A new book guiding Catholics visiting the lands of ancient Israel was born out of the annual Kenrick-Glennon Seminary Holy Land Retreat and Pilgrimage, and in turn will benefit seminarians both here and in Palestine.
Father Charlie Samson is the author of “Come and See: A Catholic Guide to the Holy Land.” He was a newly ordained priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis when he studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem while working on a licentiate in sacred Scripture. While there, he felt called to write a Catholic travel guide to the areas.
“A lot of guides just speak about really vague and shallow spiritualizing of sites,” Father Samson said, adding that they also get caught up in archaeological minutiae.
“Darn it, what a missed opportunity!” he said.
Father Samson said that most guidebooks are non-denominational Christian guides and “don’t treat things that are of immediate and intense interest to us,” such as the sacraments or continuity of Catholic theology.
Father Samson started writing in summer of 2016. The book was originally geared toward Kenrick-Glennon seminarians on the annual pilgrimage, which he has attended three times. The scope of the book expanded to a more general audience at the suggestion of his publisher, yet it still maintains a sharp focus on the theological and historical richness of the land.
“I explain things a little bit more thoroughly and carefully” for wider readership, Father Samson said. Each chapter covers a different site and treats in order Scriptural background, relevant theological issues, reflections, and pastoral tips for seminarians.
The book seeks to aid seminarians from the Holy Land. Father Samson has met Palestinian Catholics who, he said, often experience challenges in responding to a priestly call from a variety of factors, including the Israel-Palestine conflict and the fact that they are a minority. For that reason, all sales proceeds will support the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Beit Jala, Palestine.
“Me being a Latin rite priest, I want to help out my Latin rite brother seminarians in the Middle East,” said Father Samson.
Father Samson will return to St. Louis in July to join the faculty of Kenrick-Glennon as he finishes his doctoral studies in Biblical theology through the Pontifical Gregorian University.