by Catherine Bulger
Just after Christmas, Christine Ziegler (South Bend) noticed something surprising in the LaSalle Company’s sales orders. A particular Bible edition stocked in the South Bend warehouse was suddenly flying off the shelves. Customers were even paying extra for fast shipping.
“On December 28 we had 335 Great Adventure Bibles in stock. By January 8 we had sold all of them,” Christine notes.
The reason: a podcast called The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz). Within 48 hours of its launch on January 1, it had shot straight to the top of the podcast charts— past The New York Times’ daily podcast, past the gruesome true crime tales from Dateline NBC, past the pundit Ben Shapiro. The Bible was king.
The podcast is just what it says it is. Each day of 2021, the host, Fr. Mike Schmitz of Duluth, Minnesota, reads several chapters of the bible and then offers a brief reflection. The episodes last 20-25 minutes. (Community listeners may want to know that the commentaries come from a Roman Catholic perspective.)
The podcast spent the first two weeks of January parked atop Apple’s top shows list, and its episodes have been downloaded over 30 million times so far, according to Ascension Press, which is producing the podcast. It is still among Apple’s top 15 podcasts. (Apple has about a million podcasts in its lineup.)
"It was a pleasant surprise because I'm literally just reading the Bible," Fr. Mike said in a recent interview.
Along the way, he was also promoting The Great Adventure Bible, an edition published by Ascension Press and developed by Catholic biblical scholar Jeff Cavins. It divides the story of the Bible into twelve time periods, each page color-coded to indicate where it fits in the timeline. The podcast follows The Great Adventure Bible timeline.
Underestimating the popularity of the podcast, Ascension quickly sold out all their copies. For a brief time, the Communication Center (LaSalle Company’s book distribution arm) was the only place on the Internet where customers could find The Great Adventure Bible.
Fr. Mike, who hosts another podcast with Ascension, as well as a YouTube series, had the idea for the podcast last year, during the first months of the pandemic. He told National Catholic Register in an interview that he was listening to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks at the time. He noticed that when he listened to even intelligent people who had good things to say, he was left afterward feeling unsettled, not, he says, “in a place of wisdom.” But when he listened to Scripture, it was different. “It allowed me to see what’s going on — in our culture, our world, our life — with the wisdom of Christ and through the lens of Scripture.” So he suggested to Ascension that they produce a Bible-in-a-year podcast and, when they expressed interest but said they weren’t sure who would take that on, offered to host it.
One listener wrote on Facebook, “I am finding that the more I am learning about the Bible, the more I want to learn. It is like a hunger that drives you to read more, search more, and pray more.”
Another said in an Apple podcast review this week, “I’ve never read the bible before, though I’ve tried and failed. This podcast keeps me coming back.”
How to listen to “The Bible in a Year”
• You can find all the episodes available online at https://media.ascensionpress.com/all-bible-in-a-year-episodes/. This is a good way to listen if you don’t have or don’t want to use a podcast app. The podcast is free.
• On an iphone: Open the “Podcasts” app. (It’s the purple icon that looks like an “i” with circles around it.) Tap the “Search” icon in the lower right corner and type “The Bible in a Year” into the search bar.
• On an android phone: Open the Google Podcasts app and search for “The Bible in a Year.”
• If you don’t have a podcast app on your phone, go to the App Store and search for “Google Podcasts” or “Stitcher”. Download and install the app on your phone. Then open it and search for the podcast.
• You can download the Scripture reading plan for the year at https://media.ascensionpress.com/category/ascension-podcasts/bibleinayear/ (You have to enter your email address to receive the reading plan.)
• The episodes are organized by number, not date (eg. Day 1, Day 4, Day 65, etc.), so you can start at any time and follow it on your own schedule.
Note: You do not need a Great Adventure Bible. You can simply listen to the reading on the podcast or, if you would like to follow along with the text, you can use any RSV Bible (Catholic Edition).