opinion |  Minnesota priest Michael Schmitz creates 'The Bible in One Year' podcast
How to Read the Bible

opinion | Minnesota priest Michael Schmitz creates ‘The Bible in One Year’ podcast


Emeritus Pope XVI. John Paul was a tireless traveler with a charming smile. His successor is a scholar of a scholar. One used charisma to encourage the herd; the other is the written word.

Now comes a much younger man, a master of new technologies, to pursue his mission of evangelizing and teaching. Location: A Midwestern college campus, not Rome.

Reverend Michael Schmitz, a priest in the Diocese of Duluth, Minn., serves University of Minnesota Duluth students—but that’s not the surprising part. Entering its third year, Ascension Press’s “Gospel in One Year” podcast reaches audiences on a scale unimaginable before the digital age.

The podcast offers a daily Scripture lesson in less than 30 minutes, starting on day one with Genesis and ending on day 365 after every word of the Catholic Bible is read aloud. Schmitz adds clear and engaging explanations of sometimes difficult texts so that a challenging project flies by faster than anyone can imagine or hope for.

When I interviewed Schmitz In October, his podcast’s all-time downloads topped iTunes and Spotify’s religion charts for most of 2021 and 2022, and sometimes topped the charts – 350 million heading towards 400 million. Awakened by word of mouth and the usual explosion of New Year’s resolutions, “The Bible in One Year” will exceed half a billion downloads in the coming months.

I followed this up by asking: How many listeners does that mean? “Father Mike,” as his audience called him, objected—and with good reason. Not all downloads are actually listened to. On the other hand, some are listened to by groups of people in a living room, boardroom, or car-share. Whatever the total number of ears Father Mike reached, it is certainly one of the largest evangelical gatherings in church history.

When The New York Times took note The newspaper described Schmitz of this counterculture podcasting phenomenon as “a friendly 47-year-old Midwesterner whose upbeat and self-deprecating demeanor exudes a strong Ted Lasso air – not to mention the good looks of ordinary men.” This is true. He is as friendly as a park bench in his voice and demeanor.

He is also a very familiar figure to all Catholics who have known great priests in their lives. Podcasting is an intimate form of communication. Schmitz cannot attract such a large audience with gloomy or grumpy speeches. But joy cannot be imitated; got to be candid Schmitz is the real deal with an added layer of “Minnesota nice”. Catholics of a certain age may be reminded of Father Charles “Chuck” O’Malley, the kind but persuasive priest that Bing Crosby embodies in his book “”.Mary’s Bells.Even cynics would have to admit his sincerity if they could skip their podcasts for a few weeks or even an entire year.

Not one to listen to, Schmitz released a second podcast on New Year’s Day. “Catechism in a Year” aims to do for official Catholic teaching what the original podcast did for the Good Book. Perhaps aware that far fewer people aspire to learn the Catholic Catechism than those who want to learn the Bible, Schmitz’s new podcast has a limited timeline. Episode 1 lasted 16 minutes. Chapter 2 is just under 15. There is not much time to devote to a firm grasp of the collective beliefs of a 20-century formation.

The preface to Modern Catechism takes the first two sections and wraps it up with this:

“As the Roman Catechism [of 1563] As stated, whoever teaches must be all things to all to win all to Christ. First of all, teachers should not imagine that only one kind of spirit is entrusted to them – and, as a result, it is lawful for true piety to be taught and molded equally to all believers by one and the same method.

That’s it for one type of religious aid that fits all. The foreword continues: “In teaching the secrets of the faith and the code of moral conduct, those called to the preaching ministry should adapt their words to the maturity and understanding of their listeners. First of all,” Schmitz concluded—what might be the motto for his powerful digital service—“philanthropy.”

Two days into the new podcast, I had already advanced in my knowledge of my faith. Even if you don’t share my beliefs and the beliefs of Catholics around the world, perhaps you will want to know what our church really teaches. Thanks to Father Mike, learning has never been easier.

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