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The Church Where Jesus Was Crucified

October 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Events, Pilgrimage

The Church where Jesus was Crucified

More than a decade ago I received a gift that left an indelible mark on by soul, a trip to the Holy Land. One of the most memorable of my encounters was at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is built on the mount where our blessed Lord was crucified. As I entered into the huge for post on where Jesus was crucifiedand holy structure on a weekday afternoon the Church was abuzz with tourists. They scurried all around the place like mice looking for food. Some, true pilgrims, hovered around the areas where you can kneel and reach out to touch the rock of Golgotha under the altars of the East and West. It was surreal.

My faith had always been one of seeing with my heart, and now I was seeing with my eyes. My faith was always real, but touching the rock… it was physical contact with something beyond reality.

Reaching down to touch that stone I wondered, “Can this be real?” I wasn’t doubting, mind you, but simply awestruck by the experience. I couldn’t take in all that my soul desired to absorb in that moment. Out of my daze of thought, I realized others were waiting to crouch and invade the space where I longed to linger butThe Church of the Holy Sepulchre couldn’t. I suddenly felt pressure to move and my irritation with the circumstances began to rise. A fleeting moment of contemplative bliss disintegrated and the invasion of reality dumped me back into a buzz of humanity.

As we left the holy site I felt that I had not even begun to take it all in. I asked our guide if we could return when things were quieter. He looked at me as if I had asked for something absurd and then said, “I will see what I can do.” The next day he told me we could return very early in the morning in a few days.

It was a cold and quiet February morning when we returned and we were nearly alone. I fervently desired to walk in with all my being open to an encounter with the Lord. As we entered the door I saw something that I had missed in the bustle of the previous visit. It was a simple slab Israel Through the Eyes of Faithabout the size of a man. It was adorned with interesting looking lamps fashioned by adoring hearts of the East. I asked our guide, “What is that?” While he was speaking I noticed the icon on the wall and his voice faded into the background as I realized where I was. Time seemed to stand still as I considered what had happened where I stood.

As I looked closer at the stone my hearing returned as he revealed that the stone was worn smooth by the tears of pilgrims. “This is the Stone of Anointing where Jesus’ body was laid after he was taken down from the cross and prepared for burial.” I needed to slow down to take it all in. I knelt and touched the stone and then laid down, my back to the cold floor, and allowed myself to sink into a tiny vision of the end of His pre-crucifixion incarnation.

I thought, “This is real. There is nothing more real.”

Based on my health at the time I never thought I would return to Israel again but God had other plans (or so it seems). From June 8th to the 20th of 2014, I will return to the land of our Lord and of our faith with a clearer set of lenses through which I anticipate I will understand and absorb far more than on my first visit. I was a protestant then and no more fervent for Christ than now, but now I long to see, touch, taste, and smell what I could not have before. Now, I will see more fully, even if so much less than when I see Him face to face.

Will you join me? If your answer is yes, “maybe” here's more detail on the trip to help you make a decision. If it is “yes!” here's the contact information you need (Important note: this is a limited opportunity that I expect will be filled by the end of this month so don't delay to reserve your seat.):

Trudy Boynton at Trinity Travel:

office: 913-422-4141

mobile: 816-863-8237


Art for this post on the Church where Jesus was Crucified: Photography provided by Dan Burke of undetermined provenance.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Jeanette

    I have been to the Holy Land with members of my parish about 5 years ago. That trip went so fast and it was impossible to take in the significance of the holy sites as I would have wanted to at the time. I desired to stay longer at each site and just meditate but that’s not possible on a scheduled trip like that. I do long to go back to the Holy Land if it is God’s will for me. I will eagerly await more details to follow!

  • nosidam

    Oh how glorious! Over and over again all the time I am reliving my “pilgrimage”, (not trip), to the Holy Land just 5 months ago.
    In March 2913 I was blessed to go with a group of 35. Perfect amount of people. God is so good. I almost did not get to go. An amazing thing happened on my journey. Well I am thrilled for you and anyone able to go. FYI, It was 85% walking up and down rocky hills and steep steps and uneven mountainous and hilly but beautiful terrain.
    All I know is that Jesus and his apostles and family and friends traversed this daily. I know that they had to have been in the absolute best physical condition ever!
    The beauty of this place is amazing and it made me realize that God surely chose a perfect location for His Son. The new Magdela Center is there. This is an awesome excavation you will love. Town of Mary Magdalene. You have time to study up! Lotd of new things since you last were there! God bless you!
    Wish I could go over and over again!

