Steve’s Writings

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 thing to associates of an executed criminal.

They were also anxious about the promise. The only thing they knew about God descending in fire was the experience of their ancestors at Mount Sinai. When that happened they all ran and hid and said to Moses, Never let God speak to us again; you go talk with Him and come back and tell us what the said.

Pentecost was approaching. Pentecost means “the 50th day.” Fiftieth day from what? From the Passover. Almost fifty days ago the Passover lambs had been slain, and so had THE Passover Lamb. Then there was the forty mystery days when Jesus was gone but not gone—with them but not with them, at least not like before. And he kept just appearing and then disappearing.

He taught them a lot in those forty days, He had breathed on them, gave them power to forgive and retain sins, fed them loaves and fish, appointed Peter as his shepherd, commanded them to go out from Jerusalem to the world. He explained to them much about the Kingdom of God and their tasks as His emissaries.

The last meeting was the most unusual of all. He answered a few questions, gave a few instructions and without even a formal Good-bye He started going up—and continued going up until all they saw was the bottom of his sandals as he disappeared into a cloud. Daniel 7:13-14 says he went back to the glory of heaven.

They looked at each other with obvious concern on their faces—they were fearful. They locked themselves in the Upper Room to pray as He had commanded. They were praying for what they feared—fire upon a mountain, Mount Zion. They prayed for nine days, the first Novena, before the promise of the Holy Spirit fell.

We are specifically told that there were about 120 people in the room. Actually the word is “names” not people. How strange. Can you imagine me saying, “About 120 names came on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land”? This made me curious so I looked up 120 in early Jewish literature and law. Sure enough, my research paid off.

In Israel is a group of Jews desiring to leave the big city and start their own new community they needed a minimum of 120 names on a list. What was happening here in the Upper Room? A new community was being started. The word “church” in the New Testament is ecclesia which means “a group of people called out.” Even today the Knessett (lawmaking body in Israel) is made up of 120 representatives.

Mary is listed among the believers in that Upper Room. It was important that she is listed among the names with others. She is the mother of Jesus. She gave birth to him in Bethlehem as was, in a sense, giving birth to him again on Pentecost. What is our affectionate term for Pentecost? Can you sing “Happy Birthday, to you…”? Yes, it is the Birthday of the Church. What is being born? The Mystical Body of Christ. Who is there for the birth? The mother of course. Mothers have to be present when their child is born. Mary is the mother of Jesus the God-Man and Mary is the Mother of the Church, the Body of Christ. She was necessarily present at both births.

Mary was also there because the others were afraid of the descent of God in fire on this new mountain. I am convinced they trembled in fear not only of the Jews and Romans outside, but of the prophesied “baptism of fire” within—as they wondered and feared that might be. The gentle breeze was about to become a rushing wind.

But Mary was there to calm their anxieties. I bet she said something like, “Don’t be afraid my friends, the Holy Spirit has already overshadowed me and He was pure love. Just wait until you are bathed in His love!” The gentle breeze became a rushing wind but it was warm and

After nine days of praying the Holy Spirit fell in fire on the tenth day—which was the 50th day from the death of the Passover Lamb Jesus on the cross. The Jewish festival of Pentecost also celebrated the first fruits of the harvest.

Remember, Jesus said he was like a grain of wheat that would be buried in the ground. The grain must be buried and die to bear its fruit. Jesus died, was buried in the ground and rose from the dead as the first fruit. Now on the “Feast of First Fruits” the first of the harvest is brought to God. We learn that 3,000 people were added to the Church that day—all in keeping with the tremendous symbolism and deeper meaning to all these events.

And with these deep mysteries and truths we are just scratching the surface. Come to the Holy Land with us, get out your Bibles and study books (or Verbum Catholic Bible Study software) and dig deeper. “There is gold in them there hills” for those with eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts and minds to learn. Enter promo code STEVERAY for a 15% discount.

