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Filming God's Footprints | An Interview with Steve Ray | Valerie Schmalz
Almost since its inception, the Footprints
of God DVD/video series has been lauded for excellence. Just this month the Telly Awards
-- the "Oscars" of the home video industry -- honored the newly released installment,
David and Solomon, with a first-place award in the religious documentary division.
Steve Ray, the creator and host, designed the series around ten individual
movies, each of which tell a portion of the history of salvation from Abraham
to St. Augustine. Ray is the author of three Ignatius Press books and it was
that connection that led Ignatius to embark on a collaboration with Ray and his
Ray, with his wife Janet, converted to Catholicism in 1992. They
have four children, two of whom still live at home and two married children who
have made them proud grandparents six times. They live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Ray, an independent businessman (www.dmigroup.com),
also leads pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Rome (www.SteveGoes.com).
IgnatiusInsight.com recently caught up with Ray (no easy task!) and spoke
with him about the series and its genesis.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What are the Footprints of God videos?
Ray: The Footprints of God video series is an attempt to put together a documentary
series covering the whole span of salvation history from Abraham to Augustine.
So we are covering the whole story from the beginning of God's working, the
covenants with his people all the way through the life of Christ, all the way
into the early Church with the Apostolic Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
This project is a collaboration between my wife Janet and
I, along with Joe Reynolds of Skyline Production, and with the advice and
support of Mark Brumley (president) and Tony Ryan (marketing director) of
IgnatiusInsight.com: This is an unusually ambitious
venture -- to cover the whole span of salvation history on DVD. How did it
Ray: I got the idea
because about nine years ago I took my family to Israel to visit the Holy Land.
My two older kids were in their middle teens, pushing 16, 17 years old. When
they came back they were fundamentally changed. I was amazed at how they
conducted themselves, their attitude about life, their attitude about going to
Mass, and so on. I asked them, "What made the change in your life?" And they
said, "Well Dad, we always believed Christianity was true, we have always
believed what the Church teaches is the truth. But, when we went to Israel, and
when we saw it with our own eyes, the place where Jesus was born, and we
touched the place where the cross was placed in the ground, when we saw the
very grotto where the angel came to Mary to make the announcement -- when
we saw this with our own eyes, it became true with a capital 'T' and it just
sunk in for us."
My immediate thought was, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to take
every Catholic over to the Holy land so they could have the same experience of
holy ground, the ground that was sanctified by Christ?"
IgnatiusInsight.com: But the inspiration for the Footprints
of God series actually came about in an
unusual way. Can you tell us that story?
Ray: I had this idea; I don't know if it was a vision, a revelation, a dream, or even an angel.
But, at two o'clock in the morning I was sound asleep and then I woke up
wide-awake and I knew what I had to do. I shook my wife awake and said, "Janet,
Janet wake up." And she said, "What, what...?" She thought the house was on fire
or someone was breaking in. I said, "Janet, we have to do a ten-part video
series on the history of salvation from a Catholic perspective." Her eyes got
big and she looked at me and she said, "You woke me up in the morning to tell
me that? You are crazy, go back to sleep." She said, "We can't even take good
pictures, how are we going to make videos?"
But I was wide-awake. I got up and I typed up the whole
outline for this series the way it was, just as clear as a bell in my head. I
knew it had to be titled the Footprints of God
because I knew it had to be the story of God's merciful involvement
with his people. He became flesh and he walked on the very ground of the Holy
Land and I wanted to tell that story so people would realize that this is not a
myth, it is not just a fun fairy tale or some religious book we're reading.
This is real history. This is real stuff of the cosmos. God is actually
involved in the nitty gritty of human history.
IgnatiusInsight.com: When people see the videos, what will
they see? Is it a documentary? Is it a re-enactment?
Ray: What I wanted
to do was a documentary. I wanted to do biography; I wanted to do a travelogue.
Part of my intent was we take people to the Holy Land, that they see these
sights, that they somehow experience them vicariously through my eyes and the
medium of video. So, it's a travelogue where we actually show the places, we
walk on the ground where events took place. For instance, I point out: "This was
here 3,000 years ago. King David would have seen this." It's also a catechesis
and an apologetic. I wanted it to be a catechesis for RCIA instructors, for CCD
teachers, for seminaries and high schools. I wanted it to be a vehicle so that,
for instance, by watching the story of Peter you will come away understanding
why we believe in a pope, how the whole thing developed and evolved. I want
people to not only understand why we believe what we believe, but to be able to
More than anything else, I wanted it to be a rollicking
adventure. So, I wrestle with snakes. I ride stallions around the pyramids of
Egypt. I'm riding camels through the desert. I'm falling in the mud to explain
the miracle of the Immaculate Conception. In other places, I'm actually
floating on driftwood on the Mediterranean Sea to show what it was like for
Paul. I try to use some humor to make people laugh, make them cry.
I want it to be good for kids so they can enjoy it, and I
want college professors and doctors of theology to enjoy it and learn from it.
My target audience is the Catholic family.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Tell us a little bit about how
Ignatius Press became involved.
Ray: I had already written several books for Ignatius, including the story of our conversion to
Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church. The other books
Upon This Rock: St. Peter and The Primacy of Rome In Scripture and the Early Church and
St. John's Gospel: A Bible Study and Commentary.
So I had a relationship with Ignatius. When I first got this idea, I called
(Ignatius Press founder) Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., and said, "I have this
crazy idea." Over lunch, I discussed it with the folks at Ignatius Press.
Within six weeks we were flying helicopters over Greece, Turkey, and Israel.
IgnatiusInsight.com: With four more Footprints of God DVDs still to produce, is there any point asking
what your next project is?
Ray: A couple of books are in progress for Ignatius. I do have several other ideas, including a
coffee table book, The Making of the Footprints of God . I also
lead pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Rome. I would like to do an In the
Footprints of God book with scriptural
references where page-by-page the reader walks his way through the Holy Land.
On a bigger scale, maybe when we're done with the Footprints of God series, we could do another ten part series on the Footprints
of the Faithful that would be the whole
story of the Church from the first century to Pope Benedict XVI today.
Editor's Note: Each DVD in the series comes with a study guide and the movies are organized so they
can be viewed all at once or in "chapters" for study. So
far six of the ten DVDs are available, with four more to be produced.
David & Solomon: Expanding the Kingdom was
released in March. Already produced and available are:
Moses: Signs, Sacraments and Salvation
Mary: the Mother of God
Peter: Keeper of the Keys
Paul: Contending for the Faith
Jesus: the Word Became Flesh.
Work on the next DVD, the Apostolic Fathers: Handing
on the Faith is in progress
and will be ready for release in the fall of
2007 , Ray said. Still to come are Abraham:
Father of Faith & Works, Doctors of the Church: Defining the
Faith, and Elijah & Elisha: Conscience of the Kingdom.
More information on Steve Ray and his work:
Website: www.CatholicConvert.com and
Discussion Board and Steve's Blog.
Pilgrimages: Follow Steve Ray in The Footprints of Mary & Jesus and
other trips .
Discount Bible Study & Catholic Software:
Steve's new web store BibleTheology.com .
Video/DVDs: Moses, Peter, Mary, Jesus, Paul, &
David/Solomon. Order today from On-Line Store.
Books:Crossing the Tiber,
Upon this Rock,
St Johns Gospel, and more.
Audio CDs: Men, Marriage, Sex & Heaven,
Raising a Catholic Family , Searching Scripture ,
Sharing the Fullness of the Faith and more.
Ask Steve to Speak & Press Kit: Click here.
Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter
and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for
ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco
and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown
University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie
and her wonderful husband have four children.
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