May 2019

Today is Ascension Thursday. The Ascension always falls on a Thursday, 40 days after Resurrection Sunday. Then 9 days of praying in the Upper Room (1st Novena) and on the 50th day from the Resurrection the Holy Spirit fell on Pentecost. Pentecost means “the fiftieth day.”

One of our past pilgrims wrote to me expressing an apparent contradiction in the Bible about what I had said in Israel. The wording in the two verses below is what caused the confusion.

Acts 1:12  “[After the Ascension] they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.”

Luke 24:50–51  “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.”

So, did Jesus ascend into heaven from the Mount of Olives or from Bethany?

Church of Pater Noster

On pilgrimages, I take my groups to the top of the Mount of Olives to the Church of Pater Noster (the “Our Father”) where Jesus taught his disciples to pray in “the Grotto of the Teaching” — a cave beneath the front of the church. It is here that the oldest traditions inform us that Jesus was raised into heaven. Here Constantine built a church in the early 300’s. Here we celebrate Jesus’ departure and pray the Rosary’s 2nd Glorious Mystery of the Ascension.

Muslim Chapel of Ascension

There is a Muslim mosque five minute’s walk away (called the Chapel of the Ascension) that most Protestants visit but I don’t patronize Muslim sites and don’t accept this as the authentic place of the Ascension.

No one knows the exact square inches where his feet left the ground. But the Church of Pater Noster has the oldest tradition, is on the Mount of Olives and very near Bethany.

If we had had the time, and there was not the big wall separating Jerusalem from Bethany like it does Jerusalem from Bethlehem, in a few minutes we could walk into Bethany from the top of the Mount of Olives. We used to walk people there to go into the tomb of Lazarus. That is how close Bethany is to the top of the Mount of Olives.

However, I can’t do that with groups anymore because of the big wall that keeps us from walking from the Mount of Olives into Bethany.

Bethany is on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives about 2 miles from Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. At the time of Jesus there was nothing on the Mount of Olives but olive trees (even until the late 1800’s, see picture black and white picture from about 1900). If you left from Jerusalem, heading to the Mount of Olives, it was perceived you were headed to Bethany.

 The picture shows that even until the turn of the 20th century there was nothing outside the old walls of Jerusalem. That meant there was just trees and open space between Jerusalem and Bethany. Bethany, though not seen on this map, was on the Eastern slope of the mount.

The other two maps show the proximity of Bethany, the the top of the Mount of Olives and the short distance from the walled city of Jerusalem. Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  He obviously saw no contradiction in referring to both places as the general location of Christ’s ascension.

It is easily explained this way. First, some suggest that he went as far as Bethany to say good-bye to the family he loved – Lazarus, Mary and Martha, then came back to the top of the mount and departed to heaven. However, there is no need to stretch things that far. Being on the eastern slope of the mount, Bethany is virtually on the Mount of Olives, especially from the perspective of Jerusalem.

If someone asks me where I’m from, I always say “Detroit.” But those who have been to my house know I really live 40 miles east of Detroit in Ypsilanti. But since no one knows where Ypsilanti is – I say “Detroit.”

If there is nothing but trees and bare land on the Mount of Olives and you’re heading east from Jerusalem, people would say you are going to Bethany. Jesus left Jerusalem and went over toward Bethany to ascend into heaven.

So if the geography is understood there is no conflict. Scripture can be trusted.


A while ago I wrote a somewhat comprehensive article on Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant and then a follow up with Quotes from the Fathers of the Church. Recently a Protestant seminarian wrote an email with objections to my article.

My good friend Gary Michuta, a class act apologist, did me the kindness of responding to the objections. In the process, he developed my article even further with more parallels and insights. Brilliant job Gary!

If you take the time to study my articles and now the response to objections, you will be proud to be Catholic and admire Mary more – and her place in Scripture and salvation history. If you are not a Catholic with a proper view of the Blessed Virgin Mary, there is no time like today :-)

You can read the detailed response HERE.

I like to tell people that this is my statue of Mary :-)



Brian objected to some of my blogs about Islam so we dialogued a bit. Our discussion started after a whack-o shot up a mosque in New Zealand. He disliked my suggestion that at the same time New Zealand was hit, hundreds of Catholics were slaughtered by Muslims in Nigeria. I asked why New Zealand made the big news and there was silence about Nigeria. He got frustrated and discontinued the discussion. Here was my final response:

On Mar 26, 2019, at 4:14 PM, Brian wrote:

Thanks Steve. I’m sure we would have a lot to discuss. I have traveled, am married to an Irish Catholic and lived in Singapore and Malaysia for six years. I’m not sure then how you would proceed in this current atmosphere here in NZ.

Brian, my initial reaction is it’s best to just discontinue this conversation, but I will give brief answers to your questions below.

I would prosecute the idiots who shot the Muslims in New Zealand. Anyone who does such things are guilty of heinous murders and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law; every citizen should be protected. This does not, however, preclude being honest about what Islam is and what those threats are worldwide.

Is dialogue with Muslim people not advantageous in your opinion?

We as Christians always dialogue and try to work for commonality. However, one must realize that Islam is not a religion or a political ideology that negotiates or dialogs in good faith. Islam holds to the Koran without flinching (though not necessarily all Muslims) and it’s very clear what Islam teaches about the infidel. Dialogue? Yes. But there’s an old saying “respect but suspect” which is especially true when there’s a 1400 year history and precedent with Islam.

Are interfaith meetings not the way to go in your opinion?

