Pilgrimages

Pilgrimages Compared to Car Dealerships

by Steve Ray on April 22, 2019

There are two big issues people struggle with before going to Israel: safety and price.

We will deal with safety later, but let’s deal first with price.

You’ll notice that my prices are typically $500 – $1000 more than other pilgrimages. If you compare prices on the website you’ll find this to be true. I am a businessman and not ashamed of our price — but quite proud of it. Why?

If two people visit auto dealerships to buy the same car they may find the price to vary by several thousand dollars. Why the different price for the same model car?

At Dealership A, the buyer gets a cheaper price but finds out the tires are extra, the gas tank is empty, the paperwork is not completed and will take another two weeks to complete. They offer you a pittance as a trade-in on your old car. The new car has never been cleaned nor the stickers removed from the windows, etc. The warranty is only for six months. The sales person is hardly around when you need them.

At Dealership B, at this quality dealership, the tires are included, the car is immaculately clean inside and out, the gas tank is full, the paperwork is all prepared requiring only a simple signature. They also offer you a nice price on your old car in return. The salesman gives you his cell phone so you have instant contact. The warranty is for five years. On the front seat you find a fine bottle of wine for you to enjoy your purchase when you arrive home.

A true story: We were walking through the streets of Jerusalem. Two friends who had planned their pilgrimages together ended up on two different roups. They met in passing in Jerusalem.

The other guy yelled to his friend in our group, ” Hey Tom, I found a better price!”

Our pilgrim yelled back, “Hey Jim, you might have gotten a cheaper price, but I got a better deal!”

Not all pilgrimages are created equal. Some go for a cheap introductory price to lure buyers — others go for value.

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Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 9.11.54 AMWe have a special Advent Pilgrimage to Italy in early December this year AND LIZ IS OUR GUIDE!

Take a look at this video to see Liz’s amazing knowledge, passion for the Catholic Faith and eloquence. Enjoy this amazing video.

To join our upcoming pilgrimages, visit our page here. We will spend two nights in Assisi, a day in Lanciano to see the amazing Eucharistic Miracle and a day in Manoppello to see the facecloth of Christ. We will have Mass in front of both these miracles.

We will enjoy these sites again as part of our St. Paul Cruise in September 2020 and again at both of our Oberammergau Germany pilgrimages.

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It looks different today, but the place is the same. It is darker now, covered with a dome that blocks the sun. There is no grass, no hillside, no trees waving their leaves nearby.

Instead there are the hushed voices of hundreds of people, the Muslim call to prayer echoing in the distance and the smell of incense in the air. It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and the uneven stone floor.

Hundreds enter with you but most stop inside the massive doors not quite sure what to do now. There are no signs or directions, only the imposing sense of having arrived and awe-inspiring columns and pillars, passageways and stairs. Now what?

 Two thousand years ago the appearance was very different. No people swarmed the site and all that could be heard was the groaning of men hanging by torturous nails from rough-hewn crosses of wood. The few people who had to pass this way hurried along without much of a glance. The scene was too horrible and too common.

For all its morbidity the location was in a garden of sorts. But the executions that took place in this garden outside the city walls prevented it from being used by families as a place to picnic. The tombs nearby were not the kind of surroundings for children at play. But it was a garden with a gardener and it had a specific use.

Today there were three men hanging in this uninviting garden. Only a few curious on-lookers and friends lingered nearby. The criminals had paid the price for their crimes and not many gave them a second look. Rumor had it though, that the one in the middle was a bit unusual. Pilate had come from Caesarea and had convened a special trial to prevent a riot from taking place in the city. Word had it the the man in the middle was killed even though he had done no wrong. He was killed for expediency to keep the peace.

It was not long before a small contingency of men arrived with the necessary supplies needed to prepare his body for burial. They seemed uninterested in the two thieves on the left and right but went straight for the man in the middle. He was a mess. The soldiers must have really had their sport with him back at the Antonia Fortress. His naked body hid none of their sadistic pleasures.

