Tag Archives: roman catholic

Changing the culture for Christ

Patrick Novecosky writes that our culture has forgotten that it needs a Redeemer . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

If you’ve been following the news at all lately, you probably noticed that in our sophisticated, highly evolved and cultured world, the entire human race is at peace. Harmony among races and between nations allows mankind to live a truly sublime and carefree existence.

Wrong. Muslim radicals are running roughshod over the Christian minority in Egypt, burning churches of Coptic Christians who have lived in that country for nearly 2,000 years. Racial tensions are high in our own country after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in July. At the same time, friction between liberals and conservatives — both in the media and in politics — is at a fever pitch.

So, what’s the problem? Why can’t we find a way to bridge the gaps and create that utopian world described in the opening paragraph? We have advanced technology: We can communicate with people on the other side of the planet at the click of a button. We have volumes of eloquent books filled with theology and philosophy. Surely we could all agree on one of them. And the human race even has the capability to feed every person on the planet if we’d all work together.

The simple answer to this complex problem is this: We need a redeemer … and we are not capable of redeeming ourselves. In fact, self-redemption is an oxymoron. A quick check of the dictionary tells me that “to redeem” means “to buy back” or “to pay a ransom.”

Why do we need to be redeemed? “Your iniquities have separated you from your God” (Is 59:2). And St. Peter explains that “you were not redeemed with corruptible things— like silver or gold — from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pt 1:18-19).

The challenge is to convince our immoral and decaying culture that it needs a redeemer — and then to introduce it to the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Thankfully, Legatus members are leaders in changing the culture for Christ. They’re producing films, writing books, giving talks, launching media campaigns, filing lawsuits, running for public office and so much more. Curtis Martin and his Fellowship of Catholic University Students are directly evangelizing thousands of young people every year — and training them to go out and do the same. (Click here for related story.)

The workers are few, but the harvest is great. Satan is working hard to destroy God’s ultimate creation — you and me. But if we are faithful and claim the victory in Christ, our destiny is heaven where mankind’s utopian dreams will pale in comparison to what the Lord has in store for us.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz (1600-1637)

This remarkable Filipino martyr put his life on the line for Christ in 1637 . . .

St. Lorenzo Ruiz

St. Lorenzo Ruiz

Feast Day: September 28
Canonized: October 18, 1987

Lorenzo Ruiz was a Filipino, fluent in Spanish, who worked as a translator of government documents. His work enabled him to provide for his wife and children. However, he had a well-known feud with a Spanish colonist who inconveniently turned up murdered. Authorities issued an arrest warrant, but Lorenzo doubted the Spaniards’ ability to give him due process, so he hitched what he thought was a ship bound for China.

What he didn’t know was that the vessel was actually headed for Japan, where the rulers had recently outlawed Christianity. Arrested almost immediately, the captives endured unspeakable torture. It got so bad that Lorenzo came close to apostatizing. However, God’s grace strengthened him, and he willingly put his life on the line for Christ. With four other companions, he endured a brutal and torturous death on the “Mountain of Martyrs” in Nagasaki.

St. Lorenzo teaches us the level of commitment the lay faithful must exemplify: to our families, to the truth, and to our holy faith. Such commitment has never been easy — especially in our time. Nonetheless, God will never abandon those who trust in Him.

BRIAN O’NEEL is a writer, husband and father of six living in southeast Pennsylvania. His latest book is“39 New Saints You Should Know.”

The Church and our country

Legatus founder Tom Monaghan says Catholic CEOs can make a difference in our culture . . .

Thomas Monaghan

The election season is now behind us, and all of the important decisions have been made. We have President Obama for another four years. But even if Mitt Romney had won, the Church in our country would still have a ton of challenges to face.

As CEOs, you are used to dealing with numbers, so here are a few statistics about the Church in the U.S. that I have recently been made aware of:

• There are about 70 million Catholics in the U.S. right now.
• There are 30 million fallen-away Catholics.
• Half of the mega-churches’ members are former Catholics.
• Sunday Mass attendance is at about 30%.
• Those going to Mass every Sunday is about 20%.
• For those between the ages of 20-30, weekly Mass attendance is 15% (scary!).
• 7% of Catholics give 80% of Church donations.
• 75% of college students who leave home stop going to Sunday Mass.
• One parish closes every four days.

