I’ve mentioned many times previously that I grew up in a large Catholic family. I was the youngest child, a boy, with five older sisters. Oy vey! There were daily estrogen-fueled drama battles at our house like you wouldn’t believe. Our family wasn’t devout as some of my Catholic friends’ families were back then, with statues in every room of the house, in the yard, and rosaries hanging from rear-view mirrors, but we did attend mass every Sunday and I was even an altar boy from 5th through 8th grades. My sisters and I all attended Catholic parochial school and Catholic high school. In all of those years of Catholic indoctrination, the nuns and brothers never had us read from the Bible. We read short Bible quotes from Catholic booklets, but never from the Bible itself. I didn’t own a Bible and neither did my sisters. I don’t remember either of my parents ever reading the Bible. I don’t know if there was a single Bible in the entire house. I never saw one. The Catholic church did not promote Bible-reading among its members. In my experience, our religious teachers often recommended books about Mary and the saints but never the Bible.
I can’t explain it other than to attribute it to the Lord drawing me to Him, but in the mid-1970s, after I married my bride, I became curious about the Bible and began visiting the local (c)hristian book store, Alpha and Omega, which was situated in those days at the four corners of Penfield, NY. I was kind of embarrassed about entering the establishment and would look around first to see if anyone I knew was watching. Wow! I was amazed at the number of Bibles on display. “These Protestants really love their Bibles,” I thought. Well, I looked around a little bit and came across the Catholic version of the student edition of The Living Bible, called “The Way” (see the above photo), an easy-to-read Bible paraphrase.* I brought the Bible home but hid it from my nominally Catholic wife – I didn’t want her to think I was turning into some kind of a religious nut. I read that Bible on and off for several years.
After our two boys were born and we moved into our first house in 1979, I wanted to be a responsible Catholic parent so I started attending mass again. I even asked the co-pastor of our new parish, “father” Roy Kiggins, to come over and bless our house with holy water. Yes, I did! I also went back to Alpha and Omega and bought what I thought was a “real” Bible, the Catholic New American Bible version (second photo), which wasn’t a paraphrase. Catholic versions of the Bible contain seven more Old Testament books – referred to as the Apocrypha – than Protestant Bibles. I began diligently reading the New Testament, which, over time, led to a mounting personal crisis. God’s Word repeatedly contradicted Catholic doctrines. The more I read, the more the Holy Spirit convicted me that the Catholic church was wrong on many counts. I eventually stopped going to mass. A few years later, after being further led by the Holy Spirit, I repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior! Praise the Lord!
Four of my sisters are now self-described atheists or agnostics, while the fifth one claims to be a Catholic (c)hristian although she has firmly stated a couple of times that she doesn’t believe the Bible is divinely inspired or that Jesus was and is God. Do you find that strange? Actually, you’ll find millions upon millions of similarly mixed up and confused people within Catholicism. She has zero use for the Bible but finds comfort in the familiar Catholic rituals and traditions she remembers from childhood. Looking back, I’m puzzled why I was the only one in my family to be drawn to God’s Word. I’m actually grateful for those spotty Catholic versions of the Bible that I initially read. They were stepping stones to the true Word and salvation by God’s grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone.
*Bible paraphrases, like the New Living Translation (NLT), are useful tools when studying the Bible, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone use them as a substitute for actual word-for-word translations of the Bible like the NASB or ESV.