St. Mary Mercy welcomes ‘unique’ hand-written and illustrated Bible

Bible A page of the Saint John’s Bible, a replica of which will be on display at St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia for a year, illuminates the birth of Jesus. Courtesy Photo

Livonia — St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia is inviting patients and visitors alike to have an authentic encounter with the Scriptures.

On July 18, Livonia-based Trinity Health, the parent company of St. Joseph Mercy Health System, unveiled a copy of The Saint John’s Bible at St. Mary Mercy Hospital, the first completely handwritten and illuminated Bible since the invention of the printing press more than 500 years ago.

The Saint John’s Bible was commissioned in 1998 at Saint John’s University by the monks of Saint John’s Benedictine Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. The handwritten text is produced on calfskin vellum using hand-cut goose quills and paints from hand-grounded minerals and stone, a similar technique monks in the Middle Ages used to create Bibles before the dawn of movable type.

There are 299 laser-printed copies of the Bible. Each one has a hand-pressed gold leaf next to various illuminations as part of the Bible’s heritage edition, providing a uniqueness to each copy.

“When Trinity Health purchased the heritage edition of the Bible, we were selected as one of the sites to share a portion of it for a year,” said David Spivey, president of St. Mary Mercy Livonia. “With our proximity to the main system office on Seven Mile (Road), we were a natural selection. Plus we take our Catholic faith very seriously at St. Mary’s. I think that helps as well.”

For one year, St. Mary Mercy will have a copy of the Gospels plus Acts of the Apostles on display in the hospital’s south lobby.

St. Mary Mercy Livonia invites members from the surrounding community to come look at the Bible in its glass casing, and on Wednesdays at noon, the hospital will have a page-turning ceremony where different departments will be on hand for prayer while a trained book handler will turn a page.

“When the vice president for mission for Trinity approached us about hosting a volume for a year, we jumped at that opportunity,” said David Nantais, mission leader for St. Mary Mercy. “This brings the word of God out in a new way, in the spirit of the Gospel.”

The original Saint John’s Bible in total features 1,150 pages and 160 illuminations. The original Bible hasn’t been bounded yet; instead 10-page sections are being taken to various museums throughout the world.

The 299 replicas are printed on a special cotton paper that hasn’t been treated with chemicals like normal paper — making the pages very delicate to handle — and the Bibles are broken into seven different volumes.

“The Gospels are an expression of why we do what we do,” Spivey said. “Christ is a healing figure; healing is a very prominent part of the Gospel. We think the Bible can spark the physical recovering of a person by invoking the faith and imagination of our visitors. Besides the words in the Bible, the pictures and the paintings and illuminations are very vibrant and eye-catching. They spark the imaginations with colors and techniques; it’s just mesmerizing to look at.”

During the introduction ceremony, Nantais said he hopes people of all faiths who visit the hospital will take advantage of the trained experts who can guide them through all the illustrations and history of the Bible.

Saint John’s Bible

Contact Dave Nantais, mission leader at St. Mercy Mercy Livonia, (734) 655-1646, to have a guided experience with the Saint John’s Bible.