Canada is in even worse shape than the U.S. For example, Quebec has 10% Sunday Mass attendance. Western Europe is much worse with about 6-7% of the Catholics there going to Sunday Mass. In France, it’s about 4% and Scandinavia is 1%!

I believe the reason for this sad picture is ignorance of the faith. That’s why I have been involved in Catholic education for the last 30 years and why I started Ave Maria University to be a beacon for Catholic education.

Now that we have another four years of President Obama, there is a lot of work to be done and Legatus can have a huge impact. Each of us needs to reach out to other Catholic CEOs because, as you know, Legates are the best recruiters of Legates.

Catholic CEOs who study, live and spread the faith can and will transform their marriages, their families, their businesses, their communities, this country — and who knows, maybe even the world.

Thomas Monaghan is Legatus’ founder and chairman. He is a member of Legatus’ Naples Chapter.

Working wonders at St. Gregory’s

Legates’ addiction-treatment program helps people be who God calls them to be . . .

Michael and Rose Marie Vasquez, members of Legatus’ Des Moines Chapter

Barb Conner was in a “dark place” in 2008 when she boarded the plane in Boston and alighted in Iowa. Drinking, complicated by “unresolved issues,” had taken her life in a downward spiral. She had tried AA but found its approach “very negative,” regarding alcoholism as a disease and addiction as a permanent condition.

Her husband and daughters had desperately helped her research treatment options. Online they discovered St. Gregory Retreat Centers, which experts have touted as the most advanced, comprehensive alcohol and drug addiction recovery program in America. They spoke with co-founder Rose Marie Vasquez, who assured them that help was available.

“I was fearful about going,” Conner admitted. “But I found St. Gregory to be a truly peaceful place. They treat the whole person and take an honest approach to substance abuse: that it’s by choice that we drink abusively and that we need to get to the bottom of the reasons we do.”

From tragedy, inspiration

Michael and Rose Marie Vasquez, members of Legatus’ Des Moines Chapter, founded St. Gregory Retreat Centers in answer to a need discerned in tragedy.

“A dear friend of our son’s had a big problem with methamphetamines,” Rose Marie remembered. “We explored a normal course in substance-abuse treatment for him, but saw lots of holes in how it works.” Although the young man did well for a while, he got back on meth and died in a car wreck.

“But through that tragedy Michael and I felt inspiration: that God was calling us to found a place with a new standard of treatment – one that moved beyond addiction and empowered people to be who God wants them to be.”

The couple was in a position to do so, having recently sold their health care company. “Our first step,” Michael said, “was asking, what are the best treatment approaches out there and how can we build something new and better based upon research that proved successful?”

The St. Gregory model is built on the fact that the body goes through a level of chemical dependency, which has a psycho-social impact. “Once you become dependent on a drug, it ends up forming your values system,” Michael explained. “When treatment starts to pull that dependency away, you need to jump in and not only physically get a person off dependency, but change their thinking and rebuild their virtues and values so they can get to the point of making good decisions.”

Since 2006, St. Gregory patients have gone through a seven-week program of neuropsychological repair, behavior-modification training, life-skills exercises, and cognitive behavior therapy in a format not available through any other program in America. St. Gregory’s is state-licensed, internationally accredited and accepts health insurance. Its staff of over 100 can accommodate over 100 guests at its two single-sex residential-living retreat centers.


The Vasquezes named their venture after St. Gregory the Wonder Worker, a third-century bishop renowned for miraculous cures and conversions. They see a source of wonder in their patients as well: While the national average success rate one year after leaving a substance-abuse treatment program is only 12%, their program has maintained a 70% success rate over the last four years.

Medical director Dr. Charles V. Wadle says he’s proud of the Center’s new initiative called Harbor View Medical, a specialty clinic for people addicted to pain killers and prescription drugs.

