May 2005

Am I a Sick Individual?

by Steve Ray on May 30, 2005

The lady at the pet store told me I was a sick individual. I didn’t think so, but then again I am biased and think I’m OK – and my wife tends to agree with me.

The whole thing started because of a small hobby of mine. When I was a little boy my dad bought me binoculars and a bird book. I sat under trees for hours and kept track of the birds I found. It was great fun. How many people have had the pleasure of discovering Indigo Buntings, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Rufous-sided Towhees, or Northern Snowbirds?

Janet and I live in the country with a large field behind our house. Last week a raccoon was hit by a car near our home—it didn’t listen to his mother when she warned him about playing in the road. At least that’s what we told our kids as they were growing up—a lesson in obeying parents!

Anyway, I had the crazy idea to pick up the dead raccoon, toss him on the hood of my car, and throw him in our back field to see if the Turkey Vultures would come to eat it. Looking at the head of this vulture will give you an idea where he got his name. The lady at the pet store told me I was a sick individual because I told her what I had done.  I told her our bird feeders are often visited by the smallest bird in Michigan – the hummingbird – so we thought we would try to attract one of the largest birds in Michigan.

It didn’t take long. The large shadow passed by my window as I was working on my laptop and sure enough it was Mr. Vulture circling with his 6 foot wingspan. I slipped out to the back porch to watch. Janet joined me and we were intrigued as nine Turkey Vultures from every corner of the county swirled and swooped, landing around the raccoon to tear the corpse to ribbons with their sharp, hooked beaks. They fought, danced, challenged each other with their wings spread—all while Janet and I watched the show. They came back the next few days until all that was left was a bare skeleton.

We told the grandkids about the vultures and they said, “Bampa, ‘nother  coon! We want see bultures!” So I jumped in the car and found another road-kill-coon and brought him back on the hood of my car. I got more than one shocked look from fellow drivers. I was laughing my head off—kind of like watching people react on Candid Camera.

It wasn’t long before the whole feathered gang was putting on a show for us again in the back yard. The grandkids sat and watched and kept shouting “bulchers, bampa, bultures!”

It got me thinking of what the Bible says about vultures and birds of prey. There are about ten species of high-flying, carrion-eating birds in Israel. They are all kind of lumped together in the Bible. My book Birds of Israel says that one is called an Egyptian Vulture (see picture below) and another the Common Buzzard.

The Jews were forbidden to eat these birds. Geez, I guess so. When I was about ten years old, I caught a baby vulture and he puked rotten meat all over me. It was his means of self defense—scaring off the enemy, and it worked! 

Who could image eating an ugly bird that eats such rotten meat? The Jews were also forbidden from eating catfish since they are also bottom feeders. Even today Jewish fishermen kill every catfish they catch to decrease their population in the Sea of Galilee. God forbade Jews from eating such animals—and pigs too.

Jesus mentions these birds once in the gospels. It is recorded in Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37. In speaking of the end times he says, “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” It seems Jesus is quoting a common proverb of his time. No one is quite sure what Jesus meant and it is difficult to figure out. Word Biblical Commentary thinks it refers to the unmistakable character of Jesus Second Coming. As surely as you know that where you see vultures gathered there is a carcass, so you will not be able to miss the coming of the Son of Man.

But others think it means that at the end of time, just as these birds of prey gather where the rotting carcasses are, so the judgments of God will descend upon the corrupt state of humanity. When the world has degenerated to the point that it resembles a maggot-infested corpse, when the world’s cup of iniquity is full, then Christ will condemn the world. The vultures might represent the judgment of God.

Carrion eating birds are mentioned again at the judgment in the last days, “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men,’. . . And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh” (Rev 17:17-21).

As I watched the vultures gorging on the dead raccoons this week, I thought of the end times when the world becomes so corrupt and putrid—crawling with maggots and foul smelling in God's nostrils—that God will put an end to it and judge the earth. Christ will come again. In that day the vultures will not waste time on raccoons, they will feast on human flesh. They will fill their foul bellies with meat torn from the enemies of God.

Last Sunday at Mass I recited the Nicene Creed and I believed it. “We look for the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.”  I, for one, expect my flesh to rise on the last day to glory and the beatific vision, not to be torn and eaten by the hooked bills of stinking, unclean birds—symbolic of the judgment and punishment of God.

But in the meantime, we will enjoy watching the vultures eat from our unique birdfeeder in the back yard. It will be a daily reminder to be holy and remain in the grace and friendship of God—prepared for the Last Day and the final judgment.

I will also try to convince myself that I am not a sick individual. By the way, what right did that lady have to call me sick when she was selling me crickets to feed to my tarantula? The nerve of some people!

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Crusades: Hollywood or History?

by Steve Ray on May 29, 2005

 

Crusades: Hollywood vs. History
by Vince Ryan   05/28/05

The recent release of Twentieth Century Fox’s $130 million dollar epic Kingdom of Heaven has increased an already heightened interest in the medieval Crusades. 

The director, three time Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott, has been pontificating about the Crusades not only in the film itself but also during the media promotion he has done for the movie.

