Not just another Bible app

By Zoey Di Mauro

WASHINGTON — The gentle lilt of Julia Ormond emotes the Magnificat, the deep voice of Blair Underwood narrates as Gospel writer Mark, Kristin Bell plays Mary Magdalene and Brian Cox is the voice of God.

You’ve never heard the Gospel quite like this.

Hoping to create something that allows people to not only read, but hear and experience the word of God, the team behind the “Truth & Life” dramatized audio New Testament has now created an app for it.

Besides recruiting talented actors to give their time to the project — “We really love the way he did it,” said the executive producer of Neal McDonough’s performance as Jesus — team members created an version of the New Testament enhanced by sound effects and an original music score. The app even allows you follow along with the text, take and save notes, and search for words within the entire Bible.

Embracing Blessed John Paul II’s call to “employ the communications media (to achieve) the full impact of the Gospel message,” executive producer Mike Stark and his partner, producer Carl Amari, set out to produce a quality audio recording of the Bible. After 10,000 production hours, working with more than 20 audio engineers, more than 100 media development experts and more than 75 actors and actresses, they had what they needed: a dramatized audio version of the New Testament.

“We’ve got great support from all the people in the Catholic Church,” said Stark, “people are on fire about it.” The “Truth & Life” Bible has been granted an imprimatur from the Vatican, or a seal of approval, and contains foreword by Pope Benedict XVI. It has been endorsed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Father Robert Baron, creator of the “Catholicism” series, the National Catholic Educational Association, and several others groups and individuals.

“I think it’s great!” Julianne Stanz, director of new evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., told Catholic News Service.

“Catholics often feel that they don’t have the teachings of the Scriptures,” Stanz continued, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. I think that this app puts the writing directly into people’s hands.”

The free app is available for several devices, such as Apple products, Kindle Fire, Android, Nook or a PC, and comes with the entire New Testament text and the audio of the Gospel of St. Mark. The remaining audio books can be purchased and downloaded, or are available in a CD format.

“We’re making plans for a Spanish version, and maybe the Old Testament down the road, but one step at a time,” said Stark.

Though the assumption is most people in the pews know their faith, explained Stanz, there are an increasing number of people, even churchgoers who identify themselves as atheists or agnostics. Her diocese especially is trying to promote the app as a way for parishioners to take Christ into their daily lives.

“The Bible was traditionally read out loud because most people didn’t know how to read,” said Stark. He believes hearing the Gospel makes it less daunting and even more engaging.

Added Stanz, “The new evangelization aims to speak to the world using new methods and expressions and I think that this meets people where they’re at.”

Maybe hearing is believing.