, you can see the nave and the center aisle, where [Read More...]

CNN anchor: “There is something about Pope Francis that has reawakened my faith”

Here’s a testimony you don’t hear every day, from CNN’s Carol Costello:  I remember the day I stopped praying. It was the day after my little brother, Jimmy, died of cancer. He was 25. I was so angry at God. I was 27 at the time, and, like most young people I had stopped going [Read More...]

Go ahead, eat with your fingers—and four other things to know about dining in Jordan

One of the more intriguing parts of this adventure in Jordan has been discovering an array of exotic foods. Monday night, for example, we visited a restaurant in Amman called Don Quixote, to sample authentic Jordanian cuisine—and I do mean authentic. This led me to come up with five important things to know about dining [Read More...]

Pope: “We do not advertise” to spread the faith

From today’s homily:   The Church is a place of “openness” where people should say things with frankness.  That’s what Pope Francis said at the morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican on Monday.  The Pontiff added that only the Holy Spirit is able to change our attitude, the story of our lives, and [Read More...]

Journey to Jordan: Happy Easter!

We spent the afternoon visiting a souk (open air marketplace) in downtown Amman. Amid the blocks and blocks of winding streets, meandering alleys and open storefronts, you can buy anything and everything. The shopkeepers were uniformly friendly and helpful (and, it should be noted, willing to barter). It gave us a chance to sample a [Read More...]

Movement begins to have priest who died on the Titanic declared a saint

Some may remember the homily I preached three years ago, on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, relating the story of the priest who was on board, Fr. Thomas Byles: Exactly 100 years ago, Sunday, April 14th, 1912, Fr. Byles celebrated Mass.  It was “Low Sunday” for the first Sunday after Easter.  [Read More...]

Journey to Jordan: Easter with the Melkites

After spending a half hour or so at the local Roman Catholic church, we hopped into our van and drove a few minutes away to join the liturgy at the St. Peter and St. Paul Melkite Catholic Church in Amman. This tiny parish of about 400 families is presided over by Fr. Nabil Haddad, a [Read More...]

We pause here for a word about food during our trip

The word is: incredible. You have to read Max’s account of loaves and fishes from yesterday. But back at the hotel? Like I said: incredible. Especially the desserts. But wait, there’s more to whet your appetite, with some tasty food for thought from other Patheos bloggers. Diana von Glahn has the first account of our visit [Read More...]

Journey to Jordan: The most amazing Easter of my life

On a cold and drizzly Saturday night, I found myself standing in a small, crowded Catholic church 6,000 miles away from my home parish in Queens, and I couldn’t help but weep. Dozens of people were holding candles. Incense filled the air. And a deacon climbed into the pulpit and began the familiar chant that [Read More...]

Journey to Jordan: Waking up to the Muslim call to prayer—and walking ancient streets

After yesterday’s long plane ride, I slept fitfully but somewhere around 5 a.m. found myself hearing the not-too-distant call to Muslim prayer—a sound both mournful and humbling. I figured it was a good time to get up and pray, anyway, so climbed out of bed and did Morning Prayer.  “All you heavens, bless the Lord,” I [Read More...]