ST. MARTINVILLE, La. — The “Jubilee of the Word Marathon: 100 Hours for 100 Years” got underway April 4 at 12:30pm in the town square of St. Martinville, in honor of the centennial of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana.
To celebrate the 100 years, more than 300 lectors are reading the Bible for 100 hours nonstop, cover to cover, from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22.
The reading concludes Divine Mercy Sunday, April 8, at 4:30pm.
The location has great significance for the centennial. On the square stands St. Martin de Tours Church, the mother church of the Acadians, canonically erected in 1765 as the first church in the diocese.
“We’re thanking God for the past 253 years for the mother church of the Acadians and for St. Landry Church in Opelousas,” Father Michael Champagne of the Community of Jesus Crucified, the organizer of the event, told the Register. “We’re going to be standing on that soil where the Gospel has been proclaimed for 253 years.”
The lectors are reading from a large-size Bible Father Champagne had specifically commissioned. He sent the 25-pound, 12-by-20-inch Bible, New American version, to Rome during the Year of Mercy for Pope Francis to bless. The Bible was previously used for the 86-hour “Jubilee of the Word Marathon” that closed the 2016 Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Besides English, sections are being read in the biblical languages of Hebrew, Greek and Latin. There will also be sections in languages represented by the different populations in the diocese — French for the Acadian population, as well as Spanish, German, Italian and Vietnamese.
Father Champagne said that evangelicals and Protestants were invited, and several of their pastors will also read during the event.
The “even 100” in honor of the centennial makes for a meditative pace to hear the word of God. Father Champagne likens it to a “slow rain rather than a big drain, so the word of God gets to the roots.”
He anticipates much bigger crowds than the first marathon reading, which drew substantial numbers. Each lector was instructed to invite 10 people because, Father Champagne said, “We want hearers of the word, not just readers.” With 300-plus lectors, that means at least 3,000 “hearers.”
Lector Kamilah Wilson is “excited about reading for this momentous event because, as I read, the words in the chapter of Job will comfort the hearts and minds of the people as well as bless the diocese, neighboring cities and the whole world.”
Fellow lector Bill Stiles said, “More than ever, we need to be reminded that we are God’s people. Throughout the Bible, story after story, chapter after chapter, we hear about God’s people falling and God lifting them back up.”
And Claudette Clay finds that the “live Bible-reading marathon is such an incredible event that brings a new sense of awareness and excitement to Bible readings.”
Marking her second time reading in a marathon, Vicki Richard sees it as “an amazing experience to read God’s word and to see all the people coming out to hear and spread his message: true evangelization, which is what he has called us to do.”
Joan Broussard, who will read along with husband Carl, feels blessed to participate and “grateful for this opportunity to express our faith in this outward way.”
Three bishops will read from the Bible — Lafayette’s Bishop John Douglas Deshotel, a native son of Acadiana, began the event by reading from Genesis; on Thursday, Lake Charles Bishop Glen Provost, also a native son of Acadiana, will read; and Lafayette’s Bishop Emeritus Michael Jarrell will conclude the Bible reading on Divine Mercy Sunday.
In a statement, Bishop Deshotel said, “The Jubilee of the Word Marathon 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. The Bible is a record of God’s interaction with the human race” and “culminates in the Person of Jesus Christ.”
And Bishop Provost stated, “The sacred Scriptures are like the sun, and to read them openly and completely is like basking in full daylight. To read them in St. Martinville, where my 18th-century ancestors were nurtured by the Catholic sacraments, is to return to the roots of my faith, which benefited from that sunlight.”
Louisiana’s attorney general, Jeff Landry, will also read. Referencing that the rule of law won’t fail if it is anchored in the Law of God, Landry said, “The Jubilee of the Word Marathon is a great way to recover that wisdom and reflect on it together.”
“Come Marinate in the Word” is a perfect catchphrase for inviting people to this spiritual Bible reading, since it reflects Louisianans’ love of cooking and how they marinate much food to enhance the culinary results.
Father Champagne thinks it becomes a tremendous boon going forward in the diocese “to marinate in the Scriptures and know Christ and help those who have drifted away, Catholics longing for the Eucharist,” he said. “We’re also looking forward to re-evangelize Catholics who have fallen away and gone to other nondenominational churches.”
“The same word of God present in the Eucharist is the same word that speaks to them. … God speaking in the Scriptures will beckon them to the altar and to the Body and Blood of Christ.”
He noted that this reading in the public square takes the Church into the streets, like Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to do. Because it can be viewed online, he hopes it will reach far and wide: “We want our elders and sick to take part in the event.”
For those diocesan Catholics who take part in the marathon, the Holy See’s Apostolic Penitentiary has granted a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father) if they participate in the sacred celebrations and particular circumstances that will take place; and, in the case of the elderly or infirm, and “all who for a grave reason cannot leave home, can equally obtain the plenary indulgence, if they spiritually join themselves to the aforementioned event, offering their prayers and sufferings or the troubles of their own life to the merciful God.”
All in all, the marathon’s goal is to give thanks to God for all the years the Gospel has been proclaimed in this Louisiana region, with the purpose of reigniting a love for the word of God and putting it into practice in daily life.
“To be able to proclaim the word of God in unity with other believers is to be blessed in abundance,” said Christa Billeaud. “I am humbled to be able to participate in the public reading of the Bible in the square of St. Martinville and giving glory to God in accord with Jesus’ command to ‘Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to all creation.’”
Joseph Pronechen is a Register staff writer.
WATCH AND PRAY LIVE