ST. MARTINVILLE, La. (CNS) — An annual 100-hour, nonstop public Bible reading takes place in St. Martinville in the Diocese of Lafayette Jan. 19-23.
The holy Bible will be read publicly from cover to cover without pause in the square of the diocese’s oldest church parish, St. Martin de Tours. The parish was erected in 1765 and the present church dates to 1836. The reading will begin at 12:30 p.m. (local time) Jan. 19 and end at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 23, which is Word of God Sunday.
During the four days of continuous reading, 300 lectors from the various 121 parish churches in the Diocese of Lafayette as well as faith leaders from other denominations from across the Acadiana region will be employed. The Bible Marathon will help to accentuate “the rich cultural heritage of the region by including its various nationalities and languages,” said a news release on the event. In addition to English, selections from the Bible will be read in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Vietnamese, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. Over 3,000 people usually attend at various times throughout the 100 hours.
Fête-Dieu du Teche in conjunction with St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church is hosting the Bible Marathon. Fête-Dieu du Teche is an organization that sponsors an annual eucharistic boat procession of the same name each August to celebrate faith, family and tradition in the Lafayette Diocese.
The Bible Marathon will be live-streamed on the Fête-Dieu du Teche Facebook page. The special event is intended to help “prime the pump” and reignite a love for the word of God and its practice in our lives, said Father Michael Champagne, a priest of the Community of Jesus Crucified, who is the organizer of the event.
“People everywhere love to exercise. It’s important to stay in physical shape, which is why many participate in programs such as CrossFit and compete in Iron Man races, triathlons and marathons. And we wanted to provide a way for people to spiritually exercise,” the priest said. “We, as Christians, and all men and women of goodwill, need to ‘shake the dust off’ our Bibles and begin to ponder God’s plan for our lives.”
“In these chaotic times we often get confused about how we are to act in our personal lives, in our families, at work and in our dealings with others,” he added. “God’s preeminent way of speaking to us is through the sacred Scriptures.
“Every page of the Bible recounts God’s burning and fatherly love for us, and the Bible Marathon is a reminder of that love.”
Lafayette Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel participates in the Bible Marathon every year. He said it “serves as a reminder of the importance of the Bible, the word of God and the sacred Scriptures.”
“In the very noisy world we live in today, the significance of the word of God can be easily lost,” Bishop Deshotel said. “The Bible is a record of God’s interaction with the human race” and “culminates in the person of Jesus Christ.”
Fête-Dieu du Teche has added a new element to this year’s Bible Marathon — the “Friar Truck.” The retrofitted antique fire truck has been transformed into a mobile church with a built-in pulpit.
The Friar Truck, blessed by Bishop Deshotel Jan. 7, will be used for proclaiming the word of God during this year’s Bible Marathon, Father Champagne said. The truck also is stocked with free Bibles, holy water and will be used for itinerant street preaching on the Scriptures at various public locations in the region. Among this year’s readers will be Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who noted that the rule of law won’t fail if it is anchored in the law of God. The Bible Marathon — also called the “Jubilee of the Word Marathon” — “is a great way to recover that wisdom and reflect on it together,” he said.
According to Father Champagne, the public Bible reading in the church square in St. Martinville has spawned many Bible studies and inspired other Bible Marathons at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in NewvOrleans and most recently in Colorado.
During the marathon in St. Martinville, priests will be available each day for the sacrament of reconciliation “by means of the Spiritual Care Unit,” or SCU, a mobile confessional, according to the news release.
“Catholics who are properly disposed can obtain a plenary indulgence by reading or listening for 30 minutes from the holy Bible in the square during the event,” the release said. All lectors were asked to invite at least 10 people to come along with them “and listen to the Word while it is being proclaimed in the square.”
“We need proclaimers of the Word, but also hearers of the Word, and most importantly doers of the Word,” said Father Champagne.