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As a Protestant, I went to an Evangelical church that changed an important and historical word in the  Apostles Creed. Instead of the “holy, catholic Church,” we were the “holy, Christian church.” At the time, I thought nothing of it. There was certainly no evil intent, just a loathing of the Catholic Church and a distinct desire to distance ourself from its heresy and man-made traditions. 

 I assumed that early on Catholics deviated from “biblical Christianity” so they simply invented a new word to describe their new society. Since we Evangelicals were supposedly the ones faithful to the Bible we had no interest in the word catholic since it was found nowhere between the covers of the Bible. It was a biased word loaded with negative baggage so we removed it from the Creed. 

 I should have asked myself “Where did the word catholic come from, and what does it mean?” Was I right to assume that Roman Catholics invented the word to set themselves apart from biblical Christianity? 

 A short and interesting investigation will turn up some valuable information. Let’s start with an understanding of doctrinal development and the definition of catholic, then  let’s “interview” the very first Christians to see what they thought of the Church and the word catholic and then we will study the Bible itself. 

 How Doctrines and Words Develop
The development of doctrine is not just a Catholic phenomenon. It is also a fact among Protestants and all religions or theological traditions. Over time, theological words develop to help explain the deeper understanding of the faith. As Christians ponder the revelation passed on by the apostles and deposited in his Church the Church mulls over God’s Word, thinking deeper and deeper. It is not unlike peeling the layers away from an onion as one goes deeper to the heart. 

 Development of doctrine defines, sharpens, and interprets the deposit of faith. The Bible is not a theological textbook or a detailed church manual, such as say a catechism or study guide. The Bible’s meaning is not always clear as St. Peter tells us (2 Pet 3:15?16). Thirty-three thousand competing Protestant denominations also make this fact apparent as they fail to agree on what the Bible says. It takes the authority of a universal Church and the successors of the apostles to formulate the doctrines of the faith. As an Evangelical, I was naïve enough to think I could recreate the “theological” wheel for myself.

  To illustrate doctrinal development, let’s look at the word trinity. The word trinity never appears in the Bible, nor does the Bible give explicit formulas for the nature of the Trinity as commonly used today, such as “one God is three persons,” or “three persons, one nature.”  Yet, the word Trinity, as developed within the Catholic Church, is an essential belief for nearly every Protestant denomination. The first recorded use of the word trinity (trias) was in the writings of Theophilus of Antioch around the year a.d. 180.  Although not found in the Bible, the early Church developed words such as Trinity, which are used to define and explain basic, essential Christian doctrines. 

Interestingly, while many Protestants object to the idea of development of doctrine within the Catholic Church, they seem to have no problem with developments in their own camp—even novelties and inventions. Take for example the Rapture, another word not found in the Bible and not used in any theological circles until the mid-19th century. After a prophetic utterance from two women at a Scottish revival meeting, the new doctrine of the Rapture spread like wildfire through England and America.

 It was the Catholic Church that defined the Blessed Trinity, the divinity and humanity of Christ—the hypostatic union of two natures in the one divine person of Jesus—, salvation, baptism, the Blessed Eucharist, and all the other doctrines that have been the bedrock of the Christian faith. It is also the Catholic Church that gave birth to the New Testament—collecting, canonizing, preserving, distributing, and interpreting them. 

As a Protestant I was quite willing to unknowingly accept the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the closed canon of the  New Testament, etc., but I willfully rejected the full teaching of the Catholic Church. I now realize that it is in the Catholic Church that we find the fulness of the faith and the visible, universal body of Christ.

 The Word “Catholic” Defined
However, we have yet to define the word catholic. It comes from the Greek katholikos, the combination of two words: kata- concerning, and holos- whole. Thus, concerning the whole. According to the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, the word catholic comes from a Greek word meaning “regarding the whole,” or more simply, “universal” or “general.” Universal comes from two Greek words: uni- one, and vertere- turning. In other words, a “one turning”, “revolving around one,” or “turned into one”. The word church comes from the Greek ecclesia which means “those called out,” as in those summoned out of the world at large to form a distinct society. So the Catholic Church is made up of those called out and gathered into the universal visible society founded by Christ.

