Below are the verbatim responses from Questions 6, 7, and 8 of the Steward and Subscriber Survey.
During lockdown, we turned to virtual programming to continue offering school an opportunity to share TheBible with students. We were able to visit about 17,000 students. We ran a concert event with three choirs, called Sing for Joy, at The Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King to celebrate the reception of the entire Heritage Edition. Held a virtual conference with other stewards in Canada, so we could meet each other and share how we are sharing TheBible. Using the illuminations widely: with our offices at the Dioceses, Parishes, and school boards.
When The Bible was used in the Messiah concert at St. Martin in the Fields, we purchased a ticket, and I was able to share the concert with my students. They were in awe of they way the music and imagery were combines and were excited by how the symbolism in the imagery was so relevant to scripture. For many of them, this was the first time they really saw scripture represented in imagery.
I’m just trying to implement the new ideas I read about each month! I’ve issued a new call for musical compositions inspired by specific illuminations, and on October 10, we’ll host a CD launch party for a new collection of original jazz music inspired by TSJB illuminations. When the combo is playing those, we’ll project the images on a screen in the recital hall.
A favorite recent event was a retreat on the theme “Making Art Out of Our Mistakes,” in which we took the fact that people who know TSJB love to see the drolleries in the margins that attend to the scribers’ errors and make them unexpected little moments of grace and inspiration. There were three movements to the day, each focused on one of three error treatments in TSJB (each suggesting a different path to new life or correction): the bumblebee, the lemur, the crow. Re-framing mistakes as inspiration for growth was a powerful experience for participants, one of whom suggested we should start calling these experiences “advances,” not “retreats.” Also, after classroom and parish visits to provide an overview of TSJB, we get lots of requests for very small gatherings on specific illuminations: everything from an hour in a hospice room to a session in a private study room with a student and her visiting grandparents to explore their favorite stories.
I learned to do calligraphy when I was in high school, and I am always on the lookout for beautiful writing. The beauty of these pages, combined with the divinely inspired Word of God, is breathtaking. I read Scripture every day, and it would be so wonderful to “see” these words on a regular basis. I am a very visual person, and it has been meaningful to me to be able to enjoy this beautiful work, even though it is only a few pages at a time.
I am an art teacher and I use the information about The Saint John’s Bible and its creation when I teach about calligraphy and illumination. My students watch some of the videos and we look at examples of various pages. We talk about how The Bible is the source for our understanding of truth and beauty and how calligraphers try to bring that to us visually, especially in The Saint John’s Bible. We talk about the modern interpretations of this Bible and how it compares to other time periods.
Young artists getting to see how art can reflect religion in a modern and positive way. The look on their faces when they see a story come to life in paint and creativity is brilliant.
Every year, I present The Saint John’s Bible to a group of graduate students in the Echo program, a post-graduate service-learning program offered by the McGrath Institute for Church Life. The topic of my presentation centers around integrating visual art into the task of catechesis. Throughout the year, I receive emails from our Echo apprentices, asking permission to share illuminations from The Saint John’s Bible in their classroom, alongside other great works of sacred Christian art. They are introducing their young students to the richness and beauty of Catholicism and using art to explain various doctrines of the Church more vividly and effectively. Their creativity and energy in their work never ceases to amaze me.
We have a blog to which student Theology majors have contributed. Students help change display pages of The Bible throughout the year. A professor uses it frequently for Visio Divina, retreats, and class visits.
TSJB Heritage Edition transformed our campus community through the turn and reflect sessions that we have held with the illuminated Bible. In these weekly gatherings, professors from many different disciplines interact with TSJB in unique and innovative ways. The faithful who come to learn more about The Bible are never disappointed, and there is a larger lesson, about the inexhaustible riches of TSJB.
The McGrath Institute for Church Life designed a free, six-unit online series, providing an overview of illuminated manuscripts and the creation of The Saint John’s Bible in general, then unpacking the theological language of five illuminations. The series also included videos providing a scriptural exegesis of the passages depicted in the illuminations, as well as guided experiences of Lectio and Visio Divina. The first time we offered this series, we had nearly 1,500 participants from around the world. We are currently working to reframe the series as a resource for mystagogy, which is a time of formation that parish ministers often struggle to implement. We are hopeful that the beautiful art of The Saint John’s Bible will help the newly initiated—as well as their fellow long-time parishioners—dive more deeply into the mysteries of faith.
With senior faculty leaders on campus, I led a Visio Divina using the Road to Emmaus illumination. The group was pretty evenly split between people of some and no faith, even deep suspicion about religion. As we debriefed the experience, I actually saw lightbulbs above peoples’ heads as they connected the Emmaus story to our campus’ new commitment to themes of accompaniment and context in our interactions with students and with one another. It was so much more powerful than a trite statement about the importance of building a sense of community. People honed in on the action of the story really being Jesus’ deep listening and asking open-ended questions, without passing harsh judgement about what the disciples should have known. The blurred lines on the illumination really opened the conversation—there were so many portals into new understanding and embracing of our specific charism as a Holy Cross institution that elevates accompaniment and context.
I visited The Saint John’s Bible last October and found the Lenten Series an inspiring devotion, and I forwarded it each week to several friends who found that the presentation imparted peace. I hope you will give a series of the symbology of the art in the coming year.
