It’s one of those happy synchronicities that we call a “co-incidence”, but always strikes me as being so much more. My husband and I were reminiscing about our favorite vacations — Rome, Ireland, Virginia Beach — and he suddenly piped up that he would love to visit the Holy Land. It seems the taste for such a trip had been whetted during a visit to the beautiful Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, which offers detailed replicas of Holy Land sites, and which we had both found surprisingly moving, during a rainy spring afternoon.
With circumstances being as they are we realized that such a trip must live for a while in “someday”, and managed to be content with that, even though we know that “somedays” often never come.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I received an email from Diana von Glahn offering me a chance to view her latest adventure as The Faithful Traveler, which takes place in the Holy Land. This indefatigable young women covers all the places I have ever wanted to see, plus a few I didn’t know existed.
From the first episode, I was hooked. Von Glahn is a youthful and energetic woman and her lively faith bubbles up and carries you along as she makes a thorough exploration of the Holy Land, beginning with Mount Carmel, the Dead Sea and Cana, but it is her excellent eye that really delivers the goods. Traveling with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Pilgrimage, she and her behind-the-camera husband, David, manage to balance enthusiasm and reverence, passion and prayerfulness as they bring us to the Churches of the Holy Sepulchre, the Annunciation, the Nativity, all of them bathed in very beautiful light, and filmed with a generous understanding that — as delightful as von Glahn is — the viewer wants to see what she is seeing, in as much detail as possible.
I loved seeing the site of the Pools of Bethesda, in Episode 5, where von Glahn reminds us that you can’t always get what you want, but God gives us what we need. As she recounts Christ Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, we get a sense of what he saw at every step along the way, and I was very moved to watch the Philadelphia pilgrims make their way to the Cenacle on Mount Zion, believed to be the site of the Last Supper, and also the place where Our Lady and the apostles waited, after the Crucifixion — the place visited by tongues of flame at Pentacost, and thus, the first location of the first “Christian church.”
What I found so moving was not the crowdedness of the scene, which didn’t look particularly enjoyable, but the powerful witness it gave: a simple Byzantine room, built upon a site believed to be where Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist, flocked to by 21st Century people still seeking connection to the God-man born of Mary. Von Glahn acknowledges the distraction of the crowd, and puts it in beautiful perspective before moving on to Gethsemane — to the ancient olive trees that likely bore their own witness to Christ’s agony.
The series begins today on EWTN, and runs through Saturday, February 22, airing at 6:30 pm and again at 3 AM (EST) and I highly recommend it to you. It is a terrific preparation for Lent, which will be upon us before we know it.
Sam Rocha also had a chance to see the series and he too is enthusastically recommending it. As he doesn’t praise easily, that makes it all the more meaningful, yes?
Here is quick clip — it doesn’t do justice to the whole, though. You want to watch the series. If possible, with your whole family.