In its early years, the Church was small, both in geographically and numerically. For roughly the first decade the Church was made up exclusively of Jews in the area of Jerusalem. The word catholic hardly seemed to apply. But as the Church grew and spread across the Roman Empire, it incorporated Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, Romans, freemen, and even slaves—men and women from every tribe and tongue. But by the third century, oneout of ten people in the Roman Empire was a Catholic. Just as the word Trinity was appropriated to describe the nature of God, so the term catholic was appropriated to describe the nature of Christ’s body, the Church. 

But let’s get back to the history of the word catholic. The first recorded use of the word is found very early in Christian literature. We find the first instance the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch who was a young man during the time of the apostles and the second bishop of Antioch following Peter. Ignatius was immersed in the living tradition of the local church in Antioch where the believers in Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). He was alive early enough to know the apostles and was taught and ordained directly by the apostles. 

From the apostles St. Ignatius learned what the church was from the apostles themselves. From them he learned how it was to function, grow, and be governed. History informs us that St. Peter was the Bishop of Antioch at the time; in fact, Church Fathers claim that St. Ignatiuis was ordained by St. Peter himself.Ignatius must have worshiped with Peter and Paul and John. He lived with or near them, and was an understudy of these special apostles. St. Ignatius of Antioch is known and revered as an authentic witness to the tradition and practice of the apostles. 

 In the existing  documents that have come down to us, St. Ignatius is the first to use the word catholic in reference to the Church. On his way to Rome, under military escort to the Coliseum where he would be devoured by lions for his faith, he wrote, “You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8).  

 Another early instance of the word catholic is associated with St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who used the word many times. Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John just as St. John was a disciple of Jesus. Like Ignatius, Polycarp also suffered the martyr’s death in a coliseum in a.d. 155. In the Martyrdom of Polycarp, written at the time of Polycarp’s death, we read, “The Church of God which sojourns in Smyrna, to the Church of God which sojourns in Philomelium, and to all the dioceses of the holy and Catholic Church in every place” (Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrnam, Preface)  

 Later in the same book it says, “When Polycarp had finished his prayer, in which he remembered everyone with whom he had ever been acquainted . . . and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world.” They then gave him up to wild beasts, fire and finally, the sword. The epistle then concludes, “Now with the Apostles and all the just [Polycarp] is glorifying God and the Father Almighty, and he is blessing our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world” (8).

 So we clearly see that early in the second century Christians regularly use the word catholic as an established description of the Church.  From the second century on we see the term catholic being used consistently by the theologians and writers. One can easily conclude that catholic was a very early description of the Church, probably used by the apostles themselves

 St. Augustine in the  fourth century, relaying the tradition of the early Church, minces no words asserting the importance and wide-spread use of the term catholic. He writes, “We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church which is Catholic, and which is called Catholic not only by her own members but even by all her enemies” (The True Religion, 7, 12). And again, “[T]he very name of Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called Catholic, when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house” (Against the Letter of Mani called “The Foundation”, 4, 5).

 The early usage and importance of the word can also be seen by its use in both the Apostles and the Nicene Creeds. If you were a Christian in the first mellenia you were a Catholic, and if you were a Catholic you recited the Creeds affirming the “one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Unhappily, some people today try to make a distinction between Catholic with a capital “C” and catholic with a small “c”, but such a distinction is a recent development and unheard of in the early Church.

 Biblical Understanding of the word “Catholic”
Jesus commissioned his apostles with the words “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:19, 20). As Frank Sheed reminds us, “Notice first the threefold ‘all’—all nations, all things, all days. Catholic, we say, means ‘universal.’ Examining the word ‘universal,’ we see that it contains two ideas, the idea of all, the idea of one. But all what? All nations, all teachings, all times. So our Lord says. It is not an exaggerated description of the Catholic Church. Not by the wildest exaggeration could it be advanced as a description of any other” (Theology and Sanity [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1993], 284).