Scott is eager to tout all the research and historical detail in Kingdom of Heaven. However, when challenged about the various inaccuracies (and they are numerous), he is quick to intone, “I’m a moviemaker, not a documentarian. I try to hit the truth.” At other times he has defended himself by assuredly claiming, “I don’t think anyone historically, really, except historians, cares” or sarcastically responding, “Every historian is an expert.”

For the full article, click here.

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Pilgrimage Updates!

by Steve Ray on May 26, 2005

OUR SEPTEMBER 2005 “FOOTPRINTS OF MARY & JESUS PILGRIMAGE” . . . . . . HAS SOLD OUT!!!!

But, we now have two new pilgrimages for 2006!

1) Our 2nd  “Footprints of Mary & Jesus Pilgrimage“ is planned for June 8-17, 2006. Click here for the new brochure and itinerary.

2) In conjunction with the Vatican's Notre Dame Center we are organizing a Deacon's Spiritual Renewal Conference & Pilgrimage in Jerusalem September 8-17, 2006. If you know a deacon who would be interested, have him contact me. Brochure will be coming soon!

For questions or to register, please e-mail the very friendly Connie Goode at Corporate Travel or call her at at 313-565-8888 ext 121.  Visit our Pilgrimage Page for future pilgrimages, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Brochures, Daily Schedules, safety, websites, updates, and more.

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What is in the Picture?

May 25, 2005

Recently when I was in Guam a friend took a picture of the beach and sky. When the picture was developed she was surprised by what she saw in the picture. There was something at the top of the picture she didn't see when she took the picture. She sent the picture to me and asked what I [...]

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Catechism Class.com

May 23, 2005

This program looks promising. http://www.catechismclass.com/

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Steve on Fox News

May 22, 2005

When the Pope died, I was called by Fox News for four interviews. They had me listed as “Papal Expert” (which made me chuckle). I put the short interviews on my site as video clips. You can see them by clicking below. Interview #1                  Interview #2

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Catholic Cartoon Tracts to Share the Faith

May 20, 2005

Jack Chick started mass producing his “gospel tracts” decades ago and they have misguided millions with lies and misinformation — especially about the Catholic Church. (Click here for the definitive explanation and refutation of Jack Chick and his publications.) Now Catholics have a series of cartoon tracts to counteract Jack Chick and to share the [...]

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Seminarians Increasing – and the Guys are GOOD!

May 19, 2005

Seminarians Double In 25 YearsThanks to Growth of Vocations in Asia and Africa VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Although the Church counts on a decreasing number of clergy worldwide, the number of seminarians has almost doubled, reveals the latest edition of Church statistics. The "Statistical Yearbook of the Church 2003" reported an increase from [...]

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When Was YOUR Church Started?

May 19, 2005

              Who started your church?Take a look at the list of various churches on the right.Be sure to read all the way to the bottom! Want to learn more about the Catholic Faith?Visit www.saintjoe.com, and check out the many tapes, videos, and other products sold by Saint Joseph Communications. [...]

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Adventures and Stories from Italy

May 18, 2005

Leaving Milan, Augustine’s BonesThe last few days have been a whirlwind. We left our hotel and walked to the Avis Car Rental early in the morning. (Our little Opel parked in Pavia.)  We drove 12 hours from Milan to Rome. Along the way we stopped in Pavia to visit the Church of St. Peters with [...]

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Liturgical Change to the Mass

May 18, 2005

The first major liturgical change we noticed when in Rome! For those who live in the Bible Belt, this is just a joke. Actually, I found out that Pope Benedict, even though being Bavarian, doesn't even like beer.

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Bones and Body Parts in Italy

May 14, 2005

We were beat and eyelids at half mast. Staying up over 28 hours always does that to us, especially with the added stress of travel – cooped up on a plane over the Atlantic, waiting around, catching cabs, making and confirming reservations for hotels and rental cars, and eating horrible airplane food. Sometimes the food [...]

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On our Way to Italy

May 11, 2005

Janet and I are on our way to Italy to celebrate our 11th Anniversary into the Catholic Church — on Pentecost Sunday. We plan to celebrate Sunday Mass at St. Peter's with the new pope. We land in Milan on Thursday. We willl rent a car and slowly make our way to Rome over the first [...]

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Vatican’s Official Pope Benedict Website

May 11, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI now has his official webpage on the Vatican website. Click here to visit this new site.

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Footprint of God Lesson Plans for Teachers

May 11, 2005

School Teachers! DRE's and RCIA teachers! Clergy! Professors! Families! This is a wonderful new development in the Footprints of God DVD series. Ignatius Press has just released helpful Lesson Plans to help teachers use the DVDs in the classroom. There are Lesson Plans for both children and for adults. Study Guides are also available. They [...]

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Learn to Study the Bible & Teach the Bible

May 11, 2005

Do you want to learn how to study the Bible, build a Catholic library, teach the Bible, and more? Then this is the conference for you! Steve Ray will join other Bible teachers in this first-of-a-kind gathering to teach Catholics how to study and teach the Bible.  This group of Catholic Bible teachers will gather together to share their [...]

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