“We’re dealing with a national epidemic of doctors over-prescribing medicines that can lead to abuse or dependence,” he said, noting that the majority of St. Gregory patients abuse drugs or alcohol versus being physically, although not necessarily psychologically, dependent upon them.

Randy Kiel, founder of Kardia Counseling, shares in Wadle’s concern. A mental-health counselor with a private psychotherapy practice in the Des Moines area, he has referred his own patients to St. Gregory’s and provided post-treatment counseling for those who have completed the program.

“St. Gregory moves peoples’ minds and spirits and brain structure into accommodating a different disposition of living,” Kiel said. “They help people get away from that one-day-away-from-addiction mindset relapse. Addiction doesn’t represent a true mindset. It’s a disorder to recover from, not a condition to suffer from your whole life.”

The program is also special because of its Catholicity, Kiel continued. “They offer grace at St. Gregory. They give people the room to receive an invitation to addressing the spiritual element of their persons. This is a genuinely Catholic approach, subtle but strong.”

Only about 30% of St. Gregory patients have identified themselves as Catholic. But the faith, though not a part of the formal treatment program, is omnipresent. Two deacons are on staff and a full-time chaplain has just been assigned to celebrate the sacraments, including daily Mass at the retreat house chapels. And in August, three Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with backgrounds in nursing, social work and theological formation moved into their new convent on the women’s campus.

Proposing, not imposing

This exposure to religion, Wadle said, lends the Centers a “therapeutic reality” even if a patient doesn’t directly engage the faith. However, he has seen the program lead to several conversions and many instances of fallen-away Catholics “re-embracing the faith.”

And then there are people like Barb Conners. After her stay, she confided to Rose Marie Vasquez that, although she had embraced sobriety, “something was still missing.” Rose Marie then invited her back for a conference in 2011 about being sober for Christ.

This time she alighted in Iowa not in darkness, but with clouds parted. But the heavens opened wide after she met with a priest and unburdened that remaining unresolved issue impeding her full recovery: 10 years earlier she had painfully agreed to her 15-year-old daughter’s abortion.

“It was a terrible decision I was still blaming myself for,” she said. “I’d pushed it down deep inside and not dealt with it. I came back home joyful and rejuvenated, and since then I’ve been able to talk with the whole family about it. St. Gregory taught me how to be who God really wants me to be. And that gives real peace.”

Matthew A. Rarey is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Find out more by contacting St. Gregory’s Retreat Center at (515) 421-4080 or online via their website.

Standing with the Church

Editor Patrick Novecosky writes that Catholics have great reason to be optimistic . . .

Patrick Novecosky

I admit it. I’m a news junkie. I scan the headlines every morning. I have my web browser open to key news sites during the work day, and before I go to bed … I check the news again. Just to keep my addiction in check, my wife made a rule: no smartphones at the table.

Some people find the news depressing — and for good reason! If you’re an avid reader of the weekly Legatus Insider, you know what I mean. Even though I often find myself scratching my head, wondering how the world could get any worse, I’m always looking for that nugget of good news. After all, we’re called to be people of hope.

Despite the culture of death pressing down on us, Catholics have great reason to be optimistic. Despite unconstitutional mandates, a cynical mainstream news media, and Hollywood elites regularly mocking our faith, we have an ace in the hole: We have the Truth on our side. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6). And we can be certain that we are on His side if we stand with the Church He founded.

In March, the U.S. bishops issued a statement clarifying their stand against the Health and Human Services contraception mandate. Despite the liberal media’s attempts to distort the issue, the bishops have made it abundantly clear from the beginning of this debate in January that this fight is about religious liberty, not contraception. They will not back down, and they will not comply. They need to know that we are firmly behind them.

“This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block,” the bishops said in a March 14 statement. That sentiment is hitting home with people of all faiths. Even Glenn Beck, a Catholic-turned-Mormon, is sounding the alarm bells by saying, “We’re all Catholics now.” And polls show that the majority of Americans believe the mandate is unconstitutional.

