Who planted the legacy of the Catholic faith in your life? For me, it was my mother. Mom came from a long line of family members with Protestant roots, mostly Baptist or Pentecostal. While the family religious background was basically Protestant, Black parents knew the value of education. When they were able, many enrolled their kids in the neighborhood Catholic parish schools that many religious orders established in Black neighborhoods. My mom attended St. Joseph Catholic School and eventually, as a teenager, she was baptized into the Catholic faith and later insisted on raising her family in the Catholic tradition. So my roots in the legacy of the Catholic faith were planted with my baptism as an infant in 1951 and my relationship with the bible was planted during my early childhood.
For as long as I can remember, there had always been a bible in the living room. The one that I most remember growing up with was a large print, huge bible that included a section in the back with stories of the lives of the saints. As a child, I liked to read the stories about the saints but often wondered why these friends of God seemed to be disliked or often killed. I outgrew this childish thinking about God during my youth. However, as a young adult, I distanced myself from the institutional Church for about 10 years. When I returned to practicing my faith, I wanted to buy a nice bible to, perhaps, symbolize this renewed relationship with God.
The bible I found was beautiful. The cover was a rose color with silver lettering on the cover and pages with silver gilding around the edges. However, after I had meticulously put on bible book tabs, I decided to give the bible to my mother as a gift and to buy a different bible with study notes for me. Over the years, I did not necessarily see this bible again when I would visit mom, but there was always a bible in her living room.
Over 20 plus years had passed before I saw this rose covered bible again. I was packing up my mother’s belonging when she was no longer able to live alone because of dementia. The bible was in a clear plastic bag and literally coming apart. The cover was worn. The pages were marked and dog eared. There were notes in the margins and in empty spaces on various pages. Some of the books in the bible near the end were separating from the binding. This was clearly a bible that had been used for studying, praying—and in general—living.
Recently, I sat reflecting with this bible some five years after rediscovering it. I thought about all that has transpired in my mom’s life since I gave it to her many years ago. I thought about the comfort and wisdom it must have provided to her over the years. I thought about the deep relationship with her God which she had developed throughout her life that spilled out over these worn pages of God’s Word and promises to us. These thoughts led me to clearly see the deep faithfulness that God has shown in her life.
Mom has been faithful in her relationship with God over the years and God has been faithful to her. Even as she has lost much of her mental capacity and memories to dementia, God has continued to be faithful to her. Being in a place where she is being well cared for and close by where I can visit is, to me, a tangible sign of God’s continued faithfulness to mom—even though she does not know where she is or even how God has been a consistent part of her life.
This worn bible has helped me to reflect on the truth of God’s faithfulness to both my mom and to me. God is faithful to all of us. This is a deep truth of our faith and is revealed over and over again in the Word. While my own bible is important to me, this worn, marked bible is, indeed, very special to me. You see, in looking at some of the marked passages, I learned that Psalm 27 was a favorite psalm for both of us. We even marked some of the same lines within it.
Do you have a special bible? What story does it tell about you and your relationship with God? More importantly, is your relationship with God, perhaps, calling you to consider the possibility of a vocation to religious life?