Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bible Catholics

We hear over and over again, the accusation that Catholic don't read their Bible. Sometimes, this is tempered with "Well, that's changing a bit, but back in the old days, they didn't encourage Bible reading." Before Vatican II, it was all Latin Mass and novenas to Mary, right?

This past Christmas, my great-Aunt Anna Rose passed away. She and another sister had never married, and had cared for their parents in their old age. Aunt Anna Rose was the last to die, and now the contents of the house are being sorted through and cleared out. As I'm the only practicing Catholic left in the family, the end result is that boxes of braided palms, prayer cards, and other religious items are ending up at my house.

On Sunday, I unearthed a treasure.


The Bible of my Great-Grandfather, who died well before I was born, in 1962, at the age of 88 years. This is a genuine Douay-Rheims Version. When I opened it, I discovered that like Candy, my Great-Grandfather believed in marking his Bible.

On the inside of the front cover, was the following note:

To, my loved ones. And all. It is my sincerest belief that this book will lead those who Read it to heaven if they obey - or - to hell if they read and disobey. suggest 2 Cor. 15.17

With love always, Daddy.

But wait, there's more! If you thought Candy didn't sugar coat, just see what he wrote to my aunt and uncle, who both married (gasp) protestants:

To Jr. and M.C., I recommend reading over and over again 2 - Cor, 11.

In case they had any doubt about which part of the entire chapter was most important, he bracketed the following verses: For they are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself disguises himself as an angel of light. It is no great thing, then, if his ministers disguise themselves as ministers of justice. But their end will be according to their works.


Actually, he has verse notations jotted down all over the white spaces on the front and back pages. As I turned the pages of the text, nearly every page contained some marking or notation. Candy is always reminding us to read the Bible straight through. On the page between the Old and New Testaments, my Great-Grandfather made a notation that on September 5, he finished his third reading of the Old Testament.

My Great-Grandfather struggled with crippling depression for much of his life. He had to give the care of the family farm over to his son, because he was not able to work any more. I've been told that he spent three years, sitting in a chair, looking off into the distance. I was reminded of this when I ran across a note which said simply "Psalm 30, my plea." It is easy to see how he might have identified with it:

1 Unto the end, a psalm for David, in an ecstasy. 2 In thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me never be confounded: deliver me in thy justice. 3 Bow down thy ear to me: make haste to deliver me. Be thou unto me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge, to save me. 4 For thou art my strength and my refuge; and for thy name's sake thou wilt lead me, and nourish me. 5 Thou wilt bring me out of this snare, which they have hidden for me: for thou art my protector.

6 Into thy hands I commend my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth. 7 Thou hast hated them that regard vanities, to no purpose. But I have hoped in the Lord: 8 I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy. For thou best regarded my humility, thou hast saved my soul out of distresses. 9 And thou hast not shut me up in the hands of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a spacious place. 10 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am afflicted: my eye is troubled with wrath, my soul, and my belly:

11 For my life is wasted with grief: and my years in sighs. My strength is weakened through poverty and my bones are disturbed. 12 I am become a reproach among all my enemies, and very much to my neighbours; and a fear to my acquaintance. They that saw me without fled from me. 13 I am forgotten as one dead from the heart. I am become as a vessel that is destroyed. 14 For I have heard the blame of many that dwell round about. While they assembled together against me, they consulted to take away my life. 15 But I have put my trust in thee, O Lord: I said: Thou art my God.

16 My lots are in thy hands. Deliver me out of the hands of my enemies; and from them that persecute me. 17 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; save me in thy mercy. 18 Let me not be confounded, O Lord, for I have called upon thee. Let the wicked be ashamed, and be brought down to hell. 19 Let deceitful lips be made dumb. Which speak iniquity against the just, with pride and abuse. 20 O how great is the multitude of thy sweetness, O Lord, which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee! Which thou hast wrought for them that hope in thee, in the sight of the sons of men.