Ultimately, the mandate’s constitutionality will be tested in the courts. A number of Catholic and pro-life organizations — including Priests for Life and Ave Maria University — have already filed suit. More will follow, including faithful Catholics who lead secular business organizations. If we stand with the bishops on this issue, if we fast and pray, and if we hold fast to the Truth, we will prevail in what is truly important — even if the world is against us.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus magazine’s editor.

We’re all called to evangelize

Every Christians is charged with bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world . . .

Peter Kreeft

Peter Kreeft

Every Christian is called to share the Good News of Christ according to his or her individual gifts and station in life. This is why our Catholic faith is called “apostolic.”

All other great religious teachers subordinated themselves to their message. They pointed away from themselves to their teachings. For instance, Buddha said, “Look not to me, look to my dharma [doctrine, teaching].” But Christ said, “Come to me” (Mt 11:28). Buddha said, “Be lamps unto yourselves.” But Christ said, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5). Moses and Muhammad claimed only to be prophets of God; Jesus claimed to be God (Jn 8:58).

Any other religion could survive the loss of its founder. If Muhammad or Buddha or Confucius were proved to be mythical and not historical figures, the religions that stem from them might still survive. But Christianity could never survive without Christ. For other religious founders only claimed to teach the truth; Christ claimed to be the Truth (Jn 14:6).

The Church’s claim of superiority over other religions is not for herself but for her Lord. And therefore, as Christ commanded her, she “has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize” (Ad Gentes Divinitus, 7). Thus, the Church is apostolic because of her mission, her “apostolate” to evangelize, and because she is “built upon the foundation of the apostles” (Eph 2:20), who ordained their successors (bishops) as Christ had ordained them. “The bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ” (Lumen Gentium 20 § 3).

Not only the bishops, but “the whole Church is apostolic. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways” (CCC 863). “The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ” (CCC 425). Yet you cannot teach what you do not know. You cannot give what you do not have. The primary requirement for any Christian teacher, preacher, evangelist or catechist is not just to know about Christ but to know Christ. “Whoever is called ‘to teach Christ’ must first seek ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus’” (CCC 428).

This column is reprinted with permission from the book “Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (Ignatius Press, 2001). Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College, is the best-selling author of over 63 books.

Bad Medicine

Catholics are concerned whether socialized medicine is compatible with the faith . . .

Legatus Magazine, October 2009

Legatus Magazine, October 2009

When Kishore Jayabalan tore a knee tendon in Rome three years ago, he went to St. Camillus – a public hospital. He waited four days to get local anesthesia in order to have minor surgery. His hospital roommate had been on a waiting list for six months to get a hip replacement. The hospital provided no towels, no nightgowns and water only with meals.

“If we were thirsty between meals, we had to send friends or family to buy bottled water outside the hospital,” said Jayabalan.

As the debate over health-care reform rages across the country, the faithful are concerned whether socialized medicine is compatible with Catholic social teaching. They’re also asking whether government-run health care is wise, given the trouble with socialized systems in Europe and Canada.

Kishore Jayabalan

Kishore Jayabalan

Jayabalan wasn’t required to pay out of pocket for his operation, but others pay a heavier price. Italian women, for example, are generally not permitted to have an epidural during childbirth (except for C-sections) no matter how much pain they are in.

The problem of socialism

For decades, U.S. bishops have advocated comprehensive reform that leads to universal health care. At the same time, Catholic teaching and tradition is wary of socialism. In fact, the entire body of Catholic social teaching over the last 150 years has warned against socialism because of its often devastating impact on private property, the role of the family and the role of organized religion.

Many papal encyclicals — including Rerum Novarum (Pope Leo XIII, 1891), Quadragesimo Annus (Pope Pius XI, 1931) and Centesimus Annus (Pope John Paul II, 1991) — warn against socialism.

“In Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict talks about how the state cannot provide everything,” explained Jayabalan, head of the Acton Institute’s Rome office. “The state exists to ensure justice: punishment for crime, respect for private property and the rule of law. But the state cannot — and should not — love people and provide charity. It is the private individual who must provide charity.”