He was taken from the cross. His mother was there, one of the few left to view the sickening spectacle. A rich man had taken interest in this corpse and placed it in a tomb he’d recently cut into the side of the rocks for himself. Tombs had chambers and the dead were laid on flat niches carved into the stone. Only the wealthy could afford such a burial.

As the sun made it’s final dip below the hills to the west, the men exited the tomb with blood still on their hands and they rolled a massive stone in front of the tomb to keep others from entering and to keep the stench inside as the flesh began to decompose. The deed was done, the aftermath cleaned up and the body buried. It was over.

The organ begins its thunderous pulse through the ancient building as words in Latin are sung, not with the polished precision of an accomplished choir but with the often discordant notes sung by regular folks. Millions of people from ever language, tongue, tribe and nation of the earth have gravitated to this one-time garden. Many have spent their life savings to come here.

Others, especially in centuries gone by, have spent months on tossing ships and trudging through hot deserts deprived of all creaturely comforts just for this moment — the moment of stepping through these massive doors to the sound of Latin, the chanting of the monks and the pulsing of the organ.

Many have backed their way out to take a second look. How could this and the garden be the same place. There is no physical comparison. Yet they are the same place. The hill on which the crosses stood in the morbid garden is still here. Devotion and love have changed its appearance over the centuries. There are now oil lamps, altars, candles, statues and ancient icons and mosaics depicting the scene and interpreting its meaning for untold millions.

Jesus hung on a cross on this rocky crag of a hill two thousand years ago. I tell my pilgrims, “Get in line, step up to that altar, bow down and move under the altar. Put you hand down into the hole and you will feel the stone where the foot of the cross was standing. Remember, if you put your hand there 2,000 years ago, it would come up sticky with his blood.”

A statue of Mary to the right side, reminds us she was one of the few stragglers that lingered after the crucifixion. He statue is encased in glass and the artist was truly an artist. Her face is haunting. Her eyes have a great peace mixed inextricably with a stare of horror. It is obvious she trusted the plan of God but was still wracked with pain at the death of her Son. You cannot pull your eyes away from the sword jutting out of her chest. Thirty three years earlier the prophet Simeon had told this young mother that a sword would pierce her soul as well.

And not a stone’s throw away the place of the cross is still, even after two millennia, the tomb where the body was laid. It doesn’t look like a tomb carved into a rocky hillside. It is an obtrusive metal framework holding up stones blacked by centuries of soot from candles and olive oil lamps. Again, it is love and devotion that changed its appearance. It is love because from this tomb everything changed. No science fiction writer or Greek philosopher could have conceived of such an story. Sometimes truth is stranger that fiction.

After the men left the garden long ago everyone thought it was over — it was done. He was dead and buried and it was time to go on in life without their friend. But it was not over. It had only just begun. In the darkness of the morning two days later something happened that changed the world and all of eternity forever. With the massive stone still in place and guarded by Roman soldiers, the dead body sat up, romoved the heavy stone and stepped out alive.

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Announcing our Popular Family Christmas Holy Land Pilgrimage

April 12, 2019

Our Family Christmas Holy Land Pilgrimage has become very popular!  It is amazing to watch the kids interact over these eight days and the impact on their spirituality is tremendous. Check out our trip this year! Convenient to have the dates over Christmas break! The dates are December 29 – January 7, 2020. Our priest […]

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Real Stations of the Cross discussed on Relevant Radio

April 2, 2019

Steve Ray joined John Harper on Morning Air (Relevant Radio) to discuss the origin and the meaning of the Stations. Also insightful comments on each individual Station. Join the 20-minute discussion with the link provided. Steve’s discussion starts at the 26:00 minute mark.

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Why Would Someone Visit Poland?

