Saints and Fathers

St. Mark: Very Important; Very Little Known

by Steve Ray on April 25, 2021

Feast Day of St. Mark Today:

Very Important Biblical Guy, St. Peter’s Scribe, Yet Relatively Unknown
Let me introduce you to him…

StMark3CorbertGauthier“His voice boomed over the crowds in Rome as it had all around the Roman Empire. The large fisherman was aging but his voice was still filled with intensity and conviction. The thronging crowds listened with curiosity.

      “Rome was the hub of the civilized world and Peter preached the message of a Jewish rabbi named Jesus from the far away country of Israel.

Many in the crowd had believed in Jesus and had become part of this new society called the Church—the Church of which Peter was the acknowledged head. Standing at his side was his fellow-worker and secretary John Mark……”

For the whole story, click here.  For the story of Peter and Rome filmed on location, click here.

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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 not collected from wild bees without burning pain and suffering. Today there is protective equipment and methods to harvest honey, but in times past it took a man willing to experience bitter pain today for the sweet rewards later.

There seems to be a principle built into the real world that is expressed with maxims such as “good things take time,” and “no pain no gain.” A paycheck is preceded by forty hours of work. Muscles appear after weeks of sweat equity and exercise.

Shortcuts seldom pay off and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Achievement takes effort and rewards are given to those who work hard.

Suffering is shunned by most people. Pain is avoided. We usually chose the path of least resistance. It seems most people are hard-wired for pleasure, relaxation and personal gratification. Following these baser impulses rarely reap the rewards human beings aspire to.

The number forty is used symbolically in the Bible over and over again. Jewish and Christian tradition has known this from the beginning. Forty is the number of testing, suffering, fasting, repentance and self-denial.

It often precedes new beginnings and new stages of salvation and restoration. Noah’s flood lasted forty days, Israel wandered in the wilderness forty years, Jonah gave Ninevah forty days to repent, Elijah fasted forty days and nights—as did Jesus in the wilderness.

John the Baptist wandered in the Judean Wilderness east of Jerusalem. He wore rustic clothing and suffered the pain of harvesting his own wild honey. He ate his wild honey with locusts, another word for a grasshopper.

Such hopping insects were declared “clean” foods for the Jews (Lev 11:22). I once jokingly told a group of pilgrims I “loved living the Bible in the Holy Land” and if they found a grasshopper I would eat it like John the Baptist had done. They went on a mission and found a 4” wiggly grasshopper. I had no choice but to imitate the Baptist. (See me eat it here.)

In the summer months, the wilderness of Judea hovers around 120?. John looked and acted a lot like Elijah the prophet and it was from this exact location that Elijah was assumed body and soul into heaven.

No wonder the Pharisees questioned if John was the Elijah who was to come. He was baptizing repentant Jews about thirty miles down from the mountains of Jerusalem and about three miles from the ancient community of Qumran.

John undoubtedly associated with these devout Essenes who had moved to the hot wilderness to seek God and become the Children of Light. The wilderness, like the number forty, is usually associated with seeking God and a sincere holiness brought about by self-denial and isolation.

Christian tradition from the earliest times understood the spiritual benefits of established periods of fasting, repentance, prayer and self-denial. This practice of self-abandonment to the wilderness for forty days was incorporated into the liturgical year. It was called Lent. The word originates from an old English word meaning “spring” and was used because Lent, the time of fasting and prayer was practiced in the spring of the year in preparation for Easter.

 John the Baptist wandered in the wilderness to mortify the flesh and earthly desires, focusing his mind and heart on things above. He was seeking holiness and spirituality. Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the same wilderness to be tempted by the Devil and prepared for his ministry.

The Church wants us to share in this deeper life of God. Lent is a time set aside so that we can join John in the wilderness—setting aside the distractions of daily life and earthly pursuits, turning to God and prayer.