Many of those individuals are Catholics with a long tradition of caring for the sick and the poor. One out of every six patients needing a hospital admission in the U.S. goes to a Catholic hospital. The Church runs 624 hospitals, 41 hospice organizations, 11 hospital systems; admits 5.5 million patients and conducts 92.7 million outpatient visits every year.

“In the New Testament, Jesus travels through the country healing the sick,” said Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light TV and former chaplain of Legatus’ Toronto Chapter. “Among the most powerful and practical parables that Jesus taught is that of the Good Samaritan. Our compassion for the suffering of our neighbors commits us to meeting their pain.”

Socialized medicine

waitingroom_webYet as noble as the desire is for socialized medicine, serious problems — rationed care, long waiting times, lack of qualified medical personnel and overspending — exist in every country with such a system.

“In Canada, there are 800,000 people on waiting lists. In the United Kingdom, there are 1.2 million people on waiting lists,” said Dr. Donald Condit, an orthopedic surgeon and policy expert for the Acton Institute.

In 2005, Canada’s Supreme Court struck down a law that prohibited people from buying private health insurance to cover procedures already offered by the public system. “Access to a waiting list is not access to health care,” the court’s ruling said. “In some cases patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care … and many patients on non-urgent waiting lists are in pain and cannot fully enjoy any real quality of life.”

A 2006 Fraser Institute study reported that the average delay between referral and orthopedic surgery in Canada was 40.3 weeks, said Condit. In the U.S., the wait is less than four weeks.

Catholic social teaching supports the principle of subsidiarity — the tenet that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. With socialized medicine, however, government bureaucracies make decisions far removed from the doctor-patient relationship.

Research and development often lags in countries with government-run health care. Medical technology is developed because of a profit incentive, not at the behest of legislators.

“The profit motive for companies is much less under socialized medicine because the state dictates how much to charge for procedures and medicines,” said Jayabalan.

Bureaucrats in socialized medical systems run cost-benefit analyses on whether patients are worth treating. In the U.K., the National Institute for Clinical Excellence produces clinical appraisals on the cost-effectiveness of treatments — in many cases denying patients access to the latest medicines.

Universal health care

Despite the problems that riddle socialized health care systems around the world, some faithful Catholics support the principles of universal health care with the caveat that human life is respected from conception to natural death. Universal health care, however, does not necessarily have to come from the government.

Kathy Saile

Kathy Saile

“We agree that ‘no one should go broke because they get sick,’” said Kathy Saile, the U.S. bishops’ director of domestic social development. “That’s why the U.S. bishops have worked for decades for decent health care for all. The Catholic Church provides health care for millions, purchases health care, picks up the pieces of a failing health system and has a long tradition of teaching ethics in health care. Health-care reform that respects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and an urgent national priority.”

However, the vision for universal health care as proposed by Congress and the Obama administration may come with a high price tag. Pro-life leaders and the bishops are asking Obama to keep his word that he will not sign a health-care reform bill “if it adds one dime to the deficit now or in the future, period.”

The left-leaning secular media are skeptical and the Congressional Budget Office says the House version of the health bill (H.R. 3200) will cost $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, and will increase the federal deficit by $239 billion between 2010-2019. If enacted, massive deficits or massive tax increases would result. This year’s federal budget deficit has already topped $1 trillion for the first time in history.

Analysts also worry about giving more control to the federal government, which already handles 34% of U.S. health care through the Veterans Administration, government workers and Medicare/Medicaid.

The Obama administration “has been found wanting in defense of human life with funding of abortion here and overseas, stem cell research and reversing the Mexico City policy,” said Condit. “And we should give them more control?”

Perhaps most troubling, critics say, is that the president is trying to push health care reform through too quickly.

“People feel like something is being pulled over their heads, and that sentiment is coming out at the town hall meetings,” said Dr. Steve White, a lung specialist and former head of the Catholic Medical Association.

“I think we have to stop the whole process and regroup,” he said. “Why the urgency? It’s extremely complex. Even the Congressional Budget Office has raised red flags. We’re in the middle of a recession. We need reform, but there are serious financial and ethical risks.”

Sabrina Arena is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.


