It was a rainy night in Irvine as parishioners quietly entered the St. Thomas More Parish library to check in for their scheduled time to read from the Holy Bible.
Parishioners, friends and family logged into the livestream broadcast on the STM YouTube channel to watch as the Holy Scripture was read by a diverse group of participants. The weather changed, the sun rose and set as the Bible reading steadily continued, non-stop, for a total of 104 hours. Pope Francis instituted Sunday of the Word of God as the third Sunday of Ordinary Time, and he referred to it in his homily at St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 21. He spoke of the Word of God that “unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit, a power that draws people to God.” He continued that when we read the Word and are drawn into a relationship with God, that Word naturally affects us and “sends us to others,” which causes us all to think and grow in our minds and our hearts.
Fr. Eugene Lee, pastor of St. Thomas More, wanted to do something special to celebrate Sunday of the Word of God, and a team formed to bring his idea to reality. Guided by Fr. Eugene, St. Thomas More embarked on a Bible marathon in their library, to read the Bible cover-to-cover and to make it available
on a YouTube Live. The organizing team made up of clergy, staff and ministries created a sign-up and promoted the marathon (which took place from Jan. 20 through Jan. 25) for people to commit to a minimum of 30 minutes each, to read a section of the Bible. The team assumed that it would be difficult to fill the spots from midnight to 6 a.m.; however, the response was overwhelming, and generated a wait list.
The reading commenced and despite a few challenges with the livestream link, the readers continued undeterred. The audio-visual team made sure that the broadcast continued, and the reading never stopped. The participants were varied and included single readers, couples, families with children and teams made up of ministry members.
The livestream had approximately 6,000 views, with a total viewing time of over 1,500 hours.
There was something soothing about listening to the cadence of different readers with unique accents and voices, all reading the words of the Scriptures in English. One felt compelled to linger and follow the stories being read. Each reader sat in the same chair reading from the same Bible.
The rhythm continued on, even as people traded places and took turns in front of the open Bible. It was beautiful, simple and compelling as people came to the library to share the Word of God.
Several of the readers describe that the experience has inspired them to explore the Word of God more frequently than before. In fact, many signed up to the Small Faith Community program after the marathon, having been inspired to read, pray and share the Word with others. STM’s Small Faith Community motto is “Gospelize Your Story” which invites people in small groups to read the Sunday Gospel and ponder it – prompting them to take the Word of God into their hearts and make it relevant in their daily lives.
Pope Francis urges us not to lose the Word of God in the many words that bombard us in society today, but to allow God to speak to us, and through us with His Holy Word. Fr. Eugene considers the Bible marathon a success because it allowed parishioners to honor the Word of God during this special event, and to engage more completely with our treasured Bible.