Videos Capture the Places Where Jesus WalkedZENIT
Steve Ray isn't just a tourist when he travels to the Holy Land and elsewhere in the Mideast.
considers himself a pilgrim a sojourner seeking the historical truth of
the Catholic Church in the places and events of its sacred past.
pilgrimages, Ray brings his wife, Janet, and a camera crew that films him sharing
the good news of salvation history and literally retracing the paths of Peter,
Mary, Moses and Jesus the four videos released to date in his 10-part series,
"The Footprints of God: The Story of Salvation from Abraham to Augustine" (Ignatius).
Ray shared with ZENIT why he travels to these sometimes-dangerous places
and how he hopes to fortify the faith of Catholics, young and old, by sharing
the story of salvation.
Q: What inspired you to start filming
your video series, "The Footprints of God"?
Shortly after converting from evangelical Protestantism to the Catholic
Church, our family took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome. We followed the
footprints of Our Lord and the apostles.
When we returned home I noticed
a big change in my children. I asked, "Why do you suddenly have such a passion
for Jesus and the Church?" Without hesitating they replied, "While visiting those
holy sites we realized in a profound way that Christianity is real historical
truth. Jesus really lived; he really died and rose again and we saw where
I wanted to bring that same profound reality to other Catholic
families; I wanted to see Catholics get excited about their faith.
actual moment we decided it should be an adventure video series was at 2 a.m.
about three years ago. From a sound sleep I sat bolt upright in bed. I shook my
wife awake and scared her half to death. "Janet," I said, "we have to make a 10-part
video series on the history of salvation from a Catholic perspective!" She responded,
"You're crazy! Go back to sleep!"
But I couldn't sleep. So I jumped out
of bed, sat at my computer and typed out the outline for the whole series.
What have you learned about your subjects by physically walking in
Ray: Living in 21st-century
America makes it difficult in many ways to relate to the real people and history
in the Bible.
We are 2,000 years removed from the land, languages and
customs that underlie our Christian faith all on the other side of the
world. By walking in sandals along their very footsteps I have learned many practical
and spiritual things about the heroes of the faith.
When walking through
the Sinai desert in the blistering sun with sand in my teeth I understood why
the Israelites grumbled in the wilderness. A night out in a fishing boat on the
Sea of Galilee gave me a great appreciation for the apostles and for many of the
stories of the New Testament. Once you've been there you never read the Bible
or hear the readings at Mass the same again.
Walking miles along dusty
roads or riding a donkey across rocky fields with flies buzzing around your head
caused me to constantly reflect on the fact that the Second Person of the Trinity
gave up the glory of heaven to struggle and suffer, to stub his toes on rocks
in Nazareth like I was doing, to experience sunburn and thirst in the Jordan Valley
like I was doing. I've gained a profound appreciation for the Incarnation.
Mary was not the sweet-smelling icon that we often see in art. Mary was not
a wealthy girl, and visiting Israel quickly made me realize that life was very
tough for a young Jewish girl in the first century.
Wearing rustic sandals,
Mary trudged along dusty paths with donkeys and camels. She worked hard with her
calloused hands. Mary did not have daily showers and modern conveniences, and
riding a donkey all day is hard work. Having studied her life on location from
Jerusalem to Ephesus has given me a great love for Mary the Jewish girl as much
as for Mary the Queen of Heaven.
What are some of the adventures you've encountered while filming this
Ray: I've always loved adventure
peppered with a little danger. When I was kid I always had broken bones and stitches.
The excitement never ends on this project.
While creating a burning a
bush in the Sinai desert for "Moses: Signs, Sacraments and Salvation," I was arrested
by Egyptian police. While trying to get the right aerial footage we unhappily
knocked a window out of an Egyptian Air Force helicopter over the Red Sea. Our
Israeli helicopter pilot crashed with a filming crew shortly after flying with
us it could have been us.
The Arabian stallion I was riding for
the opener of one documentary got in a fight with another stallion and with slashing
hooves he finally fell over backwards right on top of me. I've handled cobras,
stood among Palestinian militants with hoods and machine guns, waded in the Nile
and awoke one morning with 50 mosquito bites.