The public option

The Obama administration and congressional leaders are debating whether a new government-run health plan, modeled after the soon-to-be-bankrupt Medicare program, must be included in health-reform legislation.

Grace-Marie Turner

Grace-Marie Turner

“The public plan option has been a lightning rod for opposition to health reform because many people believe it is a track to a single-payer, government-run system,” Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, wrote in the New York Times in August. “This new government-run health insurance program would impose mandates on employers and individuals to get and pay for health coverage, drastically expand Medicaid and impose strict new federal regulation of the health insurance market.

“What the president miscalculated in putting health reform at the top of his change agenda is that the thing people cherish most about health care is security. Change scares them, as politicians across the land are suddenly seeing.”

Walking in Christ’s footsteps

Q&A with Catholic convert Steve Ray who left business for the land of Christ . . .

Holy Land pilgrimage guide Steve Ray

Holy Land pilgrimage guide Steve Ray

Steve Ray can hardly contain his excitement when talking about the land where Jesus walked. The award-winning filmmaker, author and entrepreneur will lead Legatus members on a Holy Land pilgrimage from Oct. 10-19. Ray and his wife Janet are registered tour guides in Israel.

The duo has been to the Holy Land nearly 70 times, leading tour groups since 2005. They will take Legatus pilgrims to Cana, Galilee, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Jericho. Pilgrims will walk the Via Dolorosa and visit Mount Calvary.

Ray spoke to Legatus Magazine editor Patrick Novecosky about his journey to the Catholic Church and his love for the land of Christ.

You once led a successful business. Why did you give it up?

I couldn’t do both things at the same time well. The No. 1 reason for my shift in focus from the business world to the Holy Land is that I fell in love with the Church. When I discovered the Catholic Church, it became a passionate love affair for my wife and me.

Bringing pilgrims to the Holy Land began when we took own kids there — and seeing the impact it had on them. We took our teenagers to Israel for the first time in 1995 after our family became Catholic. When we came back to the States, they began going to daily Mass on their own, going to confession every month on their own.

These are unusual things for teenagers to do. When I asked them why, they said, “Dad, we always knew the Bible was true. But when we touched the place where Jesus lay in the tomb and touched the place where the blood dripped from the cross, we knew that it was true with a capital T.” It really changed their lives.

When our daughter Emily was 15, we took her to the Holy Land. She went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with her friend and came back sobbing hysterically. After about 10 minutes of crying, she said, “Dad, I’ve been in that church with you so many times, but this time I realized that He was really there.” It profoundly changed her. The Lord spoke to her in that place. For me, it’s worth every penny to take my daughter there and have that kind of experience because it will stay with her for the rest of her life.

We realized that we would like to take everybody there. That’s how we got started with The Footprints of God video series. We figured that most people can’t go, so we’ll make movies and bring the Holy Land to them. We’ll show them that the Christian faith is rooted in history and in geography. I saw how much the movies affected people. They said, “Steve, you know the Holy Land better than anyone. Lead us on a pilgrimage.” We took our first group in 2005, and we sold a bus overnight. We’ve been doing it ever since.

Why is pilgrimage important to being Catholic?

It’s part of the very fabric and fiber of our tradition. It goes all the way back to the ancient Jews. If you wanted to see the glory of God, you went Jerusalem. That’s where the festivals were — the Passover, the Festival of Booths. They were all in Jerusalem. The Holy Family went on pilgrimage at least once a year from Nazareth all the way up to the mountains of Jerusalem.

It was something that the early Christians did as a penance. The word pilgrim means “sojourner” or “traveler” — one who’s in a strange land. They leave what’s familiar to them and seek after God. Pilgrimage has always been part of the fabric of the Catholic — and Christian — tradition from the very beginning. The Fathers of the Church wrote about pilgrims coming from around the world to see the cave where Jesus was born.

Pilgrimage is part of the human psyche, and it’s something we’re trying to resurrect. It’s been forgotten in modernity, and we’re trying to get people to think in those terms again.

What’s special about a Holy Land pilgrimage?

