Prayer & Spiritual Life

Since today we are at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, I thought I share an e-mail I received from a man whose Protestant friend just returned from the Holy Land a bit disillusioned and skeptical. Here is the e-mail I received:

Hi Steve, Here’s the question in brief (read more if you have time). How do we know that the sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are authentic?

A Protestant friend of mine recently took a trip to the Holy Land and when he returned we had some discussions about the sites. He raised his doubts about the authenticity of some of the sites, and in particular about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He made some disparaging comments about “the liturgical church” and how they build churches on top of everything (in a tone as if they have been ruined or desecrated), and how they don’t even know that they are the real locations.

So my question to you: How do we know that these sites are authentic. I’m sure you don’t have time to give a full dissertation, but if you could point me to a good book or website I would appreciate it. Thanks for all you good work.

I responded briefly below. I had no time to craft my response carefully but wrote it in the few minutes I have. My next group is arriving and there is a lot to do here in Galilee to get ready.

Historical Progression of Church of Holy Sepulchre

Greetings from Galilee and the AUTHENTIC sites of Our Lord and Lady. I wrote three articles I hope you find helpful:

1) Holy Sites: Are these the Actual Locations.
2) Holy Ground: Thoughts on Visiting Israel.
3) Archaeology: The Stones Cry Out

My guess is your friend had a Jewish guide and like most of them he was an unbelieving skeptic. I listen to them speak to their groups and it is too often a travesty. People often leave with less faith than when they arrived due to the way the guides belittle Catholic sentiments, turning a tour into a political trip.

The site of the birth of Christ and Calvary and the Tomb are NOT up for questions (thought some Protestants have their own alternate site which is obviously not authentic, read about it in my book St. John’s Gospel). The Catholic sites are historically, archaeologically and biblically certain. They have been from the first centuries.

Our Group at Holy Sepulchre Learning and Praying at Authentic Sites

Most Protestants dislike them because they are “liturgical,” very Catholic and Orthodox. Protestants are the Johnny-come-latelys and as such they feel neglected and out of place in most of the holy sites. While Catholics celebrate the age-old Mass in the holy sites like we’ve done for 2,000 years, the Protestants are relegated to sitting under a tree reading the Bible and singing hymns, learning from their guides why no one really knows anything for sure.

Once I heard a Jewish guide say to a Catholic group in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre: “Here we are at what some people believe is the place Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead (he actually believes neither). No one knows if this is really the place. It is all a matter of your faith. OK, look around and let’s go to the next site.”

The Real Place the Resurrection Took Place

With our groups we give the reasons we KNOW it is the site based on good evidence and history and archaeology, we pray the Sorrowful Mysteries and gather in front of the Tomb for a Mass and as the priest comes out of the Tomb with the consecrated host we see Jesus come out of the Tomb again sacramentally.

I understand your friend since I see it every day. I feel sorry for those who’ve spent a lot of money to see this land and understand their faith and often go home less sure then when they came. It is not ALL groups but is all to frequent. I don’t want to hear from the exception to this travesty since I know there are exceptions, but I see the other far too often.

You can be sure about the sites (at least the major ones) and when I lead a group people are in tears and full of joy and discovery and go home better Catholics, sure of their faith and ready to die for Christ if need be.

We just dropped off one group and today pick up another group at the Tel Aviv Airport. We are excited to show them the sites, watch tears well up in their eyes, see daily conversions with a deeper love for Our Lord and Lady. We never tire of doing this because we BELIEVE and KNOW what we are doing is true, authentic and has an eternal weight of glory.

(I may be criticized by some for my disparaging comments. I do not intend to disparage but to get the pendulum back where it belongs. I want people to know what they are seeing and know why some come home more skeptical than they left.)


Martha wrote: “Hello Steve: I can relate….the first time we went to the Holy Land I felt somewhat the same way. However, 4 years later we returned, this time with Steve and Janet and everything became crystal clear…truly life altering. Hope to return soon, so much to absorb and learn with the right guides and teachers ( once again). Thanks for this refresher course!”


