As soon as we came through the bookshop door, Ellie grabbed me.

“I have something you’d like. It’s Catholic. An old Bible.” She led me over to the counter and reached underneath, drawing out a big book in a presentation box.

Ellie used to own the second-hand bookshop in town. We’d visit her shop often as we searched for interesting books we could use for homeschooling. Every time we appeared through the doorway, Ellie would stop her work and follow us around the shop, as she chatted to the children. She didn’t have any children of her own so she adopted ours.

Ellie was once a school maths teacher, but I am sure she wasn’t very good at this job. Every time Ellie came to add up our bill, the total always came out a few dollars short of what I’d calculated. And she always forgot to charge us for the one extra book per child that she encouraged the children to choose.

Ellie knew we were Catholic but I don’t think she was Catholic herself.

When my tummy was rounding nicely with Thomas, she offered her congratulations, and I felt obliged to tell her that our baby probably wouldn’t live after birth. Ellie was tongue-tied for a moment and then said, “I suppose it’s too late for you to do anything about it.”

“I don’t want to do anything about it, Ellie,” I replied and she looked puzzled as if she couldn’t understand why anyone would voluntarily give birth to a child that was going to die soon afterwards.

We visited Ellie’s shop only weeks after Thomas died and it was obvious that she didn’t know what to say to me. But the children broke the ice.

“We have a new brother called Thomas. He’s a saint in heaven,” five year old Imogen proudly informed her.

Ellie still did not know what to say so she did what she did best, and encouraged the children to choose a free book.

So as soon as Ellie saw the old Bible in a box of books that arrived at her shop, she knew where it was likely to find a good home. And as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to buy it. It is a Catholic Action Edition Bible. It is a big heavy book with gold edged pages and elaborate decorations, and it contains numerous, exquisitely coloured plates of scenes from Our Lord’s life. There is a section on the Rosary and one on the Stations of the Cross, and photographs and explanations about the Mass. And in the centre is a section for family records.

The family records make me feel sad. The first entry records the marriage of Anthony and Myrtle in 1948. I turn the page and I see they had four children, three boys and then a girl. Their births and baptisms are all recorded. I turn another page and discover that the first two boys received First Holy Communion. The final entry is the Confirmation of the oldest child. And there is nothing more. Did the other children receive First Holy Communion and Confirmation? Perhaps they did but nobody got around to writing the details in the Family Bible.

I think a bit more. How did the Bible end up in the local second-hand bookshop? Why is it no longer treasured? I wonder if Anthony and Myrtle left the Faith or perhaps their children did. Was the Bible thrown out after the death of their parents?

I have thought about writing our family details into the Bible. Somehow it doesn’t seem right to eliminate all traces of its former owners. But could I add all our names and important dates to those already there? Could we make the Book into a piece of Elvis family history?

I treasure the Bible that Ellie set aside for us. I love its old fashioned language and the way it feels heavy and solid in my hands, exactly reflecting the sacredness of the Word of God contained within its gilt-edged pages. But I guess, although this particular Bible is so very beautiful, it is not the cover or the pictures or the decorations which are important but the Words. I open the Bible and I start to read. The sentences are not complex, the stories are simple. So why do these words, these very familiar words, provide an endless source of inspiration, understanding, reflection, knowledge and encouragement? It can only be because they truly are the Word of God.

The abandoned Family Bible, the Bible I found in a second-hand bookshop, may no longer be treasured by Anthony and Myrtle’s family but it has found a new home. May it never again be thrown out and abandoned: unwanted, unread, unused.

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  1. interesting. i see things like that too and wonder. ppl used to write info in their bibles and now no one does that anymore. bibles may be literally abandoned but in so many cases they are abandoned while still being in the longer the focus of the family...etc.

  2. I hadn't thought of that, Kim. You are quite right. It's very sad.

  3. We were given a beautiful Bible for our Wedding from my in-laws...unfortunately it is a King James Version and therefore not an approved Catholic edition. My Hubby wasn't Catholic when we married, but converted about 8 years after we married. I am a bit sad to have it packed away. I really don't know what to do with it...

    1. Karla,

      You have probably gathered I am a convert just like your husband! I was welcomed into the Catholic family and often wonder where I'd be today if Andy hadn't married me. God certainly had a wonderful plan for my life.

      My sister gave one of my son's a St James Bible when he was small. She was an Anglican at the time. I accepted it as a gift from her heart although we never really used it because, as you said, it's not an approved Catholic addition. My sister is now a Catholic! Maybe your in-laws will one day join the Catholic family too.

      Does your Bible have beautiful pictures that could be looked at and shared?


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