Traveling With the Apostolic Fathers | An Interview with Steve Ray | March 8, 2008 | Carl E. Olson
Author and apologist Steve Ray, along with his wife Janet, entered the Catholic Church in 1994, a journey from the Baptist tradition to Catholicism described in Ray's first book, Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church. Since then he has been busy with writing more books, giving numerous talks, and producing an award-winning video series for Ignatius Press called "The Footprints of God: The Story of Salvation From Abraham to Augustine".
Ray's other books are 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. Steve recently finished producing the seventh video in the Footprints of God series, titled Apostolic Fathers: Handing on the Faith, now available from Ignatius Press.
Carl E. Olson, editor of Ignatius Insight, recently caught up to Steve (who was between trips abroad) and talked to him about the new DVD and the unique challenges and adventures that accompany his work.
Ignatius Insight: As you detail in Crossing the Tiber and in some of your talks, your conversionto the Catholic Church was greatly influenced and guided by many of the Apostolic Fathers. What was it like for you to work on this video and to walkin the footsteps of some of those great Catholic men?
Steve Ray: I am fond of saying that the Apostolic Fathers made me do it, that is, made me become Catholic. I was raised to believe that the early Church was basically Protestant in its theology and only became corrupted by Catholic ideas much later in time. Catholicism, I once thought, corrupted true biblical Christianity and it wasn't until Martin Luther appeared on the scene that real Christianity was brought back to the surface.
How wrong I was! As we read the writings of the first Christians—those we call the Apostolic Fathers because they were in the Apostolic Age and many of them knew the apostles personally—I found out that I had been misled in my earlier years. These early Christians were very Catholic in their theology, liturgy, and traditions.
When my wife Janet and I were thrilled beyond words for the opportunity to write and produce the DVD entitled Apostolic Fathers: Handing on the Faith. We had read and studied these men intently and felt like we were personal friends. We felt as though we knew them. So when we began to scout the locations where they lived and served the Lord it was both an honor and excitement that I can't describe.
We prayed for their intercession frequently: "St. Ignatius, we are telling your profound story. Most people don't know who you are or how you handed on the tradition that Peter and Paul and John gave to you in person! We ask for your intercession to help us do a good job telling your story to inspire Catholics and to call Protestants home to the Church. St. Ignatius, pray for us!"
In this very fast-paced adventure we open up a black hole that very few Christians have ever looked into. We take them back to the obscure past to introduce them to Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, Irenaeus of Lyons and Justin Martyr.
Ignatius Insight: From start tofinish—beginning with the pre-production and ending with the final DVD—howlong did it take to create the Apostolic Fathers video? How many people worked with you in creating it?
Steve Ray: The whole project from conception to shipping was about eighteen months. First, Janet and I always write up an outline of the story: what we want to say, where we need to film, how we want to present the story, and the main outline for the script.
Second, we jump on a plane and visit the key sites so we can research, get the lay of the land, and make all our contacts and work on all the permits—you know, all the logistics. On these scouting trips we put ourselves in the shoes of the subjects, in this case the Apostolic Fathers. We want to "feel" and experience their lives on location.
Third, we begin writing the script. I invited four or five guys to our home who know something of the topic and we hid away in my house with some good food, wine, and fellowship and we brainstormed. We discussed the lives of these Apostolic Fathers, what was key to their stories, how we wanted to portray them, and what props and adventures to include. We have both kids and adults in mind as we think of our audience.
Fourth, we make the travel arrangement for our six-person filming crew. This is always a huge challenge.
Fifth, we fly with our crew and 1,000 pounds of equipment to all the sites where we will be filming. Beside Janet and I there are four guys on the crew. Joe Reynolds is owner of Skyline Productions and he is the videographer and post-production editor. We have a great time working together. Over the seven DVDs we've finished so far we've learned to work together like a well-oiled machine. We can almost read each other's minds. They know my vision and have been good at helping bring it to life.
We usually spend two or three weeks overseas working twelve-hour days, seven days a week. It is exhilarating and exhausting. But we all love it—every minute of it. The stories and miracles and adventures could fill a huge book.
Sixth, we come home and start the post-production. Locked away in Joe's edit bay, Janet and I work with Joe to put all the many pieces of the video puzzle together: art, music, footage, b-roll, maps, titles, etc. We create a set to film the Behind the Scene segments and shoot all the in-studio shots.
After that I write the Study Guide for each episode, get all the closed captioning and other technical aspects completed, along with advertising copy and then . . .
. . . bingo! It is in the Ignatius Press warehouse and shipping to thousands of anxiously awaiting people.
Ignatius Insight: You spent time filming in several different countries, including Turkey, France, Israel, and Italy. Any adventures? What sort of challenges do you face in filming various historical sites?