 Jesus used the word church twice in the gospels, both in Matthew. He said, “I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18). He didn’t say churches as though he were building a subdivision; nor did he imply it would be an invisible church made up of competing groups. He was going to build a visible, recognizable church. And in Matthew 18:17 Jesus said that if one brother offends another they were to take it to “the Church”. Notice the article “the” referring to a specific entity. Not “churches” but one visible, recognizable church that can be expected to have a recognizable leadership with universal authority. 

 One can see the sad state of “Christendom” today by comparing Jesus’ words about “the Church” with the current situation. If a Methodist offends a Baptist, or a Presbyterian offends a Pentecostal, which “church” do they take it to for adjudication? This alone demonstrates the problem when 33,000 plus denominations exist outside the physical bounds of the “one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Jesus expected there to be one universal, authoritative, visible and Catholic Church to represent him on earth until his return.

 Just before he was crucified, Jesus prayed not only for the universality and catholicity of the Church, but for her visible unity:

 “[T]hat they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that  You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me” Jn 17:21?23 NASB).

 The early Church understood Jesus’ words. What good was an invisible, theoretical, impractical unity? For the world to see a catholic unity, the oneness of the Church must be a visible, real, physical, and visible reality. All of this the Catholic Church is. Since the earliest centuries Christians have confessed that the Church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” One because there is only one, visible, organic, and unified Church; holy because she is called out of the world to be the Bride of Christ, righteous and sanctified; catholic because she is universal, unified, and covers the whole world; apostolic because Christ founded her (Mt. 16:18) through his apostles, and the apostles’ authority are carried on through the bishops. Through the centuries, this creed has been the statement of the Church. 

 In these last days, Christians need to stand confident and obedient in heart of the Catholic Church. She has been our faithful Mother, steadfastly carrying out the mandate of Jesus Christ for 2,000 years. As an Evangelical Protestant I thought I could ignore the creeds and councils of our Mother, the Church. I was sadly mistaken. I now understand that Jesus requires us to listen to His Church, the Church to which he gave the authority to bind and to loose (Mt 16:19; 18:17)—the Catholic Church, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).

 Steve Ray is the author of Crossing the Tiber, Upon this Rock, and St. John’s Gospel. You can contact him at his website at


Purgatory? Doesn’t that Deny the Work of Christ?

by Steve Ray on September 29, 2015

What’s the Deal with Purgatory?
by Steve Ray

Purgatory4Isn’t the finished work of Christ sufficient? Didn’t he pay for all my sins? Why the heck do Catholics teach that we have to suffer in Purgatory for our sins? Plus, the Bible never mentions purgatory so it must be an unbiblical doctrine, right.

Wow! Sounds like me back in my old days — before I discovered the fullness of the Faith in the Catholic Church. I used to argue like this against Catholics because my Baptist tradition told me so.

(Picture at bottom: Communion of Saints with the Mass in the center: 1) above the Church Triumphant in heaven; 2) middle the Church Militant on earth, and 2) below the Church suffering — being purified in Purgatory.)

After converting to the Catholic Church an a Baptist asked me why we believe in Purgatory so I wrote an explanation using many examples like hitch hiking in the Alps, driving off the road and more.

Plus, from my old Baptist tradition, what could St. Paul possibly mean when he said he suffers to “fill up that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col. 1:24)? That was one of the verses I had to “blip over” when I was a Baptist–many don’t even see the verse!

Anyway, for my response to the Baptist antagonist and other helpful information on Purgatory . . .

-For my letter explaining Purgatory, click here.
-For Jimmy Akin’s explanation, click here. For Catholic Answers, click here.
-Patrick Madrid’s article, click here.
-For more such articles and letters, click here.


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What Do We Mean by “Unanimous Consent of the Fathers”

August 7, 2015

Unanimous Consent of the Fathers By Steve Ray The Unanimous Consent of the Fathers (unanimem consensum Patrum) refers to the morally unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers on certain doctrines as revealed by God and interpretations of Scripture as received by the universal Church. The individual Fathers are not personally infallible, and a discrepancy by [...]

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Salvation by Faith Alone?

