Boise, Idaho – When a patient enters a hospital in need of medical support, they are more than a body in need of healing. They are also a soul, an ever-evolving consciousness, and somebody’s loved one.
Just as the meaning of The Saint John’s Bible itself is greater than the cotton pages and calfskin leather that it rests on, the human body and soul have much more to offer than simply the bone and flesh that binds them together. This acknowledgment of the significance of the symbolic, in the human interpretation of the physical, is just one way that Ted Marconi, Mission Leader at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, and others at the hospital, embrace the nuances of what healing truly entails.
“We honor the sacredness and dignity of every person, no matter what. When a patient enters our spaces, we want to show reverence to them in body, mind, and spirit,” said Marconi. “The Saint John’s Bible weaves into our healing environment. It is one of the ways that we show reverence for our patients and for each other.”
The Boise, Idaho hospital acquired its Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible on February 2, 2018 (Watch the video on how they introduced the Heritage Edition to the hospital, here), which makes 2023 the five-year anniversary of the hospital’s acquisition of the seven-volume set. Limited to 299 seven-volume sets, the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible is true to the scale, beauty, and artistic intent of the original manuscript.
Half a decade into ownership of the work, Marconi notes that the hospital community wouldn’t be the same without it. Given the 1,000+ year lifespan of the Heritage Edition, it won’t ever have to. In fact, the work itself is likely to outlive the very hospital walls.
“The Saint John’s Bible has become a part of us. We can’t imagine it not being here,” said Marconi. “If it was taken away, we would have this big void in our lives, in our hospital, in our system. It has really become a part of who we are.”
Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center hosts two of its seven volumes of the Heritage Edition on permanent display in what the hospital refers to as “sacred spaces.” In one sacred space, the work lies open in the main entrance of the hospital for all who are called to witness it. It is protected by a transparent case and illuminated by careful lighting to encourage deep emotional and spiritual reflection. Though silent, individual reflection on the work occurs frequently, Marconi notes that the presence of the Heritage Edition also acts as a vehicle of interpersonal connection and healing between community members.
“I have story after story of people seeing the art and the calligraphy, and how it really inspires them,” said Marconi. “It has happened so often where I just happen to be walking by the Heritage Edition and I walk up to someone and say, ‘What are you thinking about what you’re seeing?’ And they’ll tell me their story about somebody who’s a patient and they’re a person of faith, or how they were drawn to the artwork. They unpack their story with somebody they’ve just met, which is really what it’s all about. For them, The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition is a visual for hope and healing. They were looking for something to give them that.”
The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition Lives at Saint Alphonsus Health System
Though it lives a healthy and robust life in its designated sacred spaces, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center’s Heritage Edition volumes do much more than lay in a display case. The volumes live, breathe, and find a home in the minds of patients and their loved ones, physicians, nurses, environmental service personnel, and more every day.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the hospital maintained a daily page-turning ritual with the Heritage Edition. At approximately 12:30 p.m. each day, one person would perform a brief ceremony before inviting a new person each day to turn the Heritage Edition’s page to welcome a new illumination.
“Some people would sign up because it was their mom’s birthday, or it was the anniversary of their dad’s death, or it was the anniversary of their parents’ wedding,” said Marconi. “They would pick a day that was special to them and spend a moment literally turning the page in their honor.”
When social distance became a necessary fact of life in 2020, one physician who frequented the Heritage Edition every day noticed the pages had stopped being turned. Determined, the physician carried out the ritual alone each day, solitarily ensuring the practice’s existence once the time came to be together again. In 2023, the ritual lives on.
In addition to the ritual page turning, the hospital also makes a point of starting off each meeting by taking the time to review an illumination together. “It’s fascinating, because every single time, when we lead a group through a piece of art, they start looking deeper and deeper, and then they have these revelations. All of a sudden, they see what the artist is trying to do with the text,” said Marconi. “Even those of us who’ve been doing it for five years, we still learn. We still see something we’ve never seen before.”
One year, in an effort to expand this practice, the hospital decided to make 6,000 pocket-sized advent calendars with a new illumination from the Heritage Edition to view each week. For Lent, the community continued a call-in meeting where 150 people were led through a Visio Divina reflection in which they discussed their experience of an illumination from the work.
“We’ve had wonderful dynamic experiences of the artwork, not just in the sacred spaces, but in ways that people could hold in their hand or see on the screen,” said Marconi.
The Heritage Edition even occasionally travels outside of the hospital’s walls. The hospital has shared the work with students at Boise State University on Christmas Eve, local parishes and prayer groups, and it even had a weekend-long residency at the Boise Art Museum.
Though these experiences were put on hold when the pandemic hit, Marconi says he would like to use the next five years with the Heritage Edition to reignite the tradition of using the work as a means for connecting with the larger community. Entirely motivated to share the beauty and reflection that the work provides, additional “sacred spaces” to host more volumes are being built in Saint Alphonsus Health System and its three other hospitals in Nampa, Idaho; Ontario, Oregon; and Baker City, Oregon; further bolstering an already strong healing environment for years to come.
The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition: Inspiring Hope & Healing
To learn more about The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition, visit this page.