Of course, it is not as easy for most of us since we have families, work schedules, diapers to change, houses to clean and on and on. The Lord and the Church understand this completely. But even the daily service of a family, the quality labor provided on the job and extra love shown to others can be an act of penance and self-giving.

We can all fit in time for confession, a bit more prayer and spiritual readings, deny ourselves a few extravagances or pleasures and seek to get closer to God. It is never easy—it wasn’t for John, Jesus or others who wandered for forty days looking for a deeper walk with God and a richer human experience.

We buy honey in the store and few of us like John are willing to reach into a hive and grab the honey at great cost. But like John we can impose a bit of self-denial upon ourselves, entering into penance, prayer, repentance and self-denial—though it often feels like reaching for the honey. The minimal pain of Lent can bring about the sweetness of holiness.

These places in the desert still exist. We can walk through the ruins of Qumran, see the mist over the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab in Jordan and stand on the shore of the River Jordan at the place Jesus met John. We can walk with Jesus in the with his forty days of temptation when he stepped out of the wilderness. No prayer or sacrifice, no self-denial or charitable act will go unnoticed by God. The sweetness of the Spirit will certainly be our reward.

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It is not an understatement to say the St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was eaten by lions in Rome in AD 106 is one of my favorite men of all time. He was a link to help me grasp the Catholic Church. He dragged me in with his seven letters.

So it was with interest that I read John C. Evans treatise of St. Ignatius, his times, his associates, his speculated relationship with St. John and the Blessed Virgin Mary, with Peter and others. The star of Bethlehem association is also an interesting twist.

John Evans shared this with me and it intrigued me enough that I wanted to share it. Everything below the line of asterisks belongs to John Evans.

Below the article is a video of John interviewing me about the life of the Holy Family in their own historical context.

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Ignatius of Antioch and The Christmas Star

Through the Eyes of John and Mary

A brief hypothesis on chapters 18 and 19 of Ignatius of Antioch’s Letter to the Ephesians and his primary sources.

Disclaimer:
The following consists of a blog entry and not an exhaustive study of the questions raised. As such, it is intended as a rough outline of my thesis and is subject to critique, revision, and further dialogue.

downloadThe letter to the Ephesians attributed to the early second-century martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, conspicuously stands out from the six other epistles generally believed to be authentic by mainstream voices in the field of patristics. This is largely due to a famous or infamous passage toward the end of the letter, comprising of chapters 18 and 19 in which Ignatius, on his way to execution in Rome, seemingly diverts from the flow of his discourse to expound the events surrounding the passion and nativity of Christ.

The minimalist scholar will inevitably hold to the conviction that these references comprise of merely one layer in a series of “ecclesiastical traditions” of dubious origin with little to no foundation in the person of the historical Jesus. Such a conviction, however, is founded on the presupposition that either the apostolic memory died before Ignatius gave his life in Rome toward the very dawn of the second century or that the successors to the Apostles had little concern for historicity as we would conceive of it. However, such a presupposition ignores two steady streams of evidence branching from a wealth of patristic sources.

Most would place the death of John, the last surviving apostle, to circa A.D 90 in Ephesus, hardly twenty years before the martyrdom of Ignatius of Antioch. John was active in Asia Minor toward the end of his life and according to the second-century father Irenaeus, a well-known student of Polycarp, he was responsible for combating heretical sects toward the close of the first century, which sought to distort the memory of what the rest of the twelve witnessed and died defending.

met+stills.00_01_58_10.Still003John was an eyewitness of the crucifixion of Jesus, was caretaker for His Mother in Ephesus, until her passing or assumption, possibly in the 60s, and is listed as a pillar of the faith by Paul alongside James, the brother or cousin of the Lord. There is also the witness of Papias. Papias authored an “exposition on the oracles of the Lord,” which is now lost. However, fragments survive. Papias claims to have faithfully passed on what he learned from a series of eyewitnesses of “the truth” and to have an interest in truth as it factually happened, and he references the name “John” twice. As we read:….