July 30, 2015

Since the days of Martin Luther it has been popular to reduce salvation to a sound bite. Salvation is not by works but by “faith alone.” However, the Bible seems to have another idea. In my book CROSSING THE TIBER I mention a few passages from Scripture to give a more biblical perspective. Here is [...]

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Steve’s Short Story “The Last Nightmare” Might Scare the Hell Out of You!

May 23, 2015

The Last Nightmare A Short and Terrifying Story by Steve Ray Everything went blank for a moment, but that moment seemed like eternity. He felt a motion, not with wind and breeze, but a motion none the less. He was traveling, moving, floating, transcending-he wasn’t really sure. The sudden blackness gave him time to regain [...]

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Meet St. Paul as he Writes to the Romans; A Brief Study to Make it Easy

April 12, 2015

I love St. Paul and love to write about him and his epistles. I also enjoyed traveling through six countries filming his life story and theology. St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is often seen as impossible to understand except by theologians — and most skip right over this masterpiece. With hopes that you will [...]

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How Many Denominations are Too Many?

March 29, 2015

I am rushing to get packed — my wife and I leave next Monday for Portugal (Fatima), Spain (Avila) and France (Lourdes) with a group of 65 excited pilgrims. You will be able to join us by video for a Virtual Pilgrimage right here on this blog. Each night, Lord willing, I will upload video [...]

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The Cross & the Crucifix: Letter to a Fundamentalist

December 21, 2014

The Cross & the Crucifix (From a letter Steve wrote to a Evangelical Protestant who asked about the Catholic Crucifix) Dear Evangelical Friend: You display a bare cross in your home; we display the cross and the crucifix. What is the difference and why? The cross is an upright post with a crossbeam in the [...]

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Catholic Church: “Don’t Read the Bible!”

November 8, 2014

We often hear that the Catholic Church has forbidden the reading of the Bible! Have you heard this? Yeah, me too! But, this is another one of those big myths which has worked its way into the popular dialog but one that has not been proved from Church teaching and documents. There are two good [...]

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Finalizing My Book on Genesis…Here are a Few Favorite Paragraphs about Creation

July 5, 2014

Here are a few paragraphs from my new book on Genesis which is nearly done. Genesis 2:7 is foundational and crucial to the whole story of the cosmos, Man and salvation. God takes dust or clay from the ground and like a potter he fashions a human being. The scientific formulas used by God still [...]

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So, Why is Abraham the Father of our Faith?

May 19, 2014

To purchase Steve Ray’s Talk “Abraham: Father of Faith & Works” on CD or MP3 visit Well for starters, let’s see how he DID or DIDN’T respond to God when called to leave his homeland and go to a place that God would show him. Let’s put ourselves in his sandals and see what WE [...]

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Do Catholics Worship Mary?

May 7, 2014

In response to the show I did with Drew Mariani on Relevant Radio: I thought it would be a good time to respond to an e-mail I received a while ago. It was a questions from a friend wrote to ask me for my take on Mary. He was corresponding with someone that said Catholics [...]

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The Trail of Blood or Baptist Successionism

May 3, 2014

The Trail of Blood by Steve Ray What is the history of Baptists? Can they trace their roots back to the 1st century? Many ”fundamentalist” Baptists believe they can. Are they correct? There is a booklet that is very popular among this fundamentalist crowd. It is entitled “The Trail of Blood”. The booklet claims that Catholics persecuted the [...]

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Follow Steve in Twitter

March 19, 2014

I can’t put everything on my blog that I can quickly share on Twitter. Plus, Twitter notifies all my followers immediately of everything I share on my blog. Ain’t technology grand? If you want to keep up with all our adventures, blog posts, pictures and videos, pilgrimages and other fun stuff – as well as [...]

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God said “Please”; Abraham said “OK”

February 2, 2014

Studying Scripture like this is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. Nice little tidbits pop out, like the one Which I share from you while visiting the sites related to Abraham in Hebron in the Palestinian a West Bank. When God said to Abraham: ”Take Isaac, your only son, the one whom [...]

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