21 Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy face, from the disturbance of men. Thou shalt protect them in thy tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues. 22 Blessed be the Lord, for he hath shown his wonderful mercy to me in a fortified city. 23 But I said in the excess of my mind: I am cast away from before thy eyes. Therefore thou hast heard the voice of my prayer, when I cried to thee. 24 O love the Lord, all ye his saints: for the Lord will require truth, and will repay them abundantly that act proudly. 25 Do ye manfully, and let your heart be strengthened, all ye that hope in the Lord.

I'm so glad that he was able to find consolation in Scripture!

My Great-Grandfather died of cancer, and was bedridden for the last two years of his life. During this time, he handmade over 3000 rosaries for missionaries to distribute. He was in a lot of pain, and I found this note at the back of the Bible:

To my wife, and each of my children, When your health begins to fail, when things no longer respond to your will, I suggest St. Matt. 11, 28-30 as a good place for hope. -Daddy

The verses read: Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

The final note reads:

To All My Family: Read and ponder again and again, St. Mark Chap.4, 1-40; all the while asking the Holy Spirit to give you understanding, as He has giving understanding to men throughout the ages. Daddy.
So now we have physical proof, that at least one pre-Vatican II Catholic knew his Bible!


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Maggii said...

Wow..this was a great post! What a a wonderful legacy to leave behind for his family!

Nancy Parode said...

How beautiful and wonderful this post is. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

faithful catholic said...

What a blessing to be able to receive all those treasures from your Aunt and your Great Granddad! I am sure you are so happy to have those wonderful heirlooms. God bless your Aunt and Great Grandfather for saving those items to pass along!

I have been similarly blessed by the accumulation of sacramentals and old Bibles that my relatives have treasured. They are very special to me.

a soldier's wife said...

What a wonderful post! What a wonderful treasure you have there of your family. You can see in the pictures that the Bible was much loved and much read.

Kelly said...

The pictures really make the post, don't they? I spent a full two hours trying to get the stupid formatting right!

I'm glad you all enjoyed it.

Elena said...

What a blessing Kelly! Thanks for sharing your family's bible legacy with our blog family!

Rachel said...

Wow! God works in mysterious ways :) My grandmother left me her bible, with all her notes too. I love reading over them and seeing the verses that lifted her and brought her peace!

Barbara C. said...

Kelly, that's so cool!!

I must note that even with my crappy post-VII Catholic education we were required to memorize the names of the books of the bible in order. My freshman year we covered the OT (except for 6 weeks of "Affective Skills" class). Soph year we were supposed to cover NT, but there were some faculty issues.

What Protestants sometimes don't understand is that it is not that Catholics don't read the Bible? We read and understand; we just don't feel the need to memorize verses.

Kelly, remember when we were in Judaic Traditions class and Veenker had a test question asking us to use two Bible Verses to explain different syllogisms but he only listed the chapter and verse? We (the only two Catholics in the room) looked at each other in bewilderment, and we had to wait for him to come back in the room to ask him for the text of those two verses.

Of course, maybe that's food for the anti-Catholic position. It was one of those things, though, where as soon as Veenker read us the text we were both like "oh, I remember that text" and we completed our tests.

It reminds me, too, of what I have heard sometimes about people with photographic memories. They can tell you exactly what something said, but they might have a harder time processing what it means. I think it puts the emphasis that some people put on memorization in perspective.

Jackie B said...

The claim (by Catholics and anti Catholics alike) that the laity weren't supposed to read the Bible pre-Vat 2 doesn't make sense to me because indulgences were granted for Bible reading. How can you receive an indulgence for doing something you are not supposed to do?

Ebeth said...

Kelly, what a treasure indeed!! Thanks for the share!

Once a Catholic, always a Catholic!

Athanasius contra mundum said...

Thanks for this post!
The irony of that Protestant accusation is that the Catholic Church put the Bible together. It is the authority of the Catholic Church that makes a source of Christian instruction.