The Pilgrimage to Emmaus-Qubeibeh: A Different Side of Custody Life | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

The Pilgrimage to Emmaus-Qubeibeh: A Different Side of Custody Life

The liturgical pilgrimages of the Franciscans in the Holy Land each have their own character. The ones to Emmaus-Qubeibeh, which take place on Easter Monday and on the Sunday in September following the Feast of Saints Cleopas and Simeon, are more than just liturgical memorials; they provide young Franciscans and new seminary students with the opportunity to see that how multi-faceted the Custody is.

Compared to pilgrims in Bethlehem, the Jordan River area, and Nazareth, those in Emmaus feel more at home. Apparently, it didn’t much matter to them that not a single Christian family lives in the village anymore and that every year it gets more difficult to get to Emmaus-Qubeibeh.

The only access route available today is quite bumpy, and there is no activity except for the work being done on the recently built check point. Gone is the friendly stand with just one soldier standing in the shadow of his jeep and looking at vehicles from a distance without a real interest in inspecting them. Rather, the brand new check point is gloomy, heavily armored and impenetrable – with plenty of barbed wire and video cameras.

As we made our way towards the entrance of our destination, a tiny patch of Palestinian territory, we felt joy as we anticipated the Sunday mass. The simple and beautiful mass was presided over by custodial vicar Fr. Artemio Vittores, and it venerated the Saints Cleopas and Simeon. The annual mass is usually followed by a family-style meal at the convent, but this year, because Yom Kippur was to begin that afternoon, the Franciscans headed back to Jerusalem immediately after the end of the mass so as to avoid disrupting the silent wait for the major Jewish prayer that was to take place later.

As we went through the check point once again on the way back, we thought of the two Franciscan friars in charge of that holy place so far away from everything – including pilgrims – and of their persistent loyalty to their Franciscan life and to the mission of the Custody.

This Monday, September 28 – Tishri 10 according to the Jewish calendar – is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. For Jews, it is a day of vidui (confession), of teshuva (repentance), and reconciliation. May God hear the prayers of his people and grant them more – way more – than they ask for!