April 1, 2019

Why would someone want to visit Poland? Janet and I visited Poland in 1985 when it was still communist. We smuggled Bibles, money and medicine into the Christians behind the Iron Curtain. Driving through the infamous Checkpoint Charlie into East Germany was a little bit hair-raising. While crossing between East Germany into Poland we held […]

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Walk the Road to Calvary with Steve Ray this Lent – New Talk

March 27, 2019

Wisdom from Steve Ray’s Stations of the Cross “If you want to know about Jesus and the Crucifixion, you not only read the four Gospels, but you go back in history, and you study the land, and you study the culture at the time. And it fleshes it all out, and black and white becomes a […]

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Update on Safety in Israel

March 25, 2019

Some people have been concerned regarding missiles that have been shot from Gaza into Israel. These kind of things happen periodically in Israel. (Our March group in Israel). Israel doesn’t allow it to happen for very long and the vast majority of the missiles land out in the desert without doing any damage. One hit […]

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The Passion of Jesus: Via Dolorosa, Calvary, High Mass at the Tomb and more

March 18, 2019

We had to start very early this morning because the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is full like sardines during the day. Smart like a fox! We walked the Via Dolorosa praying the Stations Of the Cross, climbed Mount Calvary and touched the cross where the blood dropped, took a tour of the church and […]

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Temple Sizes Compared – bigger than a football field

March 18, 2019

Since we are at the Western Wall today, seeing all this with our own eyes, I thought I would share again this blog about the size of temples of Israel. The 1) Tabernacle in the wilderness, the 2) Temple of Solomon, 3) Herod’s Temple at the time of Christ and 4) Ezekiel’s Temple are compared. The […]

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Fun Day: Israel Museum, Jordan River, Jericho, Wumran, Dead Sea Float & Camel Rides!

March 17, 2019

This is the fun day. Mass at Notre Dame (homily here), museum, Jordan River… …culminating with camel rides, floating in the Dead Sea and dinner on the rooftop of Jerusalem . Enjoy!

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Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, Mass at Gethsemane, Holy Shroud Exhibit

March 16, 2019

We intended to start the day with the OUR FATHER in the place where Jesus taught the disciples to pray it. Pater Noster is a church on top of the Mount of Olives from where Jesus also ascended into heaven. However, due to conditions out of our control like huge traffic jams and trash in […]

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Entering a Different World, Bethlehem! Join Us All Day for a Depth of History and Dancing

March 15, 2019

Today was difficult because the Jerusalem Marathon was taking place and all the streets are blocked off starting at 5:30 AM. To get out of Jerusalem we had to leave at 5 AM which added to the adventure. Join us as we go over the Mount of Olives where I give my talk on the […]

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From Galilee to Jerusalem: Mass at Capernaum, Boat Ride, St. Peter’s Fish and Visitation

March 14, 2019

Big transition today from Galilee to Jerusalem. We started the day with a wonderful Mass at St. Peters House in Capernaum where Jesus lived during his three years of ministry (homily here). I gave my talk “Defending the Eucharist.“ Then we saw the ancient boat that was discovered from 2000 years ago before getting on […]

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Beatitudes for Mass, Caesarea Philippi, Druze Lunch, overlook Syrian Border, and much more

March 13, 2019

Pilgrims love starting the day on the tranquil Mount of Beatitudes where we have an outdoor Mass overlooking the Sea of Galilee (homily here). Time to pray and wander through the gardens. Both of our priests told their vocation stories on our drive north to the Lebanese border where we stop at Caesarea Philippi and […]

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Fishing Boats, Mass Atop Mt. Tabor, Wedding Vows Renewed in Cana, Nazareth

March 12, 2019

Stunning sunrise with fisherman coming in from the night. Mass on top of the Mountain of Transfiguration before renewing our wedding vows in Cana of Galilee. From there to a great lunch in Nazareth and visiting the Church of the Assumption where Mary heard the words “Hail Full of Grace…” (Homily here.) People think the […]

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