Two Favorite Quotes this Week

by Steve Ray on January 25, 2018

“My prayer is that when I die, all of hell rejoices that I am out of the fight.” – C.S. Lewis.

“Our faith is not on the pope, it is on Christ who is the foundation of the church.” Cardinal Francis Arinze


20 Things TO DO And NOT DO at Mass. These are not rules that will get you banished from the Church, but things that are mostly common sense — polite conduct to enhance our worship and that of those around us.

1. Fast before Mass. It is required that one fasts for at least 1 hour before receiving Holy Communion. The only exceptions are medicine, water or unless someone is ill and needs to eat sooner.

2. No Food and Drink in Church. The only exceptions would be milk for infants, water for the priest or choir (if discreet) and water for those who are ill. You may sip water just before you enter the church.

3. Men take your hats off. It is impolite to wear a hat into any church for a man. Additionally,  ladies and men, do not use sun glasses inside the church. You are in the presence of our Lord & God.

4. Never chew gum in church! It breaks your fast, it’s rude and it’s distracting!

5. Cross yourself with Holy Water on entering and leaving the church. This is a reminder of our Baptism, which made us members of Christ’s Church.

6. Dress modestly and appropriately. As Catholics we believe that God comes down to meet us at every Mass. Won’t you dress well to meet a king? That said remember that the mass is not a fashion show. And Christmas and Easter masses are not Milan Fashion week. Dress in a way that gives witness to your faith.

7. Show up at least a few minutes early and try coming as close to the altar as possible.  If you can’t be on time, then sit in the back so you don’t disturb others.

8. Cell phones should never be used in Mass for calls or texting. The ONLY exceptions are emergencies (big ones, not everyday ones) and if you are using the phone for readings the lectionary or the said prayers/ responses.

9. Gentlemen offer their seats to any lady who is standing. Some churches get packed. 

10. When we enter and leave Church, genuflect (bow your knee) toward the Tabernacle. Christ is present for our sake. By allowing our right knee to hit the floor, we acknowledge He is our Lord and God. If someone is physically unable to genuflect, then a bow is sufficient. During Mass, if you pass in front of the altar or tabernacle, bow reverently.

11. Sit quietly while in church. If you must talk do so as quietly and briefly as possible. Remember that your conversation might be disturbing someone who is in prayer. Sssshhhhhhhh. Most churches now have gathering spaces in the back for conversation.

12. Take loud children to the back. Every parent knows that sometimes the baby is going to have a bad day. Parents with young kids should sit on the end of a pew, if you can, so that you can take the kid to the back quickly. There is no reason to be embarrassed about having to quiet your child. Take the child to the back of the church immediately. It is worse to allow them to disturb others during Mass.

13. Prepare your offering before Mass. Christ tells us not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing when you make your offering. Keeping the basket while you get your wallet out can be quite a scene. Digging the basket for change is a big no no. Come to Mass with your offering prepared.

14. It is best not to read the bulletin during the actual Mass. Imagine if you invited a guest to your house and before dinner (or during) they decided to read a magazine instead of talking to you.

15. Respect the worship. Stand during the gospel reading and other set time during worship. Kneel at the consecration. It is part of worship. The only exceptions are fir the sick, people with knee problems, aged and those with infants. If you can’t kneel occupy a pew that does not obstruct the view of the Lord from those who do kneel.

16. Bow before receiving Holy Communion. Remember that you are before your Lord, show your respect with a profound bow from the hip.

17. Do not receive from the chalice if you are sick. This is an act of charity. Try to receive communion on the tongue. If you receive on the hand, check your hands after receiving the Lord so that no crumbs may fall to the ground.

18. Do not leave early unless there is an urgent issue. We should stay to the end of the recession and the hymn that accompanies it, if there is one. Remember who left the last supper early (Judas). We should show respect for God, for the priest and our fellow worshipers. 

