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Steve Ray – 2019 Summit speaker


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.

The rise of the new anti-Semitism

Catholics respond to growing anti-Jewish sentiments in Europe and here in the USA . . .

by Judy Roberts

Seventy years after the holocaust killed millions of Jews, some believe anti-Semitism is a relic of the past that will never be repeated.

But there are disturbing signs that hatred for Jews is increasingly rearing its ugly head around the world, including in the United States where tolerance is supposedly valued and religious liberty is enshrined in the constitution.

Attacks and intimidation

Protesters hold signs with pictures of victims during the Jan. 13, 2015, funeral of the four Jews killed in Paris. The sign says, ‘I died because I am Jewish’

Protesters hold signs with pictures of victims during the Jan. 13, 2015, funeral of the four Jews killed in Paris. The sign says, ‘I died because I am Jewish’

Two recent studies — one by the Pew Research Center and another by the Louis B. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. — report an uptick in anti- Semitic attacks on Jews.

The Pew study found harassment of Jews in 2013 occurring in 77 countries — a seven-year high. The problem is particularly acute in Europe, where such incidents were reported in 34 of the region’s 45 countries, causing many Jews to leave.

Already this year an attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris left four dead, a Jewish guard was killed outside a Copenhagen synagogue, Jewish graves were desecrated in a cemetery near Strasbourg, France, and a London synagogue was attacked by a mob shouting, “Kill the Jews.”

In the Brandeis-Trinity 2014 National Demographic Survey of American Jewish college students, 54% reported that they had either experienced or seen anti-Semitic attacks on campus.

Steve Ray

Steve Ray

Since the period covered by the survey, there have been reports of swastikas painted on Jewish fraternity houses at Emory, Vanderbilt, and the University of California-Davis. Last month vandals painted swastikas in Northeastern University’s International Village, and students found graffiti reading “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” in a campus restroom at the University of California-Berkeley.

Catholics should be concerned about these incidents, not only because anti-Semitism is an offense against the dignity of human beings, but because of the special relationship the Church has with the Jewish people, said author and evangelist Steve Ray, who leads tours to Israel.

“The Catholic Church’s root and trunk is Judaism and Israel,” he said.

Stephen Colecchi, director of the Office of International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, agreed. The Jews “are our forebears in the faith, and we believe they are chosen by God, and that choice was not revoked when Jesus came and established a new covenant.”

Stephen Colecchi

Stephen Colecchi

Furthermore, Colecchi said, the Jewish community in many ways is the “canary in the coal mine. They’re a smaller community and therefore more vulnerable. When you target any minority within a society, the health of the whole society is weakened and other groups will be next. It never stops there.”

Catholic reaction

The Church’s response to renewed attacks on Jews has come straight from the top with Pope Francis vigorously condemning anti-Semitism and calling for vigilance in combating it.

“It’s a contradiction that a Christian is anti-Semitic: His roots are Jewish,” the Pope said in a 2013 meeting with representatives of the Jewish community marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Rome under Nazi occupation. According to a Catholic News Agency report on the meeting, the Holy Father continued, “A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic! Let anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and life of every man and woman!”

Several months earlier, in a Vatican audience with members of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, Vatican Radio said Pope Francis alluded to the common roots shared by Christians and Jews. Quoting from Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s document on non-Christian religions, he said that St. Paul “firmly condemned hatred, persecution and all forms of anti-Semitism.”

John Rothmann, a Jewish author, lecturer and radio talk show host who has written about Pope St. John XXIII and the Jews for Inside the Vatican, said Pope Francis’ attitude toward Jews and condemnation of anti-Semitism is in the tradition of John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II.

John Rothmann

John Rothmann

Rothmann said John XXIII is known for having issued thousands of baptismal certificates to save Jewish lives from the Nazis during World War II when he was apostolic nuncio in Turkey. In doing so, he made clear that this did not make Jews Catholics, but was done to save their lives.

Likewise, John Paul was a friend and supporter of the Jewish people and called them “our elder brothers.” According to Rabbi David Dalin, writing in the journal First Things, John Paul saw the Catholic and Jewish communities as closely related and considered Jewish-Catholic dialogue as a religious obligation for Catholics.