For the whole article, click here to visit John C Evans’ Book and Spade website. You comment on the article below AND learn more about this fascinating young man named John C. Evans and write to him at https://www.bookandspade.com/contact.

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Audio CD’s to Celebrate the Year of St. Joseph

February 15, 2021

My new talk on St. Joseph is now ready to ship! It is quite different than any other talks you’ve heard on Joseph. I present him as the manly man he was. Journey to Nazareth with me to discover the real St. Joseph. Also in our sale bundle you will get “A Day in the […]

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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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Were Christians Killed in the Roman Colosseum?

February 8, 2021

Most guides today in Rome will give you an instant and ready reply, “No, Christians were not killed in the Roman Colosseum! ” Of course I heard the exact opposite when I first went to Rome multiple times in the 1980’s. St. Ignatius of Antioch was martyred in the colosseum, three hundred yards from his […]

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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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Interview with Al Kresta: The Conversion of St. Paul as the Seed of all Paul’s Theology

January 27, 2021

Jesus asked an unusual question from heaven. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” How could Saul persecute Jesus who was safely distanced in heaven? This question was the seed that grew into the foundation for all of St. Paul’s teaching and theology. Fascinating look at how we are all in Christ and Christ is […]

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Another Reason I Like Trump so much – Honoring St. Thomas Becket

December 30, 2020

Here’s one more reason why Donald Trump should be re-elected President. He often does surprising, good things in support of the Church and Christian faith, like this amazing proclamation today honoring a saint and martyr – for religious freedom. Proclamation on 850th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket Today is the 850th anniversary of the […]

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Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live “St. Ignatius of Antioch and the 1st Martyrs”

October 17, 2020

1)  How can I use the Early Church Fathers and martyrs to help my Fundamentalist sister understand the truth of the Catholic Faith? 2)  I understood that St. Ignatius was a disciple of St. John the Apostle but you just said he was a disciple of St. Peter. Where did you get this information? 3) […]

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Why Do We Call St. Ignatius of Antioch and others APOSTOLIC FATHERS?

October 16, 2020

Today is the feast day of one of my all-time favorite heroes. HE made me Catholic. [For my 90-minute adventure documentary on Ignatius of Antioch along with four other Apostolic Fathers, get Apostolic Fathers, Handing on the Faith. For more info see below.] There are Apostolic Fathers and Fathers of the Church. What is the difference? Fathers […]

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Can Relics and Sacramentals Relay the Power of God?

August 28, 2020

Some might claim that Catholic teaching on relics and Sacramentals is unbiblical. Really? Check out these biblical passages: “So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face CLOTHS or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came […]

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Steve Ray: Six Minutes on the Church Fathers

May 26, 2020

Six minute interview at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

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Two Interviews: 1) My interview by a Protestant Pastor; 2) Our experience meeting St. John Paul II

May 18, 2020

Two fun, energetic interviews today in case you are interested. First is a short 15-minute interview with John Harper on Relevant Radio sharing Janet and my experience meeting St. John Paul II twice in Rome at his private Mass and our two married kids meeting him together with their wedding clothes and his prayer for […]

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Steve’s New Talk on “Joseph: Manly Man & Chosen Father”

May 1, 2020

Here is my new talk on St. Joseph given at a Men’s Conference in March 2020. It is an hour talk on MP3 entitled “Joseph: Manly Man & Chosen Father.” This talk will give men a whole new image of this rugged saint who in some ways was just an “average Joe.” “We often see St. […]

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My Favorite Picture/Painting of the Jewish St. Paul the Apostle

January 30, 2020

Most pictures of St. Paul ignore his Jewishness. When he entered a Synagogue to teach he could not have looked like a Gentile. He would have been distinctly Jewish. They would never ask a Gentile to share a “word of encouragement” to the Jewish worshipers. For example: “Acts 13:14–15:  “They went on from Perga and […]

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