    • Dear Friend: You are right on target. This group, God willing, will be about the same size.

  • LizEst

    Wish I were going back! I will be there with all of you in spirit and in my prayers!

  • Chantal Rebecca

    I hope and pray I can come, Dan. Ever since mid-Spring last year, and hearing of life-changing trips to the Holy Land (and getting a scarf from a missionary friend who was in the Holy Land for a couple of months during that time which was placed on the Stone of the Anointing [that man-sized slab of raised stone you were seeing]), I have been aching, absolutely aching to go there and walk where Jesus walked. He wants me there, of that I am certain, it’s just a matter of when He wants me to go.

    • Would love to have you!

      Sent from my iPad

  • Dan, please, please, promise to take me with you in spirit and pray for me at that Most Holy Place. I know I shall never be able to visit any of these Revered Places personally but when God wants to be kind to me, He gives me what He knows can help confirm me in my Faith.

    Though I could never visit the Eternal City, God so arranged that not only did I share the Breakfast Blessed (soon to be Saint) John Paul II had during his third and final visit to our beloved Kenya, I even shook his both hands – at close quarters – during the Evening Holy Mass at our Resurrection Gardens. That is my Benevolent God to this old gal

    • LizEst

      I knew I liked you, Mary! My mother also shook his hand! God loves you…and so do I. God bless you!

      • Thank you, Liz. Oh, yes, and I know you will love this one, too. I have a niece, Lydia, who is an Opus Dei now a Lecturer at their Strathmore University here in Nairobi, Kenya. She used to correspond with JPII and along the the way, they made a pact that when he visits Kenya again he would oblige her request to exchange their Rosaries. Well, during that Evening Mass at the Resurrection Gardens, he gave her his Rosary and she gave him hers. She first took it home to my Father who prayed with it. His joy was indescribable. I handled it, too and we had glorious exchanges about that Holy Visit and Present from the Holy Father and the many Blessings we were sure he had brought to our entire Family during that visit. This Holy Relic now is reserved in the Opus Dei Mother House here in Kenya!!!!!!

        • LizEst

          Wonderful! What a treasure and memory for your entire family…and for Kenya as well.

  • agus

    Hi Dan,
    I read in your itinerary: Tomb of Blessed Virgin Mary. So she was burried, and not taken to heaven as in the doctrine of assumption? Would you please clarify this…
    Thanks & regards, Agus

    • The existence of a tomb does not imply in any way deny the doctrine of the assumption. Here’s a link to help:

      • Gabrielle Renoir

        That is interesting! I attend a small Catholic college, am taught by priests much of the time, and have always been taught that Mary did not die. It made sense to me since she did not bear original sin like the rest of us do. However, no one but Christ has been resurrected – yet – so perhaps Mary was resurrected from the dead and her soul reunited with her body. Perhaps she died but did not have to wait for the Second Coming to be resurrected as those of us born with the stain or original sin must do.

        • LizEst

          Hi Gabrielle – I don’t know what small Catholic college you are attending but what you have been taught–that Mary did not die–is incorrect. The Church has always held that Mary died. She was assumed into heaven after having “gained a triumph out of death.” This is what Pope Pius XII said when he infallibly defined the Doctrine of the Assumption in the Apostolic Constitution “Munificentissimus Deus” ( “This feast shows, not only that the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but that she gained a triumph out of death, her heavenly glorification after the example of her only begotten Son, Jesus Christ-truths that the liturgical books had frequently touched upon concisely and briefly” (paragraph 20). “She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body” (paragraph 5). “Following the footsteps of his distinguished teacher, the Angelic Doctor [Thomas Aquinas], despite the fact that he never dealt directly with this question, nevertheless, whenever he touched upon it, always held together with the Catholic Church, that Mary’s body had been assumed into heaven along with her soul” (paragraph 31).

