Over a nine-month period, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Vocation Office for the Diocesan Priesthood is reading the entire Bible from start to finish, and they are inviting all the faithful to join them in the Bible Novena initiative.

Every first and third Sunday of the month, the office is releasing prerecorded videos of lay individuals, priests, deacons, seminarians and religious from throughout the archdiocese proclaiming segments from every book of sacred Scripture.

The videos are posted at heedthecall.org/BibleNovena.

On the website, the order that the books are released is the order that they appear in the Bible. Visitors can easily select each book and pray along with each corresponding video.

The novena runs from September 2020 through May 2021, but participants can join it at any time.

The videos remain posted on the website and are organized by month. This allows participants to read at their own pace and go back to previously released books.

Gena Ortega is catching up on the books of the Bible she missed since the start of the novena.

The mother of four and parishioner of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Doylestown said, “… it seemed like the Lord was providing a no-brainer way to help me ‘read’ the Scriptures over a nine-month period of time.

“As a busy mom, I struggle to find time to dedicate to focused Bible study, so the opportunity to receive regular Bible readings from seminarians, priests, religious and lay people seemed like the perfect way to carve that time out. And my children can listen, too!”

Ortega said she is “really enjoying having what amounts to an audio Bible available to me, read by fellow members of the archdiocese!”

While Ortega was enthusiastic to pray the novena, she said she never thought she would participate as a reader. But the Holy Spirit had other plans.

Through circumstances this fall, Ortega felt called to make a personal recommitment to dedicated Bible study.

The day following Sept. 30, feast day of St. Jerome — the fifth century scholar responsible for translating the Bible into Latin — Ortega received a call from her parish’s youth minister asking if she would be willing to help read the Book of Judges for the Bible Novena.

“On his feast day, I had recommitted myself to dedicated Bible study. Then lo and behold, the very next day, the Holy Spirit gave me two whole hours to study the Book of Judges while helping the archdiocese,” said Ortega.

“It confirmed for me that being open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit always reaps rewards.”

The Bible Novena continues into the month of November, which includes National Bible Week, Nov. 18-24.

Nov. 18 also marks the 55th anniversary of Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. The document enabled the council “to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on,” it read.

By reading and praying with Scripture, the Word of God “speaks to us in a very powerful and personal way, as well as guiding all humanity through all of history,” said Father Stephen DeLacy, vocations director.

The Bible Novena is part of the Vocation Office’s theme for the year: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening,” which comes from 1 Samuel 3:9.

To help participants study each month’s passages more deeply, the Vocation Office is also releasing short reflection videos each week on various themes and Biblical figures who responded “yes” to God’s call.

The reflections are presented by invited guests, many of whom are from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. These videos are posted on the website, as well as the Vocation Office’s Facebook page @PhillyPriest.

“Many of us only read Scripture during Mass, never going deeper than the Sunday readings,” said Susan Matour, the associate director of the Vocation Office. “The hope is that by praying through and reading the Bible with us in this nine-month novena, not only will participants’ knowledge and experience of the Scriptures be broadened, but their faith deepened as they read and listen to the inspired word of God and hear the stories of our ancestors in faith.”

Her hopes echo that of Vatican II in Dei Verbum, “… that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love.”

Learn more about the Bible Novena, and find all Scripture and reflection videos at heedthecall.org/BibleNovena.