Pilgrimages

We have added three new pilgrimages for 2021. 

Do you know where the Catholic Church first started in the USA? The first Mass, the first Shrine and more? It was in St. Augustine Florida. Join us for a very historical pilgrimage, renewal of baptismal vows, some great meals and an afternoon to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean.

Where is the only approved Marian Apparition in the USA? It is in Wisconsin. Join us for the Shrines of Wisconsin and celebrate the Year of St. Joseph at his national shrine where we will have a consecration to St. Joseph. Cardinal Raymond Burke will join us.

What country can be called the 2nd Holy Land? It’s where Paul did much of his missionary work, St. John was bishop and Mary lived there. The 1st Eight Ecumenical Councils took place here. It is Turkey which is now open for American tourists. This is our first time to do this extensive trip. It is marvelous!

Visit our Pilgrimages page or contact our Reservations Team at 866-557-2364, or write them at FootprintsOfGod@ctscentral.net.

 

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People are ready to get out of the house. Go to a warm state that is open to tourists. Florida is warm and inviting.

Join us in St. Augustine Florida where Catholicism first came to America. Enjoy the history, the spirituality, the fellowship — and swimming in the ocean!

Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life will join us for Mass and dinner and a talk. Be inspired. Br. Kevin Peek will be our spiritual director.

Have a great pilgrimage, enjoy the sun, learn about the history of the Catholic Church in America, renew baptisms where the first Catholics were baptized and enjoy good food, hotels, fun and fellowship.

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Oberammergau: The Passion of a Vow
Michele Malia McAloon

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SATURDAY, MARCH 27, 2021

In 1633, halfway into the brutal conflict between Protestants and Catholics known as the Thirty Years War, a small Bavarian village made a plea for God’s mercy and protection against a raging pandemic. To keep the deadly virus at bay, the mountain-encircled Catholic community of Oberammergau carefully restricted access to their town from marauding soldiers and strangers. All was well, until a homesick villager snuck back home under the cover of darkness, bringing the dreaded pestilence.

Soon afterwards, eighty-four villagers succumbed to the disease. In desperation – and in abiding faith – the villagers gathered at the parish church and made a simple vow to God: if no more lives were lost, they would reenact, every ten years, the Passion of Christ. God answered their prayers. According to local lore, no more villagers were stricken by the plague.

The people of Oberammergau have continued to fulfill their vow for more than 375 years, evolving from a simple parish play to a UNESCO designated event. The commitment to the vow still stands at the heart of the Oberammergau passion play.

That vow has shaped a community in ways that would have been unfathomable to those who first made the oath. For the first 200 years, the play was a simple parish event held over a couple of days in the cemetery adjacent to the town church. By the 1800s, this quaint village play began to attract pilgrims culminating in 2010 when more than 500,000 people attended daily performances between May and October.

In a five-hour production that might be the envy of Broadway producers, the story of Jesus of Nazareth is presented from His entry into Jerusalem to His Resurrection. Throughout the performance, there is spoken dramatic text, with instrumental and choral accompaniment. Scenes designed to illustrate the interrelationship between the Old and New Testaments, in a typology foretelling the life of Christ, are presented throughout the play by silent actors acting out Biblical stories.

Christian Steuckl, a native of Oberammergau and the director since 1990, may offer some insight into the world’s fascination with the play. According to Steuckl, any dramatic portrayal of the Passion (the last five days prior to Christ’s crucifixion) attempts to answer Christ’s question: “Who do you think I am?” For almost four centuries, the reenactment has tried to answer the question posed to the Apostles and to every generation since.

Despite the worldwide popularity of the Passion play, it is still a completely local, community-based event. All who participate, from the actors who portray Jesus to the persons who tend the live animals, must be born in Oberammergau, or residents of Oberammergau for more than twenty years, or married to someone from Oberammergau (and have resided in the town for at least ten years).