          So, to summarize:
          1. The Blessed Virgin Mary died.
          2. She was assumed into heaven and did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body. She was not assumed physically dead. The redemption of her body was her body’s resurrection after the example (or pattern) of her Son, who granted her this singular privilege. Thus, her resurrection from the dead was not a mere resuscitation. Her resurrection was a triumph over death, the reuniting of her body and soul, a glorification of her body, after the pattern of her Son’s resurrection. So, she was not merely alive when taken up into heaven body and soul, she was in her glorified body…and, in this glorified body, she was taken up to heaven and further glorified there.
          3. She is indeed blessed even more than our minds can at present comprehend.

          • Gabrielle Renoir

            Thank you, Liz, and thank you for the link to the Vatican document. I go to an excellent Catholic college, where I am a theology major, so I should have known better. I think it is me who was confused to some extent – I have it right at the end of my comment – and no one bothered to correct me at school, which is a mistake on their part, of course. They should have. Well, she – my professor at the time – should have. Not suffering the burden of original sin, though, I honestly think it would make more sense if she did not have to suffer death, but Christ, himself suffered death, and I realize the Pope was speaking ex cathedra when he delineated the doctrine of the Assumption. I accept it as it is, of course, and thank you again for your clear explanation. I appreciate it.

          • LizEst

            You’re welcome Gabrielle. All the glory goes to the Lord. Yes, I did see your words at the end of your comment. But, I wanted to be sure you had it clear and that you had at least one Church document to back you up. Occasionally, even the best intentioned, even professors, can have things a little out of kilter. And, like you, I’ve heard a priest say the same thing. But, I think he has it straight now ; + ) I include myself in the category of those who’ve made mistakes. Usually, it’s due to poor formation or catechesis or even a bad day! Sometimes, we ourselves don’t hear everything correctly or we misunderstand. Even the saints didn’t have everything 100% correct. So, you did the right thing. When you hear something like that, that disturbs your peace in that manner, you should seek counsel from those who should know…and if you don’t get a satisfactory answer, keep searching.

            As to Mary not suffering the burden of original sin, she didn’t have this because God applied the fruits of Christ’s paschal mystery to her before hand, as I’m sure you know being a theology major and all. How could He do this…besides the fact that He is God and can do all things? He could do this because eternity is present to Him all at once and this particular grace could be given to her in order to prepare a fitting dwelling place for Him, from whom all good things come.

            The other aspect of this is that Mary is Christ’s number one disciple, His number one servant, His handmaid. And, He specifically told us that where He is, there also will His servant be (cf John 12:26). Now, she reigns with Him in heaven as Queen of heaven and earth!

          • Gabrielle Renoir

            Thank you again, Liz. I do appreciate it. And, I should have known it myself. I grew up in a Carmelite cloister where my aunt was the Mother Superior, and the parish I belong to now is dedicated to Our Lady.

            Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I’m more than interested – the Church and God are my life – and I appreciate your words and knowledge very much. This is a wonderful Website, and it’s wonderful to be able to steep oneself in God and our beautiful Roman Catholic faith every day and converse and learn from one another.

            God bless!

          • LizEst

            You grew up in a Carmelite cloister and your aunt was the Mother Superior?! How blessed are you! We’re honored you are among us.

          • Gabrielle Renoir

            Thank you, Liz, and yes, I am blessed. From the time I was five until I was eighteen. I worked alongside the nuns – cleaning, cooking, preparing vegetables and fruits, gardening, etc., but I also got to attend daily Mass with them and pray with them and began contemplation at an early age. Luckily, that form of prayer suits me. 🙂 It was a peaceful and tranquil time for me, and I formed many close relationships with nuns and priests that remain strong today. The most important relationship I formed, however, was one with God. The cloister was in the South of France, but it was not St. Therese’s cloister! Of all people, through all time, I feel most blessed. I think we should all feel that way. Now I am blessed to have found this Website filled with beautiful souls who love Our Lord above all.

          • jxmckie

            @LizEst: Reagan was fond of the Russian proverb “trust, but verify.” It’s particularly apt in this case.

          • LizEst

            Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure what you are specifically referring to, though, because it could refer to the subject of the post…or a previous comment made.

          • jxmckie

            @LizEst: It was a reference to dearth of Carmelite cloisters in Ohio, and the power of the internet to allow us to live the lives we’d always imagined.

