WALKING IN THE FOOTPRINTS OF GOD CHANGES A PERSON FOREVER
Steve Ray sat on a hotel balcony, watching a group of pilgrims swimming and relaxing in the Sea of Galilee.
“Every time we come, there are always new things to discover and new things to learn,” Ray, 60, a well-known Catholic apologist, speaker, author, and filmmaker, said during a break from a pilgrimage in early October that he led to the Holy Land.
Ray, who was a Baptist before he and his entire family converted to the Catholic faith 24 years ago, will be speaking at the Legatus Summit in January, and will also lead Legatus’ Holy Land pilgrimage in 2019.
Known as “Jerusalem Jones,” Ray and Janet, his wife of 41 years, have been to the Holy Land more than 160 times. They also travel throughout the world, speaking at conferences. While in Galilee, Ray spoke with Legatus magazine.
What will you be speaking about at next month’s Summit?
The talk is going to be related to the upcoming pilgrimage, the working title being, “The Beauty and Truth of the Fifth Gospel.” When Pope St. Paul VI went to the Holy Land, he said, “This land is the fifth Gospel.” When you come here, it makes the other four pop into technicolor widescreen.
What is on the itinerary for the 2019 pilgrimage?
We’ll spend three nights in Galilee. We got a nice hotel right on the shore of Galilee so they’ll have access to the water. The first day we’ll go have Mass at the Mount of Transfiguration. We’ll renew our marriage vows in Cana, then we’ll have lunch in Nazareth. Then we’ll go to the Church of the Annunciation, where Mary was visited by the angel and given the good news, and where God became man. We pray the First Joyous Mystery in front of the cave at the altar where the angel spoke to Mary.
The next day, we have Mass at the Mount of Beatitudes. We go up to the Golan Heights and have lunch up there. We actually look out over the country of Syria and Lebanon and talk about the political situation going on here in the Middle East. Then we come back down and look at some more sites along the Sea of Galilee. The next day we have Mass at the place where Jesus said to “eat my flesh and drink my blood” in Capernaum.
How spiritually enriching can a pilgrimage to the Holy Land be?
There is no other place you can travel to where God actually walked with His own feet. I tell people, “You come here, you want to touch the land. But be careful, because the land is going to reach out and touch you.” This is sacred ground, this is where God himself walked, this is where the Mother of God walked. You can’t come here with an open heart and not be touched by it and changed forever.
You’ve been to the Holy Land more than 100 times. Does it ever get old?
Never. I always tell the pilgrims that I see it again for the first time through their eyes. It’s always exciting to see newcomers, people who have never been here before, and to see the tears well up in their eyes and the excitement when they realize this is where Mary and Jesus stood.
What projects are you working on now?
I have a new book coming out with Ignatius Press called The Papacy: What the Pope Does and Why It Matters. Also, we have nine of the Footprints of God movies done. I have one more to do. In 2020, we’re going to do Doctors of the Church. I’m also in the middle of another book with Ignatius Press on the Book of Genesis and we have pilgrimages already planned for the next five years, not only to the Holy Land but also to places likes Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, Mexico, Poland, and Ireland.