There are sacred place all around the world. You can go to shrines and basilicas — all wonderful places — but there’s only one place in the world where you can find holy ground. That’s because God touched it. When Moses stood in front of the burning bush, God said, “Take off your sandals for this is holy ground.” The day before there was nothing special about that dirt. But now it’s holy ground because God touched it.

When God touches things, he sanctifies them, and they’re never the same again. He walked in the land of Israel with his own feet. He walked on the water and was baptized in the Jordan. This is why water is sanctified for baptism. Jesus sanctified it when he put his feet in it. He was on Mount Tabor when he looked out over Jerusalem and said, “Go out into all the world and make disciples.” That’s where evangelism started. Jesus’ blood dripped to the ground in Israel, not in Rome or some other place. That’s where everything started.

When Pope Paul VI went to the Holy Land in 1964, he called it the “fifth Gospel.” You can read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but in order to get the full impact of those gospels — and the full impact of the life of Christ — you have to read the fifth gospel as well because that opens up revelations that you can’t get from reading the Book.

Do people still ask you if it’s safe to travel to Israel?

Yes. I had a funny experience in Oklahoma City, two blocks from the building that had been blown up by Timothy McVeigh. Someone asked me if I was afraid to go to Israel. I said, “No, I was afraid to come to Oklahoma City. Look at what happened two blocks down the road.”

There’s a misconception about safety in Israel because you see fighting on the TV news. In reality, those things do happen periodically, but the fighting happens in isolated areas like Gaza or Nablus — areas we never even get close to. They don’t affect any of the holy sites we go to. We take our children and our grandchildren without a moment’s hesitation. Over the last 20 years, no pilgrim has been hurt in the Holy Land. We are the customers, and they are not out to hurt us. It’s a very safe place to go.

Is there concern about tensions with Iran?

Not really. Other Arab countries are doing everything they can to keep Iran from acting in a rogue way because they would be impacted by any stupid actions taken by Iran. They’ll keep Iran in check. Iran knows that if it would send a missile to Israel, they would soon be wiped off the face of the earth. It’s not a concern at this point.

You led a Legatus pilgrimage to the Holy Land two years ago. What was special about that group?

I found them to be very devout, intelligent and inquisitive. They were classy people. It was a joy to take them through the Holy Land. Everybody worked well together, and we were able to do a few things with them that we don’t do with other groups.

For this year’s pilgrimage, we’re trying to get a solemn entry into the Holy Sepulchre where the Franciscans actually process Legatus members into the Holy Sepulchre. We’ll have the place to ourselves for 30 minutes to go in and see the tomb.

What will be different about this pilgrimage?

The hotels will be a bit higher scale for the Legatus group.  We’re staying at a hotel right on the Sea of Galilee. They’ll get up in the morning and see the fishermen coming in with their boats — just like Peter, Andrew, James and John used to. In Jerusalem, we’re staying at a hotel within walking distance of the Old City. We will have local priest as our spiritual director. Father Vincent Nagle is the secretary to the Patriarch of Jerusalem. He is Jewish and American by birth. Hopefully we’ll get an audience with the patriarch.

What will be the highlights?

The Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is always a highlight for pilgrims. Our farewell dinner will be in Bethlehem with a Passover lamb. That’s always a highlight. The hour-long boat ride on the Sea of Galilee is also a lot of fun. We explain the sea and the geography of Israel.

People will like our local guide. He is a Roman Catholic Palestinian Israeli citizen. He’s a walking encyclopedia and excellent speaker with perfect English. He can really explain what it’s like to be a Christian in the Holy Land. We will also try to meet some local Christians, so pilgrims won’t just have seen the ancient stones, but will have met some of the “living stones” of the Church.

Janet and I will be taking video and pictures all along the way, so 30 days from when the pilgrims get home they will receive a professional quality 90-minute DVD of the pilgrimage. In addition to that, I’ll be uploading video every day to my YouTube site so the pilgrims’ family and friends can follow them on “virtual pilgrimage.”

Patrick Novecosky is the editor of Legatus Magazine. An abridged version of this interview was published in the September 2009 issue of Legatus Magazine.

Click here to register or for more details, call: (313) 565-8888 Ext. 121.