19. Pray after Mass, if you can. It is a good custom, though not required. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving after Mass is over.

20. Leave quietly. We encourage you to visit others especially your pastors as a part of Christian fellowship, but do so once you are outside of the main sanctuary of the church so you won’t disturb others who want to stay and pray.


Mary and the Other Body of Christ; How Many People were in the Upper Room and Why?

January 5, 2018

Since we are IN this room today, I thought I would share this again… The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous […]

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“The Sinner’s Prayer” – All You Need to Get to Heaven?

January 3, 2018

When I was a kid, the “Sinner’s Prayer” was a big deal. It was at the heart of everything we knew about Jesus and getting saved. It was almost used as an incantation. My mom coached me to pray the Sinner’s Prayer when I was 4 years old. We knelt together in front of the […]

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My Defiant and Proud Declaration for My Few Remaining Years

January 1, 2018

I just turned 63 years old. At 60 it is a time to examine what I’ve done and what I will do if God grants me a few more decades. It is sobering to hit a milestone and realize that – at best – I will have about twenty strong years left, maybe thirty. What […]

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New Year Choice – the Narrow Gate

December 31, 2017

Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13–14)

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Hey Steve: Jesus Taught us to Pray to the Father Alone, not Dead Saints

December 12, 2017

 Barry wrote in my combox today – in response to my post entitled “Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?”  Resources about Communion of the Saints.  I thought I would respond briefly. Barrry wrote: Would you please read the Lord’s prayer. Jesus prayed it. He was giving an example on how to pray. […]

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Does God Tempt Us to Sin? Should we Change the Words of the “Our Father” Prayer?

December 11, 2017

There are a lot of discussions this week about the Pope’s comments on the wording of the “Our Father” prayer, especially the line “Lead us not into temptation.” He said it gives the wrong impression — that God Himself leads us into sinful temptations. Of course, taken at face value without understanding the nuances of […]

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Mary a Mediatrix? Isn’t there just One Mediator?

November 6, 2017

The Bible says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). Yet Catholics refer to Mary as a Mediatrix (feminine form of the word mediator). So, isn’t that prima facie evidence that Catholics make up doctrines, worship Mary and disregard the Bible? […]

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Sherlock Holmes an Idolater – Praying to People?

October 31, 2017

Last night my wife and I were watching an episode of Sherlock Holmes on TV. He has always been one of my favorite characters and I can remember reading all the stories to our kids as they grew up. On TV I think Jeremy Brett does the best portrayal and it is always a delightful […]

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Tears Singing Good Ole Baptist Hymns

October 25, 2017

The old Baptist hymns still stir me and bring tears to my eyes. They take me back to my childhood when the family would dress up, us kids in our little suits with cheesy ties and short-legged pants (I’m the one in the plaid jacket). Dad would always give us candy during the service and […]

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Was He Ready to Die?

October 19, 2017

It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul, it was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different. Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They […]

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Choirs of the Angels in Three Hierarchies

October 9, 2017

Clever little diagram to show the choirs of angels. We have a pack of dogs, a flock of birds, a forest of trees – the word used for groups of angels is “choir.” According to many theologians, like St. Thomas Aquinas, there are 9 choirs of angels in 3 hierarchies. Visit for more things like this.

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Kissing Statues

September 30, 2017

We are in Jerusalem today ready to pick up our group of 50 people at the airport in a few hours. When I woke up this morning to the Muslim “call to prayer”, church bells ringing and horns honking I read this email that came from the United Kingdom… It read, “Hi Steve! I know […]

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Should This Baby Be Aborted? You Decide

September 13, 2017

In the United States, there are many situations in which abortions are recommended, even encouraged by family, counselors, medical personnel and even religious advisors. Sometimes an abortion is recommended because of difficult circumstances and other times simply for convenience. Here are four cases for you to consider. Should these babies be aborted? You decide! Four […]

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