Monday, February 16, 2009
February 17, 2009 - EPHESUS- PARMAKKULE: Many apologies for not posting a column today from Ephesus to recount the superlative day we spent at Mary's House and at the ruins of ancient Ephesus - one of the most incredible places I have ever visited - where Mary lived, were St. John lived and preached and cared for Mary,where St. Paul walked, where he preached to and converted people, a place whose stunning libary he visited.

It is late at night, the end of an extraordinarily memorable day but technical problems are preventing me from downloading the photos I took today. I had hoped to do more of a pictoral essay than a word essay because of a simple lack of time in very long and busy days.

I will try to write something tomorrow or find technical assistance that will allow me to send the photos. It is very late and we have a very early morning call and I have not even unpacked. God willing, there will be more tomorrow.

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Sadly, just about one hour after I posted my blog last Friday, my young friend Amir died in Beth Sahour, Palestine. I am devastated and I cannot even fathom the grief his family is suffering at the loss of this wonderful, smiling, happy youngster who was adored by his parents, loved by his sisters Mira and Nadine and an inspiration to little Firas, 8 years old.

As I write these words, I have been unable to reach the family by phone but I did email to let them know I knew of Amirs passing, that I tried to phone and will continue to do so, and how grief-stricken I am, especially having in mind the wonderful memories of the times and meals and fun we shared this past Christmas when I visited them in Beit Sahour. I wrote that, while I know it is of little or no consolation for the family and for those of us who loved Amir, I was sure he is in heaven playing soccer, and he is asking Jesus all the questions he wanted to ask while here on earth. I also told them about a letter I got from a reader of my blog: She said she once heard that we are all flowers in God's garden and that when He walks in the gardens, He occasionally picks out the most beautiful flowers for Himself - and that's what happened when He picked Amir.

Over the weeks, as I wrote here about my Christmas in Bethlehem, I posted many photos. I was going to close my Christmas travelblogue with a collage of photos of my friends in the Holy Land. Here today are three photos of the Abu alZulof family. In this photo, we see, counter-clockwise, Tony and Suzan, and three of their children Amir, Mira and Nadine.

Here I am with Suzan, Mira (in red), Nadine and Amir.

I only thought of taking pictures long after dinner, by which time Firas, the budding and efficient altar server, was asleep on the sofa. But here we are


As I write these words, I am preparing to leave for Turkey on a pilgrimage "in the footsteps of St. Paul" with many of my friends from Santa Susanna and Marymount International School with whom I shared the joy of last year's trip to the Holy Land.

Our itinerary is full and we'll be covering a lot of miles in a relatively short period of time. Tomorrow, Monday, we fly from Rome to Istanbul to Izmir on the Turkish coast where we will travel by to Kusadasi to spend the night before we visit Ephesus on Tuesday. In coming days we will also visit Laodicea, one of the seven churches of Revelation, Pamukkale, Antioch in Pisida where Paul went with Barnabas on his first missionary journey, Konya, Cappadocia, the Land of Three Saints (Basil the Great, his brother Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus), Tarsus, where Saul/Paul was born and Antioch the cradle of gentile Christianity.

There are many reasons to be excited about this trip but one of them goes back to November 2006 when Pope Benedict traveled to Turkey, mainly to celebrate the feast of St. Andrew with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartolomew I. Before going to Istanbul, the Holy Father spent half a day at Ephesus where he celebrated Mass. I was privileged to be part of the very small group of people at the Mass, the faithful and the journalists covering the liturgy. I wrote about that Mass, adding a sidebar about an Italian family I had met at Ephesus Marco was working in Izmir.

In May of 2008, Marco sent me photos of his daughters First communion at Marys House in Ephesus, photos that I posted along with the moving story of that special day, as a proud father told it. Shortly after I posted that story I received an email from Erin von Uffel who lives in New York State.

Not only did Erin tell me she was at the Popes Mass in 2006, she is presently working on opening the cause for beatification of the foundress of Marys House, Sr. Marie de Mandat-Grancey, D.C. I kept Erins June 2008 letter and wrote to her when I decided to go to Turkey. Much of what I will tell you today about Marys House (where the Blessed Virgin, accompanied to Ephesus by St. John, lived with a maidservant until her Dormition and Assumption), is from our exchange of letters almost all of it Erins telling of the story.