Will it get worse?

Although anti-Semitism has increased in the last seven years, Colecchi said his understanding, based on a U.S. Senate Human Rights Caucus briefing he attended recently, is that it doesn’t suggest an imminent period of severe persecution such as the Holocaust.

The Pew study, for example, showed that Jews were more likely to be harassed by individuals or social groups than by governments.

Colecchi said the briefing indicated much of the persecution is related to attacks by extremists within Muslim communities, but it is also being perpetrated by extremists who target Muslims as well as Jews.

The good news, he said, is that the Church is equipped to deal with anti-Semitism through the teaching found in Nostra Aetate.

Catholics can seek to counter hatred against Jews, Colecchi said, by indicating their disapproval of anti-Semitic comments and by talking about their respect for the Jewish people and how the Church holds Jews in special regard.

Ray also recommended showing support for Israel, although he said this does not preclude Catholics from criticizing the country when warranted and expressing concern about the plight of Palestinian Christians.

Rothmann agreed, but he said it’s important to remember that Palestinian rights cannot come at the expense of Israel’s right to exist. Furthermore, he said, he is concerned that some of the criticism of Israel on American college campuses through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is tinged with anti-Semitism.

Rothmann’s father Hans was a Jew who fled Germany after being expelled from Halle-Wittenberg University in 1933.

“I am a Jew who, when he sees what is happening, is not afraid to speak out,” he said. “I am not afraid to identify precisely what the issues are. That’s what Catholics must do. The time to fear is when you can’t speak out anymore.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

Connecting to Christ

Holy Land pilgrimage brings the Bible to life for Legatus members . . .

While there was peace in the Middle East when Legatus members signed up for an Oct. 8-18 Holy Land pilgrimage, the news in September was saturated with stories of fighting in Gaza. Still, the trip went on.

The group of 41 included Legatus founder Tom Monaghan, as well as executive director John Hunt. It was Steve Ray’s third time leading a Legatus Holy Land pilgrimage. Father Shane Tharp of Chickasha, Okla., served as the spiritual director.

“I told them to trust me,” said Ray, who has traveled to the Holy Land more than 130 times. “This wasn’t my first rodeo.”

Up-close access

Notre Dame Center, the Vatican-owned hotel where Legates stayed in Jerusalem.

Notre Dame Center, the Vatican-owned hotel where Legates stayed in Jerusalem.

The group saw all the major holy sites and experienced many perks along the way. They swam in the Sea of Galilee, renewed their baptismal vows in the Jordan, and renewed their wedding vows at Cana. They met the bishop of Jerusalem, and four Knights of the Holy Sepulchre obtained their pilgrimage shells at that site. Pilgrims also participated in an afternoon Bible study with Fr. Tharp, discussing the various sites and Bible passages of the day.

Steve Peroutka, a member of Legatus’ Baltimore Chapter, said he was inspired to attend the pilgrimage with his wife Debbie after having attended two previous Legatus trips to Ireland and Italy.

“Every one of us, to a man, was told by others ‘don’t go,’” said Peroutka regarding safety concerns. “Those who did go were rewarded for their courage. Instead of 50 buses at each of the holy sites, there were only five, so we were able to get up close and personal to see these places.”

Larry Eagan of the Western Massachusetts Chapter first learned of the pilgrimage at the 2014 Legatus Summit in Orlando.

“Steve Ray made an appealing case for it,” said Eagan. “When I spoke with him afterwards, he told me it would be one of the nicest trips he had ever done. He sold me on the quality and the TLC.”

Eagan attended the pilgrimage with his wife, Mary Anne. The highlight for Eagan was Gethsemane.

“We were there after Mass one morning and it was very tranquil,” he said. “Seeing the rock where Jesus prayed and sweat blood was very emotional, but seeing the living olive trees that were 2,000 years old, more than any other site, made me connect to the time of Christ.”

Footsteps of Christ

Steve and Janet Ray (center, sitting), together with Legatus pilgrims, pose with the Jerusalem Auxiliary Bishop William Hanna Shomali

Steve and Janet Ray (center, sitting), together with Legatus pilgrims, pose with the Jerusalem Auxiliary Bishop William Hanna Shomali

The pilgrims had high praise for their leaders: pilgrimage directors Steve and Janet Ray, Fr. Shane, and Amer Shedareh, a Catholic guide from Nazareth.