          • LizEst

            I agree with you that the “internet allows people to live the lives they had always imagined.” There is no reference to Carmelite cloisters in Ohio on this page. I’m not sure what Ohio has to do with this post, either. Would you please be a little clearer as to where you found this. Perhaps, then I could comprehend your veiled message a little better.

    • LizEst

      I’m glad you asked this question because it puzzles others as well. Dan has a good link below that clarifies this.

  • I wish I could go! Early June is the start of the school-year here. So definitely not next year. Hopefully someday! To pray and be where our Lord, lived, worked and suffered for us. What a profound blessing!

    I’ve had such a longing to go on a pilgrimage since the priest in our parish led a pilgrimage through Europe last October. For now, I guess I’ll just strive to walk His path in my heart, even if I can’t walked the roads He journeyed on while on earth. Besides, visiting old Churches in the province last summer taught me that I don’t have to go far to find places of peace, holiness and God’s Love. 🙂

  • pmbpmb

    I have dreamed of visiting the Holy Land! Perhaps this will be my time for THE trip of a lifetime! I can’t wait to hear about more details! Was so excited to read your article!

    • We would love to have you join us!

  • Habib Karam

    Hi Fr. Dan,

    I was born and now live in Nazareth, where Jesus is my neighbor. My parish is the Church of Annunciation. I would welcome you to visit us in Nazareth and meet with you and your group to talk to you about the local Christians. If you come please plan to spend a whole day. Just to keep in mind, on Thursday nights there is always an Hour of Adoration in the Grotto of Annunciation, and on Saturday nights there is Candlelight Rosary Procession in the street around the Church. You can always join us at our Parish main Mass at 10 AM on Sundays.

    • Dear Habib, your post made me smile for a number of reasons. First, my wife is very happy that I am not a priest but I do consider it a compliment. Second, I am always delighted to connect with friends from around the world and this very unique forum always brings these unexpected delights. Thank you very much for your kind invitation!

      • Habib Karam

        No worries 🙂 If you can plan the stop in Nazareth for a day with a stay over on Thursday or Saturday nights, I will be more than happy to help you plan your day in Nazareth, as most pilgrims miss some important stops.

  • Gosayna Karam

    Dear Dan,
    I second my husband’s (Habib) invitation to have you visit Nazareth and meet some of the local Christians. It will be a unique and added experience for the whole group.

    • Thank you Gosayna!

      Sent from my iPad


    The church is beautiful. Despite the mutilations of the centuries, the Holy Sepulchre remains a fascinating complex of structures. Today, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of Jerusalem’s main landmarks and continues to draw many pilgrims and visitors.

  • Camila

    Neat, how exciting. God bless your trip Dan!

  • Karen Taylor Frigon

    I just visited Jerusalem last month and had a similar experience of feeling overwhelmed with the “reality” of this Holy place. However, one thing we were reminded of frequently is the difference between what they know as fact, and what is a possibility or likelihood. For example, the Garden of Gethsemane is known to be a fact, or the place where they took Jesus to see Caifus and Pontius Pilate. However, there is another place where Jesus could possibly have been crucified other than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, known as the Garden Tomb ( which is right next to it). I had a different experience than Dan’s at the Church of the HOly Sepulchre as it was so dark and overrun with tourists. I was anxious to leave. I felt more at peace and closer to Jesus at the Garden Tomb where we were worshiping Him, not a place. Just another place to consider visiting. I can’t wait to go back to Israel!

    • Karen – This is a reality with some folks. I don’t take a cynical view of history and pious tradition. Archeologists once said Pontius Pilate didn’t exist. Now, of course, it is certain. So, I am skeptical of archeologists who are negative about our faith, and generally positive about pious tradition until it is certain that it needs adjustment. BTW – we did have the same experience in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – I was able to return a second time!

  • Why does reading of all of you blessed people who have – or are able to visit these Holy Places – which I will never ever visit, leave me sad and wondering if it could be that when I close my mortal eyes from this world, I will not open my soul’s eyes to see the Face of my Saviour??? Every time this happens I become most fearful and doubtful what will be my Eternal Destination. Please pray for me that this is not how my Eternity will begin.

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