I am retired, but the institution is doing creative things. To support, enhance resilience among healthcare workers, members of the Mission Integration Department are using a mobile health vehicle one time a week to offer resources to staff at outlying clinic locations. Part of the spiritual resource is a volume of TSJB which can be touched, looked at, pondered. Nurses and others would never have time otherwise for this kind of interaction with the Living Word of God.
We have taken 2 of the books to senior living centers and presented a program that lasts about an hour.
At our parish, we have used a camera mounted over the volume of the Heritage SJB being presented. This allows participants who are seated to view the presentation live on a bigger screen—to see exactly what the presenter is pointing to or as the pages are being turned. We have found it helpful when the numbers wishing to attend are many and all can’t fit around the presentation table (usually 7-10) to have a close view of The Bible during the presentation. We then allow extra time after the presentation for those interested to have “table view,” and our presenter (Dr. Angela McCarthy) has been extremely generous with her time, allowing everyone to have their fill of TSJB before calling it a day.
Carson-Newman University continues to offer daily viewing and optional docent-led touring of The Saint John’s Bible in the Denton Gallery specifically designed for TSJB with viewing stands, storage cabinet, and bases for glass cabinets (showcasing Biblical-era artifacts) made by the Saint John’s woodworking shop. In addition to The Bible, these items are treasured works of art.
There are so many stories I have regarding The Saint John’s Bible. I was in the board of Trustees for The College of St. Benedict when the concept of The Bible was being considered. I watched as it came to life. I was at Saint Mary’s College when an edition was presented by my classmate Judy Rauenhorst. Since then, on EVERY visit to Saint Mary’s library, I take my now 11-year-old niece to The Bible. Perch her up on the stool and we study the pages for that day. We even saw a page being turned by Saint Mary’s curator with gloved hands. Finally, I read every week to Mary Frey, one of the original sponsors. She had a copy in her home, and I would read to her and describe the artwork on the open pages. And then I would read a different book we had chosen for the visit.
My son (age 11) was very impressed with The Saint John’s Bible Gallery. His face showed awe. I think it was so valuable for him to see—visually in artistic renderings—the true sacred quality of God’s word penned in human language. Because we come from a non-liturgical Christian background, I feel this is missing for my children in other settings. Also, Father William Skudlarek paid a special visit to our family as we visited The Bible Gallery. So, my son witnessed not only pages in the book, but the real-life presence of a priest/monk, who no doubt cherishes God’s Word!
I had the privilege of inviting my community group as well as a neighboring group to our library in order to spend the evening with the Heritage Edition. The idea was that this would be an opportunity for us to connect with others in our church outside a normal Sunday service. We had about 25 people, some who had never heard about The Bible before, and some who already had a print hanging on their wall. What made the biggest impact on me was seeing the engagement of those around me quickly deepen the more they heard about the process and the book itself. After the initial information upload that is given to most who come to see The Bible, the group had some time to ask questions and engage with the illuminations for themselves. They quickly began to make requests to see other passages and made their own observations about what meaning the illuminations might contain, noticing unique details each time. This experience ignited a desire to come back and read The Bible again.
I received a grant to organize a four session “Artist’s Beit Midrash” with a local synagogue. We studied, with the help of a Jewish scholar and Catholic theologian, four passages from Hebrew Scripture and used the four corresponding illuminations from TSJB for reflection and discussion. A professional artist was also part of our team. Some of the twelve or so participants made art from their experience of our group, which ended up including: drawing, poetry, and sharing pieces of music.
Lasting Impressions, Taking Action
One of our docents first saw The Saint John’s Bible at an open viewing. He was so drawn to it that he approached us to see if he could volunteer. We were actually looking for docents to work with us. We encouraged him to apply to the position. He did, and he now works with us as a docent.
Comments in the “Guest Book” next to our SJB – inspiring, awesome, such a gift, etc.
The first time my husband and I saw The Saint John’s Bible was at the New Mexico History Museum. We had never seen anything like it, and many people that were visiting with us were awestruck as well. The exhibit was extended because there was such interest, and it inspired us to gift the Heritage Edition to the Cathedral of St. John in Albuquerque.
Men in the hospital facilities department responded with admiration, respect, even awe as, from their technical perspectives, they saw the craft and the art of the illuminations.
I gave a homily on the image of the Raising of Lazarus, showing how the image relates to the other images in the Gospel. The depth of the image was the object of the sermon that brought the congregation to realize that Jesus is calling them to new life if they will accept it. Many people told me that it was a completely new way of understanding the story of Lazarus and that it made them see Jesus’ call to them in a new way.
Our efforts in helping to manufacture the Heritage Edition were highlighted by Mayor Rybak in a state of the city speech. In a crowded room filled with press and constituents, I happened to sit in the row in front of his wife and mother, an Edition in my lap, and they were amazed at its beauty and dignity. We ended up in the Star Tribune the next day because a photojournalist saw it and knew it would look good accompanying an otherwise-dry report of the mayor’s address.
A woman in a retreat setting was looking at the classic illumination of Jesus as the Sower of the word of God. She asked, is he really dressed in blue jeans? Yes. And yet with the halo on his head, it hit her—truly human and truly divine. And she broke into tears.