Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review: Fireside's Catholic Family Bible

If nothing else, blogs are a great way to drop hints. Imagine my feigned surprise when I received the new Fireside Catholic Family Bible. The translation is the New American Bible, Revised Edition, fondly known as the NABRE. You may recall I previewed this a couple of entries back. So happy Valentine's Day for the Bear! To give you an idea of the size, here is how it compares with other Bibles. The Catholic Family Bible is the second from the bottom. As you can see, it is every bit as large as the humongous Douay Rheims with Haydock's commentary at the bottom of the stack. 

Fireside's New Catholic Answer Bible  --  another NABRE -- is advertised as large print, and is pretty big itself, though still portable. You can see it is dwarfed by the Catholic Family Bible, on which it rests. On top of it (second from the top) is a compact, zippered Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. And, finally, on top, is the nice St. Benedict Press Douay Rheims, what I call a "handy size." (These are all excellent, Bear-Approved translations, by the way. And thanks to the Bear's mate for the considerable exertion this photograph entailed.)

Big and Beautiful

So it's big. The Bear now has two unusually large Bibles, perfect for two-handed smiting. (Actually they're way too nice for smiting, but, if both Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses show up at the same time...) The new Bible comes with a heavy slip cover with St. Peter's imprinted in gold, and two substantial ribbons. I wish more publishers considered two the minimum. I want to mark where my mate and I at in our Bible study, and also keep my place in my personal reading.

The cover itself is gorgeous: black with a striking red cross. You can see the ornate spine. There are ridges, although I believe the Bible is glued, which would make them ornamental. Even so, it recalls a more elegant era. Fireside Bibles are not made in China, which is something to think about, given China's anti-Catholic policies. Another thing you notice right away is the heavy paper. Real, luxurious, book paper, not thin Bible paper, with gilt edges. Forget text on the flip side shadowing through. So it's big, beautiful and seems to be well-made.

You might be wondering who would actually read such a large Bible. I get a lot of use from my DR with Haydock's commentary. which is the same size. It lives on my nightstand and it is comfortable for me to read in bed. There's something fun about dragging out a huge tome, and leafing through big pages. The new Bible shall rest next to my favorite chair. There is no reason a big Bible can't serve for home use, although, say, the Fireside New Catholic Answers Bible is handier.

Between the Covers

The most striking feature inside is the three-column format. I have only seen one other  book like this: a 1961 Catholic Bible. But, everything is a tradeoff: to get real paper, those three columns contain some fairly small print. Smaller than the burgundy NABRE pictured above at half its size. The Book of Ruth is all of two pages! With sitting in a chair with the book on my lap, the text was barely readable with my glasses, and not without. Brought up to chest level, which is my current sweet spot for reading anyway (if you know what I mean) it was fine. Still, if you have significant issues with small print, you might want to check out the New Catholic Answers Bible with Librosario instead. Nonetheless, I was able to get through our two chapters of Isaiah this morning, so I suspect it is simply a matter of getting used to it.

NABRE's notes are collected at the end of each book, rather than appearing at the bottom of the page. I believe that will make for smoother reading. It is better to get what you can out out of a passage on your own, anyway. The notes will wait.

Sour Notes

Many of the NABRE's notes have received the poisonous kiss of Modernism, which is another reason I don't mind them separated from the text. The vast majority of the notes are helpful, but I think all NABREs should come with a sticker:

WARNING: The U.S. Bishops would not let us print this Bible without their footnotes. The notes are not inspired. They represent the views of a segment of biblical scholarship from the last century. They should be used with caution.

That's not Fireside's fault, of course.

A Good Family Bible

In the end, this is what it says it is: a Catholic Family Bible. It has several color sections about things like the Vatican; the Mass (without using the word "sacrifice" once, unless I missed it); Parenting; and Grief; with special stories for children about the nativity, the visit of the Three Wise Men, etc. The Bear imagines grand-cubs jumping up and down, wanting him to read the Christmas story, or explain The Mass. Speaking of which, it has a very nice family record section with room for eight (!) kids, that goes back to your great-grandparents. There are even spaces for military service and -- I kid you not -- papal audiences!

I suspect this is a Bible that will be owned more than it will be read. It makes a grand display, if all the crucifixes and icons everywhere don't show visitors you're Catholic. It is not something anyone would buy for themselves, but it makes a nice gift for your Catholic parents or grandparents. While it has a surprisingly useful Catholic dictionary (it includes the word "heretic," I am pleased to report), there is not a single map. It won't replace any of my other Bibles, but it is nice to remember what Bibles and books used to be, long before Kindle. For me, it is a luxury to adorn the well-appointed den of the Catholic bear -- I mean gentleman. I expect it will get daily use for our lectio divina. And I resolve to fill out all the family history stuff, just like they did in the old days. Some day, a descendant might turn the pages in curiosity, and wonder about the names from long ago, and the faith that inspired them.

(Query: Does anyone know what kind of pen to use on slick paper?)


  1. I really love reading bible. It is a first thing I do after waking up in the morning. There are many translations of bibles these days to choose from. My favorite is New American Catholic Bible Thanks for sharing! However, I'm not sure which pen to use for writing on slick paper.

  2. I just posted about the NABRE and the unfortunate notes. But reading the Bible is wonderful. My wife and I do our lectio divina every day together. We do an OT, a NT and a reading from the Catechism. Welcome to the blog!


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