How did a priest with a Bible study beat out every other podcast in the country, even ahead of everything the secular world has to offer? That’s not just hopeful; it’s amazing!
Within 48 hours of its January 1 launch, The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz ) skyrocketed to the #1 spot on Apple’s Top Shows in all categories and remains there as of this writing. Fr. Mike Schmitz is a longtime podcaster who directs the young-adult ministry in the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota.
“We've been at the top of the charts since Jan 2, and have over 4.3 million downloads and over a quarter million people have signed up for the reading plan,” according to Lauren Joyce, Public Relation Specialist for Ascension Press, publisher and sponsor of the podcast and Great Adventure Bible. “It's a moment for Catholics to be proud, and to engage the larger culture with questions: Why now - with all the suffering in our culture - are more people searching for Scripture? How on earth is a religious podcast doing so well on the secular charts?”
In The Bible in a Year podcast, Fr. Mike Schmitz, goes through the entire Bible in 20-25-minute daily episodes and also provide reflection and prayer. The podcast format allows users to access it on their smartphones and listen however it best fits into their day.
The reading plan was developed by Catholic Bible scholar Jeff Cavins who created the Great Adventure® Bible Timeline. He organized the 73 book of the Bible into the 14 narrative books within 12 periods to help understand the salvation story. In a news release, Fr. Schmitz credited the program with changing his own relationship with God’s Word calling it, “probably the most
significant Bible study that I’ve ever been a part of.”
Although Catholics have a reputation for not reading their Bibles, that has been changing in recent years. It’s been a trend reflected in a growth of Catholic Bible studies. The Bible in a Year podcasts can be accessed immediately, but the huge interest for the Great Adventure Bible means new orders are backlogged until May. I am fortunate to already have one. I’ve been using it ever since 2019 after writing the article, Catholics Can Fall in Love with The Bible for Legatus Magazine.
After 12 years as a Protestant pastor, Cavins returned to the Catholic faith in 1995, wanting to ignite the same love for Scripture in Catholics he had witnessed among born-again Christians. “After Bible college, I knew the individual stories, but I wanted to wrap my mind around the whole story,” he explained. When the idea came to him in 1985 to create a color-coded chronological chart based on mnemonics(“memory devices”) to make it easy to understand and remember, he spent the next 48 hours in a whirlwind of activity, not even stopping for sleep.
Once it was developed, Cavins kept it at his desk for personal use, but whenever staff or other pastors became aware of it, they asked for copies. “I realized that I had stumbled on a key that got people excited,” he said.
Cavins returned to the Church in 1995, and the next year introduced his Great Adventure Bible Timeline to Franciscan University of Steubenville where he taught. That same year, fellow professor Dr. Scott Hahn teamed up with him to film “Our Father’s Plan,” a 13-week series for EWTN Television based on the timeline.
A Wider Audience
In 2003, while Cavins spoke at a conference using his Bible timeline, Matthew Pinto was in the audience filling his notebook with notes. “Oh my gosh, this could change the Church,” Pinto told him after the talk. As the president and founder of Ascension Press, he made Cavin’s Bible Timelineaccessible on a large scale. It has since helped millions of people read and understand the Bible.
“There is something in the very DNA written into Scripture that brings about transformation in our hearts and mind,” Pinto explained. “I want people to experience what I have experienced through the Bible. In fact, we are all living the salvation history story right now –from Creation and Adam and Eve, all the way to me sitting in my office today.”
According to Cavins, we can get personal guidance from God using Scripture especially through using the four steps of Lectio Divina: to read, meditate, pray, and contemplate passages. “It’s also a marvelous source for coming to know the theology and the economy of God,” he said. “The economy of God means getting to know the heart of the Father and His plan for your life. Scripture gives us a foundation on which we can trust God.”
Wherever a person is on his faith journey, Cavins encourages people to simply “jump in” and read the Bible. “God wants you to know Him even more than you want to know Him,” he said. “The only way our life makes sense is in relationship with God’s stories. You’ll find your story in His story.”