“We didn’t know anyone else, but enjoyed getting to know a group of like-minded people,” said Eagan. “That made the event even better. It was a pilgrimage during the day, with celebrations of the day’s events at night. There was great camaraderie and fun.”

“It was fabulous because the people you’re traveling with are such faithful people,” added Debbie Peroutka. “I also enjoyed getting to know Tom Monaghan. He’s always been this man who did so many things, but spending 10 days with him was pretty neat. He is an inspiration with what he’s done with his faith and for other people.”

Eagan said that the Gospel came alive for him while visiting Caesarea Philippi, where Christ said that he would build his Church upon the rock of Peter. “The setting and the background of this was a real eye-opener. I had no idea that it was such a pagan site.”

“To be there and know that you are there — you have no doubt that this was the place,” explained Steve Peroutka. “These sites are documented enough. We saw where Jesus ran around as a child, and where he lived with Peter. Now, when I hear a Gospel passage I can call to mind where it happened.”

TIM DRAKE is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus

Author and evangelist Steve Ray will lead Legatus’ Holy Land pilgrimage in October . . .


It’s safe to say that Steve Ray and his wife Janet feel right at home in the Holy Land. The renowned Catholic convert, apologist and filmmaker and his wife have been to Israel over 130 times.

Together they have led over 60 pilgrimages — about 10 per year — and they will lead Legatus’ Holy Land pilgrimage from Oct. 8-17.

The Footprints of God

Those who have been on a Ray pilgrimage say the experience is life-changing. Ray’s deep knowledge of scripture and his passion for the Holy Land are among the reasons pilgrims love to travel with him. Pilgrims also say they have developed a deeper understanding of Jesus and the world he lived in.

“Steve has a way of explaining things that anyone can understand,” said Rosie Cunningham, a member of Legatus’ Naples Chapter. The Cunningham family has gone on three pilgrimages with Ray.

“He adapts to anyone — from the most educated person to the most simple. We took six of our children and they all fell in love with him,” she said. “Today all of my children have an intimacy with Christ. We saw this on the trips. Every day they were praying on their own.”

Steve Ray

Steve Ray

Ray’s business background is another reason his pilgrimages are so successful. He began cleaning offices in high school and went on to found a janitorial company that, at its zenith, made $12 million per year and employed 600 people. The experience taught him how to take care of people and pay attention to detail.

“I was a Legatus member for 10 years,” he explained. “I know what businessmen want. We are very punctual, organized and structured.”

When Ray converted to Catholicism in 1994, his interests changed from business to the New Evangelization. After writing three books for Ignatius Press, Ray had a brainstorm in 2000.

“I woke my wife up and told her that I had a great idea: I had to make a series of videos on the history of salvation! We would film each video on location in Israel. My wife told me we didn’t even take good pictures. How could we possibly do a video series? She told me to go back to sleep,” said Ray.

Nevertheless, Ray embarked on the Footsteps of God project which has filmed seven out of the 10 episodes. The couple went to Iraq earlier this year to film the latest episode on Abraham. Leading pilgrimages was a natural outgrowth of Ray’s many years of studying and capturing the Holy Land on celluloid.

Life is a pilgrimage

holyland-1Ray has been leading groups to the Holy Land for nine years, and his program stands out from the others.

“Most groups go with a licensed Jewish guide and a Muslim driver,” he said. “I only work with Christians. We eat at Christian shops and try to stay in Christian hotels. In Jerusalem, we stay at the Notre Dame Center, which is owned by the Vatican. In this way, we support the local Christian population.”

Janet Ray assists her husband on all pilgrimages. Through the years, the couple has collected countless stories of lives changed while on pilgrimage.

“We have had many conversions — not just of lapsed Catholics, but also of Protestants,” he explained. “One couple had come on the trip hoping to convert me back to Protestantism.”

Another woman came on pilgrimage and never spoke the entire time. On the last day, she told Ray that she had been an alcoholic. Before the trip, she had planned to kill herself. Her children had convinced her to go on the pilgrimage and, through it, she had experienced real healing.