But very profound things
have happened as well. I'll never forget spending two nights locked in the Church
of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem with our filming crew. The midnight solitude
and beauty of that church is indescribable. We had the blessing of working and
praying at the very place where Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose again
and for two nights we had it all to ourselves.
How has your faith grown as you have visited these religious sites?
Ray: In the Holy Land I can never
consider myself simply a tourist. There is a much deeper dimension. I prefer to
use the word "pilgrim." In Israel I am, in a real sense, walking on sacred ground.
Even in Egypt, when God confronted Moses at the burning bush, he told Moses to
remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground.
we are often working filming, narrating, directing my wife, Janet,
and I never lose the sense of being in God's presence in a unique and real way.
I can recall many times when we've wept tears of joy, overwhelmed at the profound
realization of where we were standing. In these marvelous sites God was involved
in human history in a very unique way.
Why is it important for Catholics to see the sites of Church history?
Ray: Many people are afraid to visit
the lands of the Bible because of the current unrest, so we decided to bring the
Holy Land back to them. Every Christian should experience Jerusalem, Bethlehem,
Nazareth and the Jordan River.
Our faith is not a thing of fiction. It
is not just an interesting religion made up of fairy tales. It is truth rooted
in history in space and time. God exists and in the biblical lands he revealed
himself in a special way.
I don't know of anyone who has not come back
from a pilgrimage to the land of Our Lord who was not profoundly moved. My kids
were no exception.
I want Catholic kids to stay Catholic, to love their
faith, to know it is true and to live it out with vigor. I want adults to understand
and defend their faith. To be immersed in our history is to be firmly rooted in
It also gives us a much deeper appreciation for the Mass,
for the Scriptures and for the authority of the Church. All of these things have
their roots in the Holy Land.
Q: What audience are you trying to reach?
Ray: Our goal is to reach everyone.
The videos are intelligent and theological but they are also fun and adventurous.
They plumb the deep truths of the Christian faith but they do it in an entertaining
and quick-paced format.
One night I invited a large group to preview
our first video, "Peter, Keeper of the Keys." Among the group were two theology
professors and a whole lot of kids. Everyone watched the video with equal attention.
Even the kids laughed and asked questions. I was overjoyed because I realized
that our goal of reaching young and old alike had been achieved.
videos are being used to great advantage and fun by seminaries,
elementary schools, CCD and RCIA classes, families and even religious orders.
A month ago, Father Benedict Groeschel thanked me for making the series. He said
he always wanted to do something like this and now we have done it for him. I
took this as a great compliment.
Our goal is to cover the whole story of salvation. In the end, our
series will include four documentaries on the Old Testament, four on the New Testament
and two on the early Church.
You have already done videos on Peter, Mary, Moses and Jesus. Who will
be your subjects for the six subsequent videos, and why?
Our next video/DVD, scheduled for an April
2004 release, will be "Paul, Contending for the Faith." We have just returned
from four weeks of filming in six countries to get the story of St. Paul ready.
We have great adventures to share from Antioch and Tarsus in central Turkey, to
Athens, Corinth, Jerusalem and Rome.
We are currently writing the script
for "David and Solomon: Building the Kingdom." Following will be: "Elijah and
Elisha: Conscience of the Kingdom," "Abraham: Father of Faith and Works," "The
Church Fathers: Handing on the Faith," and "The Doctors of the Church: Defining
We have a few years to go and we are excited to bring all
the riches of our faith and history back home for Catholic families, parishes
K. Ray is the best selling author of Crossing
the Tiber, which documents his conversion to the Catholic faith, Upon
This Rock, his study on the primacy of Peter and the papal office and
Gospel, a bible study and commentary. He is a regular guest on Catholic
Answers Live and is currently producing a 10-video series The
Footprints of God: the Story of Salvation from Abraham to Augustine on
location in the Holy Land and surrounding countries. His web site is Defenders
of the Catholic Faith.
ZENIT is an International News Agency based in Rome whose mission is to
provide objective and professional coverage of events, documents and issues emanating
from or concerning the Catholic Church for a worldwide audience, especially the
Reprinted with permission from Zenit - News from Rome. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2003 Zenit