Maria and her mother in front of the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.
A little over a week ago, I arrived back from my pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt. I was tanned from the Egyptian sun, sleep-deprived and jet-lagged, but happy to be home. The first week of the pilgrimage, my fellow pilgrims and I visited many sites and places including Capernaum, the House of Peter, Magdala, Tabgha, Cana, Mount Tabor, Mount Carmel, and the Church of the Ascension. Jesus began His ministry at 30 years old, and I felt a kinship with Him knowing that I walked where Jesus walked at the same age that He was. The second week of the pilgrimage, we crossed the border to Egypt and had the opportunity to climb up Mount Sinai. Being the youngest person in our group, I was overconfident about the evening climb. God humbled me during the steep climb up the last ten percent of the mountain. I found myself catching my breath, drinking plenty of water, and not knowing when the end would be in sight. When I finally made it to the top of the mountain, I was filled with awe, wonder, and relief. I had climbed to the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments.
Maria's view from Mount Sinai.
Throughout the pilgrimage, Fr. Hansoo Park, the pastor of St. Barnabas Parish and our spiritual director, spoke on different topics including being a pilgrim not a tourist, surrendering, letting go, and uniting ourselves with Jesus through redemptive suffering. Fr. Hansoo also led the group in reciting the Liturgy of the Hours (the Morning and Evening Prayers) from the breviary.I went on this pilgrimage with my mother, and it was a blessing to spend time with her. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but I enjoyed attending daily Mass and eating our meals together. During the pilgrimage, we had to wake up extra early every morning (3 am - 6 am, depending on the day) to go on excursions. In Egypt, we visited temples and tombs and went on a breathtaking hot air balloon ride overlooking the Valley of Kings. Some days, I did not get any sleep. Despite my tiredness, I prayed every day for my friends and loved ones. It was a great pilgrimage, very tiring, but I learned a lot. I feel like my prayer life has improved since I returned to Canada. God was with me when I had to sacrifice my time and energy and even now, He teaches me to grow in patience.
Maria's pilgrimage group in front of the Pyramids of Giza.