Highlights for the upcoming Legatus pilgrimage include a trip to the Garden of Gethsemane and stops at sites of the rosary.

holyland-2“You will never pray the rosary or read Scripture in the same way again,” said Laura Sacha, Legatus’ conference director, who was on the last Legatus pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2009.

“We go to the wedding church in Cana,” she said. “This is very special for our married couples who can renew their wedding vows. We go to the Sea of Galilee and take a boat ride. We have a Mass at St. Peter’s house in Capernaum. We travel along the Via Dolorosa. We go to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”

Legates will also swim in the Dead Sea and sample wine at a local winery.

“We get olive wood rosaries made in the Holy Land and everyone is allowed to touch places at Calvary, Bethlehem and the Jordan River,” Ray explained. “These rosaries then become third class relics.”

Safe and secure

holyland-3Ray is always asked about the safety of pilgrims in Israel.

“It is perfectly safe,” he said. “I have taken thousands of people to the Holy Land. We have never once had a problem. Israel gets 3.5 million tourists every year. None of them have ever gotten hurt. There are a few hot spots in Gaza, but we don’t go there. By the end of every pilgrimage, people laugh about how safe it was. Don’t let the devil steal this opportunity from you.”

Louise Rainey, a member of Legatus’ Orlando Chapter, went to Israel in 2007. “There were issues in the Middle East at the time and quite a few people backed out. We decided to go anyway and were so glad we did. We never felt any threats at all.”

“I was really nervous about going,” said Maria Cunningham, 16. “But Steve Ray knew where to go and he made us all feel like he had known us forever. Being in those places was basically stepping out of my world and stepping into a new one.”

Pope Francis will visit Israel and Jordan from May 24-26. One of the stops on his packed itinerary is Mass in the Upper Room — the location of the Last Supper and Pentecost. The last person to celebrate Mass there was St. John Paul II in 2000.

“Local Christians will get a shot of encouragement and pride by his visit,” said Ray. “Pope Francis will charm everyone and hopefully effect some changes. He will address the persecutions and limitations imposed on the local Palestinian Christians.”

Ray said security for the papal trip will cause headaches for the local populations and pilgrims, “but if they do get to see him by some chance, the pilgrims will remember it for the rest of their lives.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

To register for Legatus’ October 8-17 Holy Land Pilgrimage:

Call: (313) 565-8888 x 150

Email: conferences@legatus.org

The New Exodus

Christians are fleeing the Middle East in droves, forced out by Muslim extremists . . .

The Middle East is experiencing a new kind of exodus. This time it’s Christians who are leaving the region in droves, driven out by Muslim fundamentalists. Christians make up less than 5% of the population today, down from 20% in the early 20th century, according to a 2010 BBC report. If the exodus is not stopped, it will empty the Middle East of the oldest Christian churches on the planet.

The Vatican reported in May that a staggering 100,000 Christians around the world are martyred annually for their faith, and human rights groups claim such anti-Christian violence is on the rise in Muslim-dominated countries like Iraq, Syria and Egypt.

Iraq, Syria and Egypt

Paul Marshall

Paul Marshall

“The biggest exodus is from Iraq and it has been taking place over the last 10 years,” said Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute. “Many have gone to Syria and they are now caught up in the situation there.”

Most Iraqi Christians come from the Chaldean Catholic Church, one of the oldest of the Eastern churches. In October 2010, a brutal massacre in Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Church left 58 dead and 100 taken hostage. Today only a handful of Christians remain in the Iraqi capital.

At the time of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Iraq was home to 1.3 million Christians; today there are less than 200,000, according to Michael La Civita of the Catholic Near East Welfare Agency (CNEWA). “Since the 2004 insurrection in Iraq, there has been a rise of extremist groups. Christians are middle class with disproportionately more money. When people break out of jail, they look for people with money. Christians are also attacked because they are seen as agents of the West.”

Similarly, Iraq’s neighbor to the northwest, Syria, has been plagued by civil war since 2011. Although few are safe in the war-torn country, Christians — who comprise 10% of the population — have become a target for radical Islamic groups. Two Syrian bishops were kidnapped in April near the Turkish border, putting all Syrian Christians on high alert. It’s believed that up to 300,000 Syrian Christians have already fled to Lebanon and Turkey.

