Sunday, April 22, 2007

Proud Day for Catholics in Turkey – and for us!

by Steve Ray on April 22, 2007

Today we finished in Smyrna (Izmir Turkey). We have been able to do everything needed plus were blessed in many other ways by Our Lord.

Today we shot the scenes on the Mediterranean Sea outside Ephesus. I was portraying the conversion of Justin Martyr. He was walking along the sea when approached by an old man who began to question Justin. After a long dialog, Justin converted to Christianity as the “only true philosophy.”  It was great fun reenacting in a sense, the dialog.

Yesterday we had shot all the footage for the port scenes (Ignatius on his way to martyrdom in Rome) and the scenes at the Tomb of St. John in Selçuk. We finished the scenes in St. Polycarp’s Church (with the piece of his skull), and at the location of the Temple of Artemis where I smashed an idol!

But the wonderful thing was this. I had asked my priest for a dispensation for missing Mass on Sunday because I thought it would be impossible. But when we arrived in Izmir we discovered that there was a special Mass in the Church of St. Polycarp for the ordination of a new priest.


 But you have to understand—this was a HUGE event. In this huge Muslim country with a population of 75 million—99% Muslim, there was only ONE Turkish priest. All the others are from Italy. We joined in the special Mass where Mesut Kalayci was ordained a Catholic priest. Every bishop and priest from Turkey was here for the ordination. I counted 2 archbishops, 27 priests, and several brothers and possibly a deacon or two. It was a grand affair.

Mesut Kalayci is a handsome, engaging, young and brilliant young priest. It was so nice to meet him and offer our congratulations. 

So, we met our Sunday obligation.


BUT, that was not all. We were invited by my good friend and former archbishop of Smyrna (Izmir), Msgr. Giuseppe Bernardini to Mary’s House for Mesut Kalayci’s first Mass in Ephesus on Sunday morning. The archbishop even asked if he could ride the one hour trip with us. Ah, well, of COURSE!

Priest.jpgSo, on Sunday morning we sat outside Mary’s House as the new priest celebrated Mass along with two archbishops and 27 priests from across the country of Turkey. It was another grand affair and we were all very blessed and impressed with the beauty and universality of the Catholic Church.

I have so much more to write but we have to get to sleep. Tomorrow we get us very early and fly to Rome to begin shooting the scenes of the Clement of Rome and the martyrdoms of Ignatius and Justin Martyr.

Please keep us in your prayers. Sts. Justin, Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius and Irenaeus, pray for us.

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Miracles–Where is the God of Polycarp?

by Steve Ray on April 22, 2007

Not sure how to begin, so much has happened in the last three days. But I will start with Miracles, then Monsignors, and finish with Ordinations—in Turkey!

The miracles I mention are just a few of the ones most noteworthy, but are not the sum total.

Miracle #1
Every year or so my back pops and I fall on the floor where I stay for several days. It is a family flaw. It happened two days before we left on this trip to film the Apostolic Fathers. I was worried I would never get on the plane. The day before we left my back was suddenly fine. It happened within a 20 minute period. The pain dropped 90% and we boarded the plane with narry a problem. Ask my family, such a thing rates as a miracle.

Miracle #2
We needed to film a crucial segment for St. Polycarp in his Church in Smyrna (Izmir Turkey). The past archbishop was a friend of ours but the new archbishop was difficult. It was a year’s process to get permission to film in the church. He demanded a personal letter from my bishop in Lansing. Bishop Mengeling was very helpful.

skull.jpgBut scheduling was a problem, the Archbishop of Izmir speaks only Italian so our Turkish agents were no help. Since I speak only English, I was very little help. I used the computer to translate the messages faxed back and forth. The answer was NO. Finally, a at the last minute, we got the OK. But it wasn’t until we knocked on the door that we were really sure.

(Picture: viewing the piece of Polycarp's skull)

AND, after appealing to St. Polycarp to intercede for us, we even gained access to the relic of St. Polycarp—a piece of his skull. We had only two hours to work and we finished filming within 2 minutes of our deadline. It was surely a miracle.

Miracle #3
We had tried to gain permission to film in the Agora in Smyna (Izmir) where St. John consecrated Polycarp bishop and where Polycarp then served as bishop for over 50 years. But permission was denied. We did not have enough time. Things are very bureaucratic in Turkey and there was little hope. Except by Janet and I who kept praying, asking St. Polycarp and trusting God. Our agent said “Impossible” (I still have the e-mails). The guide said it cannot happen. Other guides said “Impossible.”

The day before we were scheduled for the most important filming everyone was planning what to do as an alternative. My guide Okan stepped on the bus and said, “I have a gift for you.”

“What,” I said. “The Turkish government just sent me a message that you have permission to film in the Agora tomorrow.” Ah ha! I knew the Lord would not let us down. St. Polycarp was aware and concerned for our endeavor. We arrived on time, did our shoot perfectly and then—as soon as we were done three buses arrived full of kids ages 8-12. Again, it was a miracle because had the kids arrived earlier we would have been shut down.

Thank you Lord Jesus! And thank you St. Polycarp for interceding for us.  Remember, these were was just a few of the stunning heavenly interventions.