Sr. Marie de Mandat-Grancey was born September 13, 1837 in a castle in Burgundy, France to a devout family. As a young girl she realized her vocation and joined the Daughters of Charity at the age of 20. After nearly 30 years of dedication to the Children of Mary orphans in France, she left her homeland to answer the call of Pope Leo XIII who had asked Religious to go to the Holy Land. She was assigned to the French Naval Hospital in Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey in 1886.

Just prior to leaving for Smyrna, a book was published on the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Anne Catherine Emmerich, a German mystic nun. After reading the Life of Mary, Sr. Marie was inspired to find and preserve the House of Mary. That happened on July 29, 1891, and Sr. Marie bought the property on November 15, 1892.

Erin wrote that while her family was living in London, she met a relative of Sr. Marie, was impressed by the nuns life and work and soon was discussing her story with Fr. Ignatius, a Carmelite priest. Both were inspired to tell Sr. Maries story and together they wrote a prayer, and had prayer cards printed and distributed. On her next trip to Ephesus, Erin met with Archbishop Giuseppe Bernardini of nearby Izmir, who gave her his Imprimatur for the prayer card. Erin said once the Imprimatur was on the prayer card we started to receive testimonies of healing. The first medical cure was the daughter of a Muslim man. Many Muslims pray to Sr. Marie. The House of Mary is on of the only places where Muslims and Christian pray to Mary at the same time. Sr. Maries relative was an Abbott who was the first person to translate the Koran.

Today there is a website dedicated to Sr. Marie, there is abundant written material and a DVD, much of which Erin Fedexed to me prior to our pilgrimage to Turkey.

Erin also wrote me at length about Emmerichs book, Life of he Virgin Mary. She said the last two chapters of the book give all the details of Mary living in Ephesus. Your group will enjoy hearing about the holy women who lived fifteen minutes apart in the caves and mud huts surrounding Marys home. Anne Catherine Emmerich (whom Erin refers to as ACE) even gives the names of a few of them, one was the niece of Ana the prophetess. These were the women St. John visited to find a safer place for Mary to live. He then had her house built in the shape of the cross before bringing her there fleeing from the persecution in Jerusalem. Her room had a spring of running water. The spring was redirected when the house was renovated, thanks to Sr. Marie. Her room is to the right of the altar. You can still see the indentation where her couch/bed was on the exterior wall. The niche in the room was the first tabernacle as described in Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is also where Mass was celebrated with the Apostles. The room to the left of the altar was badly water damaged and had to be permanently removed. If still there, the shape of the cross would have been obvious.

The open room connecting with the altar, says Erin, is where the fireplace/hearth was. The ashes from the fireplace were the source of healings after the House was found. It is a special place to kneel and pray while inside. When you enter into the House look for the Papal Indulgence. It should be directly in front on the wall or might have been recently moved to the right side. In 1896 Pope Leo XIII discontinued indulgences from the tomb of Mary in Jerusalem. In 1914 Pope Pius X granted a plenary indulgence for the remission of sins of pilgrims at Marys House.

And this is what our Rome pilgrimage group will see on Tuesday when we visit Ephesus and Marys House. I am especially excited because the only other time I was there was in 2006 with Pope Benedict. but the house was closed to visitors that day because it is where the Pope prayed for a while and vested for Mass.

Stay tuned for further adventures and photos that will accompany the stories of our pilgrimage to Turkey in the footsteps of St. Paul.

MONDAY February 16

VERY brıefly: ıt has been a long day - we met at the Rome aırport at 9 am and ıt ıs now 10:30 at nıght ın Kusadası on the southern Turkısh coast. My wıfı does not work ın the hotel room and I am usıng the only publıc computer they have and am ın a darkened room and workıng wıth a Turkısh keyboard! I wıll not add very much at thıs hour but wıll try to wrıte a lıttle more on the bus tomorrow and hope that our hotel tomorow nıght ın Pamakkule has good ınternet servıce.

God bless!

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