Since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011, the situation has worsened for Egypt’s 10 million Christians. Most are Coptic Christian — an Oriental Orthodox church not in communion with Rome. Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East.

“The situation has just deteriorated,” explained La Civita, a Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. “It was not good to begin with. Now there is a power vacuum. Any minority is in jeopardy.”

Under Mubarak, radical groups were oppressed. With Mubarak’s removal, militant Muslim groups have become stronger.

“There are reports that 100,000 Christians have left Egypt,” said Marshall of the Hudson Institute. “Some have gone to the U.S., and quite a few have gone to the country of Georgia.”

Attacks on the Copts have doubled over the past three years. Egypt implemented a new constitution last year based on Islamic law which criminalized blasphemy. About 40% of all accusations of blasphemy have been leveled against Christians.

Finding solutions

Michael La Civita

Michael La Civita

There are 150,000 Christians living in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and about 500 Christian families leave every year.

Father Peter Vasko, president of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, recalled one conversation he had with a Palestinian youth who wanted to move abroad.

“I asked him, ‘What would make you stay?’ And he said, ‘We need a college education. We want to become professionals,’” Fr. Vasko explained.

The Franciscans, custodians of the holy sites in the Holy Land for the last 800 years, decided to do something about it. They set up a foundation for college scholarships in 1997, which has already doled out $4 million. Their applicants are poor Christian Palestinians or Israeli Arabs. Students receive $6,000 per year and must attend one of six local universities. They must also promise to stay in the region.

“Seventy percent of these kids become dentists, engineers, lawyers, architects, nurses or work in the pharmaceutical business,” Fr. Vasko explained. “They give hope to our society and they give back.”

Besides the university scholarships, the Franciscans offer 14 other programs to help Christians in the area with vocational training, housing, child sponsorships and musical scholarships, among others.

funeralThe Catholic Church’s aid to the region can be traced back to Pope Pius XI’s efforts in 1926 and Pope Paul VI’s 1964 trip to Jerusalem.

“If possible, the Church wants Christians to stay in the region,” said Marshall. “The Coptic Church, Orthodox, and Catholic Church seek to provide whatever aid it can locally.”

CNEWA, which works under the auspices of the Holy See, is active in the region. With offices in Lebanon and Jordan, they have been providing aid for decades to religious organizations throughout the Middle East.

One of the biggest complaints analysts have is that Western Christians are seemingly unaware of what’s happening to their brothers and sisters in the Middle East. They say it’s likely the result of poor media coverage and geography.

“Christian churches need to highlight this issue,” Marshall said. “European churches are more outspoken — perhaps because they are closer and have more historic ties.”

The analysts we spoke to for this article agree that the U.S. government does little to aid Middle Eastern Christians. The State Department has an office for religious freedom, which is rarely mentioned by the news media.

Legislatively, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) introduced a bill earlier this year — H.R. 301 — that would create a special envoy to promote religious freedom for minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.

Ultimately, however, the situation for Christians in the Middle East is increasingly desperate. Fleeing the region seems to be the only, if painful, solution. But many Christians, with a little help, will do anything to stay.

“In Israel, as you drive through, you often see olive trees in some people’s yards,” said Steve Ray, Catholic apologist, author and Israel pilgrimage guide. “The Palestinian Christians have a saying that they are like the olive trees. When the Persians killed them, they were pruned, but the fruit was better. All through history the Christians in the Holy Land have been pruned. So now, even though it is hard to stay, they will stay, be pruned, and bear good fruit.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

John Paul: Saint & inspiration

Legatus founder Tom Monaghan reflects on being in Rome for the Pope’s beatification . . .

Thomas Monaghan

I was privileged to be in Rome on May 1 for John Paul the Great’s beatification. I was there as a part of a pilgrimage led by Steve & Janet Ray and Legate Teresa Tomeo. The pilgrimage was handled by Legate John Hale’s Corporate Travel Co. They all did an amazing job!

During the trip, I pondered the far-reaching impact of this man, whom I and many other Legates had the privilege of meeting. Many things come to mind, yet it’s hard not to think back to the first time I met him. In 1987, I had the opportunity to receive Communion from him in his private chapel. I will always remember that experience, of looking into his eyes as I was about to receive the Eucharist. It truly served as the inspiration for Legatus. I had the idea for Legatus within hours of that encounter.

