A new app featuring the full text and dramatic readings of the Bible is drawing praise from Catholic clergy who say it can help more people read or hear the Scriptures no matter where they are.

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay said the app "makes hearing and reflecting upon the word of God easy, engaging and acceptable."

"The New Evangelization calls us to reach out using new methods and expressions and this tool allows people to not only read, but hear and experience the word of God in their homes, cars and places of work," he said Jan. 24.

The Truth & Life Dramatized Audio Bible New Testament App comes in free and paid versions. The free version contains a complete text of the Bible in the Revised Standard Edition Second Catholic Edition and a full audio book of the Gospel of Mark.

With an additional purchase, users can add a full-length audio New Testament  voiced by actors including Neal McDonough, Kristen Bell, Sean Astin, Blair Underwood, Malcolm McDowell and John Rhys-Davis. The audio New Testament is 22 hours long. Another optional purchase is a digital edition of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. The Bible text follows the audio automatically.

Father James McIlhone, director of Biblical Formation in the Archdiocese of Chicago who is helping promote the app and develop ways to use it, called it "an audio Bible like no other."

"Where most audio Bibles have one person reading the text, 'Truth and Life' has a host of actors and actresses taking the various parts," he told CNA Jan. 24. "That, coupled with the superb sound effects, allows someone to close their eyes, listen to the Bible and visualize the scene."

Fr. McIlhone said the app helps people have their Bible with them on all their devices. "I find more people following texts when I give talks with their iPhone, Android or iPad rather than with a print Bible."

Michael Stark, a producer of the app, said his work was motivated by his adoption and his Catholic upbringing.

He told CNA was adopted through the Archdiocese of Chicago's agency. He said he was "always grateful for God's graces, especially the parents I was given."

"When the opportunity to produce a Catholic audio Bible and app was presented to me, I jumped on it," he said. "This is my way of giving thanks to God for all the graces he has bestowed upon me."

Stark noted that Catholics can use the app to read the Scriptures as part of a "Lenten Challenge."

"We're encouraging people to read the four gospels in 46 days," he said. "Read four chapters a day. The amount of time it takes for you to do that is 8-10 minutes."

"Take the time to get to know God better, to know the Gospels better," he said.

Stark said he hopes that any Bible-reading habits taken up during Lent will become a regular year-round habit.

Fr. McIlhane added that rather than giving up something for Lent, Catholics should consider giving up "a little time" and read, listen to or meditate on the four Gospels.

"This practice, we feel, could enhance the reader's understanding of Jesus, and bring them into a deeper relationship with him."

He said he has often heard that Catholics have been told not to read the Bible. While he believes this has been true, "it was not my experience."

His grammar school education studied the stories f the Bible and in his high school studies he gained his "first love" for the Bible.

"Catholics have shied away from the Bible," he said. "The essence of our Faith is relationship with Jesus Christ, and the only way we can enter into relationship with Jesus is knowing him and the means par excellence whereby we come to know him is the Bible."

The Bible app is available for Apple devices, Android devices, the Kindle Fire, the Nook and PC computers. More information is available at the website www.truthandlifeapp.com.