ST. MARTINVILLE, La. — This year marks the third time the Bible will be read publicly from cover to cover without pause in the square of the Diocese of Lafayette’s oldest church parish, St. Martin de Tours, founded in 1765.
For this Bible Marathon — from midday March 6, Ash Wednesday, through the evening of March 10 — 300 lectors from the 121 parishes in the diocese, along with faith leaders of other denominations from across Acadiana, will do the reading from a special handmade Bible.
Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel and retired Bishop Michael Jarrell of Lafayette will both read during the event.
The region’s various nationalities and languages will be represented. In addition to English, selections of the Bible will be read in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Vietnamese, Hebrew, Latin and Greek.
The event is intended to help “prime the pump” and reignite a love for the word of God and its practice in life, 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 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,” he said in a statement.
“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,” he continued. “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.
“God’s pre-eminent 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.”
Over 3,000 people were in attendance at the Bible Marathon last year.
The “Jubilee of the Word Marathon,” as the event also is being called, “serves as a reminder of the importance of the Bible, the word of God and the sacred Scriptures,” said Bishop Deshotel. “In the very noisy world we live in today, the significance of the word of God can be easily lost. The Bible is a record of God’s interaction with the human race (and) culminates in the person of Jesus Christ.”
During the event priests will be available each day for the sacrament of reconciliation at the Spiritual Care Unit, a mobile confessional.
Catholics who are properly disposed can obtain a plenary indulgence by reading or listening for 30 minutes from the Bible in the square during the event. All lectors have been 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.
Among the readers will be Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. Noting that the rule of law won’t fail if it is anchored in the law of God, Landry stated: “The ‘Jubilee of the Word Marathon’ is a great way to recover that wisdom and reflect on it together.”
Many Bible studies have been spawned by the public Bible reading in the square, and the event has inspired other Bible marathons such as the one last year at McNeese State University and just recently in New Orleans.
Sister Anne-Marie, a novice of the Community of Jesus Crucified, who attended last year as a volunteer, recalled that “it was very peaceful just to sit and listen to the word of God. It was wonderful to see all the different faith groups coming together to proclaim the love of God for his people.”
The event is sponsored by a nonprofit Catholic organization called Fete-Dieu du Teche, which is directed by Father Champagne. It is dedicated to preserving and promoting the Catholic faith in the Acadiana area.
“It is devoted to the new evangelization — the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ anew, with a new zeal, a new vitality, a new credibility, with new methods, to those who may have drifted from the church and are in need of a re-evangelization,” its mission statement says.
Besides the Bible Marathon, Fete-Dieu du Teche has launched several other initiatives to help promote and revitalize the faith.
In 2015, it began an annual Eucharistic Boat Procession down Bayou Teche on the feast of the Assumption, which is Aug. 15.
At the beginning of the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy — which was Dec. 8, 2015, to Nov. 20, 2016 — an old ambulance was converted into a mobile confessional and put into service traveling throughout Louisiana and making stops where people gather. Fete-Dieu du Teche now operates three units. To date the mobile confessional has traveled over 16,000 miles, and making over 300 stops across Louisiana, hearing over 7,000 confessions on the road.