Every aspect of the play is a hometown product: the costumes, the text, the lighting, and all the technical aspects; even the donkey upon which Christ rides into Jerusalem is from a local farm. Over 2400 of the 5000 citizens of Oberammergau are directly involved in the play.

Casting for the postponed 2020 production – and now for 2022 – created great furor in the world press since the next performance will include two Muslim men. Both are native to Oberammergau. Every role is double cast, of course. Judas will be played by Martin Schuster and Cengiz Gorur, an 18-year-old practicing Muslim. Abdullah Karaca, another Muslim, will be one of the two people playing the key role of Nicodemus.

Steuckl’s decision to cast these men along with Protestants and even atheists only makes sense in light of the question: “Who do you think I am?” Christ posed this question to all of humanity and all persons, regardless of creed, are called to answer this question.

During this year’s Ash Wednesday press conference, the simple humility and towering grandeur of the town’s vow was on living display. A two-hundred-year-old tradition dictates men and women begin growing their hair fifteen months prior to play season. The young mayor of Oberammergau, Andreas Rodl, himself a member of the play’s choir, decreed all those in the play, both men and women, are not to cut their hair or men to shave their beards until the end of 2022.

Christian Steuckl, the director, has joked that, every ten years, Oberammergau begins to look like a colony of hippies. There was a poignant reminder of how, in every decade, the reality of the times creeps into the play when the mayor counseled the male actors not to allow beard growth to get in the way of properly wearing the pandemic mask.

What began in the midst of plague has continued to be affected by plague: seasonal performances have been canceled twice due to the threat of disease. In 1920, when Germany was impoverished by World War I and in the midst of the ravages of Spanish flu, the play was postponed to 1922. The 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19 and will open May 14, 2022.

Frederick Mayet, one of the two actors who portrayed Jesus in the 2010 production and will repeat the same role in 2022. He is also head of the Passion play’s press relations, a striking man with light, penetrating blue eyes and reddish-blonde hair. It’s easy to detect the sublime sense of deep responsibility that Mr. Mayet feels in portraying the Son of God. He said the most difficult parts for him as an actor are Christ’s night in the Garden of Gethsemane and the physicality of the Crucifixion. For more than twenty minutes, the actor portraying Christ is harnessed to the Cross, outstretched arms supported by hooks.

Steuckl has described how fulfilling the vow has shaped his whole life. Both his father and grandfather played the role of Caiaphas. Mr. Steuckl remarked, jokingly, that sometimes he feels he was raised by Caiaphas. Early in his life, he set a goal to become the play’s director, although at one point he considered entering a seminary. Under his leadership, there have been many innovations. bringing a fresh light to Christ’s message of the Kingdom of God. Beneath Mr. Steuckl’s movie-star looks and easygoing jocularity lies a heartfelt dedication to portray how Christ’s mission of love is still valid today.

Over the centuries, the Passion Play has never been without controversy. From the decision to move the performance out of the church to the cemetery, to casting a married woman to portray the Virgin Mary, to Church-versus-town disputes over who controls the text – and, in recent decades, charges of antisemitism.

A retired American expat, who will attend his fifth seasonal performance in 2022, described the Oberammergau Passion Play as a microcosm, where all of human folly and wisdom come together, not unlike the drama that took place at the foot of the Cross. On the immense stage in Oberammergau, a cock’s crowing can be heard on a nearby farm – a visceral reminder of how fulfilling vows and commitments out of love for God and neighbor, in an imperfect world, from St Peter’s day to our own, may be a step toward eternity.

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Israel Invites Us Back – Soon!

