For tech-savvy Catholics on the go, there is a new option to have the Bible in a more convenient format with the ability to search for any requested passage on demand.
Michael Stark, a Chicago businessman, is the co-creator and executive producer of the Truth and Life Audio Bible and App. This Vatican-endorsed app is available for free download for iOS or Android devices. It contains the full text of the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition of the Bible.
A 22-hour-long audio Bible, available for purchase, features an array of sound effects and an original musical score. Stark recruited a who's-who of Hollywood actors and actresses, including Sean Astin, Kristen Bell, Brian Cox, Stacy Keach, Malcolm McDowell, Julia Ormond, John Rhys-Davies, Blair Underwood and Michael York, to narrate.
Stark funded and developed the project along with a friend. In addition to working with either iOS or Android devices, it can also be opened on PCs. Stark called the app a "Catholic tool box" in that it contains links to provide Catholics with answers to questions about their faith. He said Cardinal Timothy Dolan called their creation the "greatest Catholic product ever."
"First and foremost, because I was adopted out of the Archdiocese of Chicago, I feel I owe the Catholic Church," Stark said. "My whole wonderful life is due to the fact that I was given the chance to live, first of all, and be adopted by wonderful parents. That's where I started with it. I was pretty much retired when we started this project, and I just wanted to give something back, so I was asked to help fund the project."
In addition to the full text of the Bible in English and the search function, the app includes footnotes, complete text of the Bible in Spanish, and the full two hours of St. Mark's Gospel audio for free.It includes a foreword by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and has been endorsed by other well-known figures in the Church.
The 20 additional hours of the audio Bible are available for purchase for $19.99.
Another button on the app, "Word Made Clear" explains the Biblical origins of the Mass and biographies of the Gospel writers. The search tool can also be used in a wide variety of ways to cover one book or the entire text.
"I like the fact that you can go from verse to chapter verse in a second," Stark said. "If you type in the word 'dog,' 'dog' appears 43 times. 'Cat' only appears once. With that search tool, I'm in Mark, so it'll show how many times the word appears in Mark's Gospel."
Stark said these aspects of the app can make it very useful for priests who are looking for verses to use in homilies since it will allow them to find exactly what they are looking for. The app also allows people to save bookmarks, create their own notes, highlight and adjust the font and size. There is also a Lenten reading program.
"It's like a toy," Stark said. "There's just so much stuff that you can do with it."
The project is co-produced by Raymond Arroyo of Eternal Word Television Network. It also appeals to young people since the project is affiliated with Focus, Steubenville Young Adult Conferences and Life Teen, and some of the familiar names are likely to resonate with the younger population. Stark said this especially is the case with Kristen Bell, who voiced Princess Anna in the movie "Frozen."
Stark is hoping that the sound effects and actors reading will make the app more appealing than the large book of the Bible.
"You're going to have these actors perform it for me with sound effects, and music, they're going to read it," Stark said. "If you want, it synchs up with the verses, the audio, so you can read it and hear it at the same time."