For centuries, the Holy Bible was the most important, if not the only, book in the home. Within its pages were documented the highest and lowest points in a family’s history – from marriages, births and sacraments to the deaths of beloved members.
According to Patty Broesmale, manager of Paulist Book Store in Costa Mesa, Bibles are still a popular wedding gift. “The big, hard covered leather-bound Bibles and the more practical smaller versions still have places for the new family to record its history. Often the Bibles are engraved in gold with the couples’ name or just the family name. It is a beautiful way to mark the establishment of a new family household with God and his Word at the center.”
Heirloom Bibles are handed down in many families as treasured keepsakes. “The older Catholic Bibles are usually the Douay Rheims version but the language is very antiquated and difficult to read,” says Broesmale. “New heirloom Bibles come in both the traditional language and the more modern New American Bible, which is the version used for the Mass Lectionary.”
Orange County Auditor-Controller Eric Woolery used his family’s heirloom Bible when he was sworn into office in 2015. “My faith and family are the two pillars of my life and everything else, including public service, flows from there. I wanted my swearing in ceremony to represent my values and roots in this county. That is why we used my mother’s family Bible, which goes back to the 1800’s, and the ceremony was held in the Orange Circle, where my wife and I grew up. ”
Sue Hamrock, Director Retail Operations and Trinity Corporation Leadership at Servite High School in Anaheim, recalls her father reading the Christmas story and the Passion from their family Bible. “My parents, Ann and Anthony Rovar, received a very ornate heirloom Bible when they were married in Mexico City in 1950,” recalls Hamrock. “My dad was diligent about recording every family event within it – marriages, births, baptisms, confirmations, and deaths.”
Heirloom Bibles and church records are usually the first step in any ancestral research project. Families who are blessed with Bibles that have been part of the family traditions for multiple generations benefit from the genealogical foundation held within the pages. A family Bible is also a wonderful symbol of the importance of God and his Word in the family’s life. In an age of internet-based family trees, and online Bibles, keeping a real keepsake Bible present and visible in the home reinforces the family’s religious traditions. Making a point of reading, it to children creates a lasting impression and memories that can stretch from generation to generation. While Matthew 6:19 admonishes us not to store up treasures on earth, a cherished family Bible can establish the traditions that “store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.”