March 25, 2021

We are going back to the Holy Land in September, November and over the Christmas break in December! Join us! Visit www.FootprintsOfGod.com for more info or to register on-line!
Contact our Reservations Team at 866-557-2364, or write them at FootprintsO…

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Join Steve Ray on a Daily Journey thru the Stations of the Cross

March 24, 2021

Journey to the Cross and Resurrection. A pilgrimage through the Stations of the Cross by Steve Ray. Let’s travel these final days together by sharing the journey of the 14 Stations of the Cross. From Sunday March 21st until – Easter Sunday, April 4th, we will meditate on the 14 Stations of the Cross with […]

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The Pain of Stolen Honey – John the Baptist was a Manly Man who Teaches us Many Things

March 22, 2021

A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. I know. I raised hives of bees as a boy and once I was stung 35 times in one day. And that was with protective equipment! Wild honey is […]

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Iraq in the Bible: You May be Surprised!

March 21, 2021

Israel is the nation most often mentioned in the Bible. But do you know which nation is second? It is Iraq! However, that is not the name that is used in the Bible. The names used in the Bible are Babylon, Chaldean, Land of Shinar, and Mesopotamia. The word Mesopotamia means “between the two rivers”, […]

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Dangerous Camels and the Mess they Leave Behind

March 16, 2021

Dangerous living the Bible in the lands of the Bible. This is a fun 30-second video of me messing with the camel in Haran Turkey where Abraham lived for a while before leaving for Canaan. It is also where Isaac got his wife Rebekah and where Jacob lived for twenty years. They all had camels […]

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Upcoming Pilgrimages – STAY TUNED

March 8, 2021

With international flights still at a virtual standstill and most countries still closed, we have two upcoming pilgrimages in the Good ‘Ol USA. To the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin in July and the beginning of Catholicism in St. Augustine Florida in April. Also, the 2nd Holy Land is open […]

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Mass at the Holy Sepulchre

March 2, 2021

Join us on our next pilgrimage. Visit our upcoming pilgrimage page at www.FootprintsOfGod.com.

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What did you think of your pilgrimage? Two pilgrims discuss their very different experiences!

February 25, 2021

A pilgrim who has traveled with us to multiple destinations wrote to thank us for our great trips. I thanked him for his encouragement. He wrote back, “I guess it is human nature, everyone has their make of car, favorite scotch, etc.  Unless you have experienced another tour, the best in this case, you have […]

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Update on Travel and Vaccines as of 2/24/21; Optimistic for Travel this Fall back to the Lands of the Bible and the Church

February 24, 2021

STEVE AND JANET RAY HERE, ALONG WITH OUR GOOD FRIEND AND ASSOCIATE, JOHN HALE, AT CORPORATE TRAVEL SERVICE. Hope springs eternal, particularly this Spring! As we continue our long Lent, we look forward to the celebration of the resurrection of our Savior. Our hope is in Him and Him alone! We will all have a […]

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Great time with Amer Shehadeh and his wife Omima

February 13, 2021

Most all of you know Amer Shehadeh, my partner, guide and good friend who lives in Nazareth in Israel. Our last trip together was February 2020 before the virus hysteria. We were one of the very last groups to leave Israel before they closed the airport. He was in Houston Texas today where I was […]

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Discovering the Place of Paul’s Shipwreck on Island of Malta on the Feast Day!

February 10, 2021

You would not have wanted to be with St. Paul today because February 10 is the Feast Day of the Shipwreck of St. Paul on Malta. I have been on ships in the Mediterranean many times and I make a practice each time of going out on the deck on a stormy night and imagining…. […]

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My Free St. Paul Timeline and Info on our St. Paul Cruise

February 2, 2021

Janet and I are leading our regular St. Paul Mediterranean Cruise and “Seminar at Sea” this October. We will be taking our 8 oldest grandkids. We are visiting 10 biblical sites related to St. Paul, Mary, St. John and more. We will start out from Athens, visiting Corinth, Thessaloniki, Berea, Neapolis, Philippi, Istanbul, Pergamum, Ephesus, the […]

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Nice News from a Family who Traveled with Us to Israel

January 21, 2021

Hi Steve and Janet- Here’s something positive for you. Our new granddaughter was baptized with the River Jordan water that we brought home in a plastic water bottle, as you suggested. The brown water settled with the silt going to the bottom. We put the water for the occasion and told the priest not to use […]

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