I don’t think we will fully comprehend the impact that this incredible man had on the Church and the world until we get to Heaven. How could we? His efforts over the years to implement the teachings of Vatican II, for example, encouraged the laity to be more active in the Church and to take more responsibility for evangelization and leadership in the Church. This corresponds directly to Legatus’ mission to study, live and spread the faith.

Tom Monaghan, Teresa Tomeo, George Weigel, Steve Ray

Many of John Paul’s encyclicals call all Catholics to know our faith and to spread it. He coined the phrase “new evangelization,” which became a rallying cry for a whole generation of Catholics. And his encyclical Laborem Exercens (On Human Work), which talks of the inherent dignity of work, is especially pertinent to us in Legatus. (See related story on page 15.)

This only scratches the surface of his impact on humanity. I invite you to thank God with me for the tremendous gift that Blessed John Paul has been to the Church — and to ask for his intercession for the world, the Church and for Legatus.

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

Pilgrimage brings the Bible to life

Legatus members’ nine-day tour of Israel’s holy sites has renewed their faith . . .

holyland-groupAs Legatus members packed up to head home from their nine-day Holy Land pilgrimage, many of them were at a loss for words to describe how they had been affected by walking in the footsteps of Jesus, Mary and the apostles.

“Bible reading and sermons are forever changed now that I have explored the very caves, tombs, mounts, seas and shorelines — the places known to Jesus, His family and followers,” said David Mossy, who accompanied his father, Wiley Mossy of Legatus’ Houston Chapter, on the pilgrimage.

The Mossys were among 47 Legatus members and family members who took part in the Oct. 10-19 pilgrimage led by award-winning author and filmmaker Steve Ray and his wife Janet, both registered tour guides in Israel.

Holy ground

Legates visited Nazareth, Galilee, Capernaum, the Mount of the Beatitudes, Gethsemane, Bethlehem and Jericho. Pilgrims walked the Via Dolorosa and visited the Holy Sepulchre. They renewed their wedding vows at Cana, floated in the Dead Sea and visited Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

Steve and Janet Ray, said Mossy, “emphasized that it was a pilgrimage, not sightseeing.” Mossy said that he and his father were “overwhelmed by the sacred nature” of their journey.

Lou Caravella and his wife Patty of Legatus’ Cleveland Chapter said they were so thrilled with the pilgrimage they would like to take another one.

“I knew it was going to be good, but it was far better than we expected or anticipated,” said Lou Caravella. “I hope we can go on another pilgrimage with our kids.”

Maurice Glavin, his wife Ann Maria, and their three sons were also part of the pilgrimage group. The Glavins, members of Legatus’ Wilmington Chapter, are on a year-long tour of Europe.

“We found the pilgrimage just a fantastic experience as a family,” said Maurice Glavin “That says a lot.”

Life changing

holyland-deadseaLegatus’ executive director, John Hunt and his wife Kathie, members of the Chicago Chapter, were first-time pilgrims to the Holy Land.

“This was a life-changing experience for me, for Kathie, and for everyone who made the commitment to come to Israel,” he said. “It was truly a spiritual, cathartic experience.”

David and Lisa Fischer of Legatus’ Fort Worth Chapter made the pilgrimage with their four young children — Emily, Megan, Henry and George.

“We went on the pilgrimage to give the kids a better sense of their faith, so they could experience the actual places in the Bible,” David Fischer said. “When we say a family rosary now, we have a visual picture of where that mystery took place. It makes it more real for all of us.”

Emily Fischer, who just turned 13, agrees. She said that even though floating in the Dead Sea was the coolest thing she did in the Holy Land, her experience in the Garden of Gethsemane was more powerful.

“We had Mass near the rock where Jesus sweated blood and saw the olive trees,” she said of the ancient trees, which could be more than 2,000 years old.

“It was amazing to be where Jesus was and to see how he lived and experience the heat and rocks and everything,” she added. “Now when I read the Bible, I have a picture in my mind of where it actually happened.”

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus Magazine’s editor.

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.

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