Steve Ray: Adventures? Are you kidding? I still have wounds to prove how many adventures I've had. I had to tumble down a hill for one scene and there were thorns and thistles at the bottom. After ten takes I was pretty bloodied up and I still have a thorn in my finger eight months later. Just getting 1,000 pounds of equipment and six crew members flown, bused, and moved around is an immense challenge in itself. And you never know what you are going to eat, how long the day will last, who will get injured next, what the weather will be like, if the police will cooperate, and so forth. It is an adventure every hour.
We had permits denied for months and then—when by faith we arrive at the site to film knowing we might even get in trouble—we've received a call saying, "Your permit is authorized!" We all stood in shock and knew we had just witnessed a miracle. We have put much of this excitement in the Behind the Scenes segments on the DVD.
Ignatius Insight: What did you learn or appreciate better about the ApostolicFathers by making this video? What are some things you think viewers might learn or appreciate?
Steve Ray: I begin the movie driving a heavy bulldozer through a bunch of bushes. I show how hard it is to blaze a new trail or plow a new road. The Apostolic Fathers did just that—they shed their blood, gave their lives and suffered every horrendous indignity to get Christianity off the ground, so to speak. Bishops today travel a well-worn path. But it was these Apostolic Fathers who set out through the underbrush for the first time.
We were also impressed over and over again with how Catholic these first Christians really were. The Real Presence of the Eucharist, regenerative baptism, the priesthood, the chair of Peter, all of these things were there long before the books of the New Testament were collected into one tome.
Also, we continually marveled that we were walking in the footprints of those who knew and were trained by the Apostles themselves. We kept thinking: why do so many Christians today give so much weight to current denominational leaders or Bible teachers with thousands of competing theologies when they could go back and read the writings and follow the tradition of the very first Christians? Again, it was these brave and apostolic men that led the way for us to discover the Catholic Church.
Ignatius Insight: What is the next video in the series? Are you working on it now? Do you have any other projects in the works?
Steve Ray: Our next DVD will be Abraham: Father of Faith & Works, which we hope to start on within the next year. It will take us to Iraq, since Abraham's life started in Ur of the Chaldees, which is just south of modern day Baghdad. We will also have to visit Haran in Turkey, but most of the movie will be shot in the Israel, mainly in the Palestinian West Bank. I want to portray Abraham as the father of faith, but we also recall that James said that "Abraham was justified when he offered up his son Isaac," and that "we are saved by works and not by faith alone."
We are also now leading five or six pilgrimages a year to all the biblical lands so others can experience the real thing along with the DVD presentations.
Ignatius Insight: This coming November you will joining Mark Brumley, Roy Schoeman, and Fr. Charles Connor in a special pilgrimage to the Holy Land, marking the 30th anniversary of Ignatius Press. Tell us a little bit about that pilgrimage and what people who join you can expect.
Steve Ray: We are very excited about this pilgrimage. Having worked with Ignatius Press for eight years on the first seven DVDs I will now get to show them where it all took place. Most of the Ignatius Press staff will be joining us and most of them have never been to the Holy Land. Janet and I love showing the Holy Land to first-timers since we can again see it for the first time through their eyes. We watch people cry, stand in shock, and fall on their knees. It is a wonderful thing.
It will be great to have Roy Schoeman, a Jewish convert and author of Salvation Is From the Jews, along to share his unique perspective on the land of Israel. Mark Brumley is an outstanding theologian and apologist and it will be great to hear his thoughts and meditations along the way. And of course, you can't put me in Israel with my favorite hat in front of a group of eager pilgrims without me turning into my real self—Jerusalem Jones!
For those interested in joining us, they can learn more on the Ignatius Press website for the pilgrimage. Or they can call Suzanne at Corporate Travel at 1-800-727-999, ext. 121 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
The Footprints of God is an award-winning 10-volume video resource that covers the key people, places and teachings of Scripture, bringing them together in the rich tradition of the Catholic church. This series will be enjoyed by Catholics and all Christians, as well as those who want to understand what Christians believe, and why. 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. Currently, six of the ten DVDs are available, with four more to be produced:
Moses: Signs, Sacraments and Salvation
David & Solomon: Expanding the Kingdom
Mary: the Mother of God
Peter: Keeper of the Keys
Paul: Contending for the Faith
Jesus: the Word Became Flesh
Apostolic Fathers: Handing on the Faith
Work on the next DVD, the Abraham: Father of Faith & Works is in progress and will be ready for release in 2009/10. The other two DVDs are Doctors of the Church: Defining the Faith, and Elijah & Elisha: Conscience of the Kingdom.
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