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(First in a series for National Bible Week)
In 1948, Beijing had fallen to the Communists and Mao Tse Tung was marching toward Shanghai, where my Grandparents lived with their five children and one on the way. Guns and cannons could be heard in the distance. Soldiers occupied the neighboring house and did their exercises on the rooftop. My 9-year-old mother and her sister kept focused and busy with the other missionary kids, putting on plays from the Bible.
Mother got the role of Queen Esther. “I’m a princess!” she remembers thinking the night they learned the Communists were expected to attack. “A daughter of the King of Kings! And we may die tonight.” The family gathered in a circle to pray, and all she could think of was her lines from the play. “If I perish, I perish,” said Queen Esther. “But I have come for such a time as this.” When Mother’s turn came to pray, she said it out loud. “Lord! If we perish, we perish for thee! But we have come for such a time as this.”
All through that night, those words of Esther, quoted by their little girl, kept my grandparents steady through the bombing. The children slept. They woke to the sight of dead bodies and horses in the streets; buildings crushed and people and soldiers streaming away in surrender. A white flag fluttered. But they were safe to live another day.
This experience, and many others like it, gave my mother a deep trust in God. Whether she lived or died, she knew she was in his hands and trusted in his plan. As I grew up, I heard stories of God acting in my parents’ lives right along with the Bible stories we read around the kitchen table. The same God who brought Esther to “such a time as this” brought my grandparents to Shanghai to tell of his love; took my parents to Hong Kong and later to various parts of the U.S.; brought me into the Catholic Church and to my own times and challenges. Through it all, God has been faithful. He is the same today as he ever was.
When I look at my family today, I see generations of people of strong faith, many of whom have devoted their lives to God in full-time Christian service. That is largely because the word of God has a central place in their lives. I am delighted to see the U.S. Bishops encouraging Catholics to participate in National Bible Week, which for nearly 75 years has been of more interest to Protestants. This year’s theme, “The Bible: a Book for the Family” expresses exactly what the Bible has been in my heritage, and what I hope it will be for more and more Catholic families.
Whether you already read the Bible together or not, I encourage you to do so for the week of November 15-21. As Jeff Cavins, my friend and partner in The Great Adventure, likes to say, the Bible is our “greatest family heirloom.” It gives us our family history. It shows us our roots, tells us where we’ve come from and where we’re going. It shows us the ways of God and gives us good solid reasons to trust him. And knowing its stories is a tremendous source of faith, as my mother discovered as a child and passed on to me.
For the recent World Meeting of Families, I contributed reflections on Scripture passages that touch on common family situations to a website developed by the American Bible Society, EntertheStoryNow.com. For the five weekdays of National Bible Week, I will post one of those reflection each day along with a prayer and links to family and parish discussion guides on the website. Consider reading those Scriptures together as a family every night to mark National Bible Week. Who knows – it might even become a habit!
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Look for these daily posts during National Bible Week, November 16-20 (links will become active after they post):
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES caught in a storm (Reflection on Matthew 14:22-23)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES who have been delivered – or who need a miracle! (Reflection on Exodus 14:29-30; 15:1-2, 19-21)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES who are asking, “Now what?” (Reflection on Luke 1:26-38)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES who pray for the impossible (Reflection on Acts 12:4-19)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES that are broken (Reflection on Luke 15:11-32)
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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops encourages all Catholics to participate in National Bible Week in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Dei Verbum (The Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation).
- National Bible Week: November 15-21
- Theme: “The Bible – a Book for the Family”
For more information and suggestions on how to enthrone the Bible in your family, make the word of God a part of your home, practice lectio divina, and so on, visit the USCCB’s National Bible Week webpage.