Of course, we as Christians always have interreligious dialogue because we always hope for the best. But to wear blinders into such an interreligious dialogue is only to be foolish. Islam is Islam and Mohammed taught and practiced true Islam. He is the model and true Muslims will always follow him as an example. Read the life of Mohammed. He married six-year-old girls, he slaughtered with the sword, he conquered with a sword and he called you an infidel.

Should vetting and surveillance of mosques and Muslims be part of a country’s mandate even though the alt right terrorists are seemingly more of a threat?

All potential terrorists should be investigated and watched — Muslims and any other lunatics on the right or left. Your government dropped the ball. But when you look at terrorism across the globe all non-Muslim sources of terrorism is a tiny fraction compared to the terrorism caused by Muslims. I take you to be an intelligent man and expect you to understand this.

What should be the Catholic response?

We should love, hope for the best, dialogue but also be honest and suspicious of groups that call us infidels and whose holy book calls us infidels and requires our death if we don’t convert. This is been practiced by Islam for 1400 years and only a foolish or ignorant person can deny it. Just because we may know some “nice Muslims” doesn’t mean that Islam is a friendly peaceful religion/ideology. It is not.

We as Christians should love and respect and evangelize, AND we should not wear blinders but be wise. We should be educated about the other ideology, study and be experts on their holy books, learn their history and their methods of propagation of the religion/ideology and above all respect but suspect. We should also be prepared to protect ourselves and our countries that do love and respect freedom and freedom of religion.

Thanks again for your honest and respectful approach. Believe me, I have a lot of people who just attack and I don’t waste my time responding. But you are respectful and therefore I have appreciated our dialogue. My views are quite well known since I posted my talk at the Franciscan University of Steubenville last summer. You can see the video here:

Steve Ray


“The Longest Day” on Memorial Day in Prep for our own landing on Beaches of Normandy!

May 27, 2019

This week Janet and I are leaving for Paris France. Our group will follow us a few days later where we will be touring the Saints and Shrines of France. We will also be visiting Normandy where D-Day took place 75 years ago on June 6, 1944. Today we are watching that spectacular movie entitled […]

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What is Holy Ground? Do we Know the Sites are Authentic?

May 23, 2019
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Are Muslims Descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael?

May 22, 2019

Today I was asked a question which I have been asked a good number of times. So, I thought I would give a simple answer here. A young man wrote and asked: “Can you please tell me whether the descendants of Ismael are Muslims?” Because I have been asked this question a good number of […]

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Signer of Letter accusing Pope Francis of Heresy explains why he signed the letter

May 21, 2019

Edward Pentin interviewed Professor John Rist as to why he signed the controversial letter along with 85 other prominent theologians and scholars. Frankly, I admire these men who stood up and spoke out. They may not have proven formal heresy (which is something I leave to experts and canon lawyers) but the silence in the […]

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Former Legionaire Priest Fr. Jonathan Morris to leave priesthood

May 18, 2019

After watching him on Fox News a good number of times over the years, I can’t say I’m surprised. He was always disappointing on Fox News and I always thought they could get a better representative of the Catholic Faith. Too bad when the Church is already in a crisis period that we have a […]

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Great New Didache Bible from Ignatius Press

May 18, 2019

The Didache Bible Is Here, Article by Dr. Jeff Mirus [Steve’s Comment]: I posted this a while ago, but want to make sure new readers are aware of this excellent new Bible with the right footnotes, maps, etc. This is my choice. [Miras’ article]: This Bible uses the Second Edition of the Catholic Edition of […]

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7 Reasons to Study the Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible

May 17, 2019

7 Reasons to Study the Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible Posted by Cierra Klatt on 09/06/2017 in Olive Tree Blog 1. Understand the audience: Grasping the original audience’s perspective helps us understand the setting to which the inspired authors communicated their message. 2. Understand how the text communicates: A text is ideas linked by threads of writing. Each phrase and each […]

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Last Day Parts 1 & 2: Via Dolorosa, Calvary, Mass at Tomb, Dancing in Bethlehem, Farewells

May 17, 2019

Our last day here in Israel was packed with events including free time. The climax of our trip was the Via Dolorosa and touching the top of Calvary where the blood of Jesus flowed. After that we had a tour of the church of the Holy Sepulchre before we had Mass with the Franciscans at […]

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How We REALLY Got the Bible – the Facts Simply Presented (print this out, hand it out)

May 16, 2019

This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here. You can print this out, fold it […]

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Day 7: Mass at Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, Upper Room, Mount Zion, Shroud Exhibit and more

May 15, 2019

In summary, today was surrounding the Mount of Olives and Mount Zion. We started with Mass at Gethsemane which for many people is the most moving site on the trip (homily here). Up to the Paternoster where Jesus taught his disciples to pray the Our Father and Ascended into Heaven. Upper Room and Church of […]

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Todd Meade Story: From Southern Baptist Liberty University to Catholic

May 15, 2019

    Every spiritual life is a journey. Mine began in Warner Robins, Georgia in 1971. I was born into a good Methodist family and had a strong Christian foundation laid for me in childhood. But unfortunately, as is all too common, during my teenage years I drifted away somewhat from this good foundation and was […]

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Day 6: Museum, Jericho, Jordan River, Qumran, Dead Sea and Camels

May 14, 2019

This is more of a fun day.  We had Mass to start the day at the Notre Dame chapel (homily here).  We visit the Israel museum to see the city of Jerusalem on a small scale from the time of Christ. We also see the Dead Sea Scrolls before descending down into the Judean wilderness […]

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