One of my friends asked for photos of Grandma Brozovich's Prayer Book. Here is the front cover. The figures and white parts are ivory, the monstrance is some kind of metal. The rest of the cover was once green velvet-now it is faded to a brownish-olive. On the inside it is inscribed to my Grandma and there is a date, 1912, the year of my dad's birth.
I have no idea how Grandma could have afforded such a beautiful, extravagant prayer book. I suspect it was a gift. In 1912 my dad was born. Grandma already had five living children. After Dad, two more were born. Grandpa died ini 1914 while Grandma was pregnant with Number Eight, my Uncle Luke.
This was the one thing Dad inherited from his mother. It came into our household when I was a child and I never thought much of it. After I became Catholic it was the first thing I asked Dad to see. "Do you still have your mom's old prayer book?" He nodded and dug it out of a drawer. "You can have it," he said. I asked if he could still read Croatian. He nodded. Wow. I'd never heard Dad speak Croatian in my whole life. In fact, I didn't know we were Croatians until college, when a professor noticed my last name and said, "Ah! A Croat!" Grandma always called us Austrians, but then, when she lived there modern-day Croatia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Grandma was born a subject, not a citizen.
One of the big questions that led me to eventually consider the Catholic Faith was the problem of illiteracy. I was living in Guatemala, a country with 50 percent illiteracy. We were supposed to be evangelizing, but we were "Bible alone" Christians. Our whole spirituality, our life in Christ, our understanding of God, depending on our ability to read the Bible. One day I looked out from our second-story window and saw a construction worker urinating in the bushes. I wondered, "If that man became a Christian today, how would he read the Bible?" I realized that my own spiritual life was built upon years and years of teaching, of understanding context, history, theology, which were all built on the priceless gift of literacy.
This led to the larger question. If most of the world has been illiterate for most of history, how did Christians live out their lives? I was too educated to buy into the "Catholics chained all the Bibles" bit. I've been to Europe. I've seen illuminated manuscripts. For most of history, most people have been illiterate. Even after the invention of the printing press, most people could not read.
Over the next couple of years I puzzled about this and other issues. When I realized that Christianity was not spread primarily through books but through preaching, I began to understand how the Bible Alone could never work, and could never have been God's plan for His Family. He did not leave us orphans. He did not leave us at the whim of every preacher's personal interpretation of Scripture. Jesus founded a Church, big C. And the truth has been preserved. The Gospel is for everyone, scholars, sinners, and little old Croatian grandmas fingering their rosary beads by firelight.
Grandma's prayer book is not just full of prayers. It includes Scripture too, But the thing that charms me most about Grandma's prayer book, is that it was made with illiterate people in mind, the little people like my grandmother, who was married at 13 to a man she didn't know, spent her first year as a married woman in a curtained-off section of a dirt-floor house, sleeping on straw. My grandma who came to America in the bottom of a cargo ship with a baby in arms and one in her belly. My grandma, who knew Jesus personally, through teaching, through the Holy Eucharist, through the stories of the lives of the Saints, through the reading of Scripture at Mass, and through her little ivory and velvet prayer book.
I am a Catholic wife, mom and grandma. In 1995, after Bible college and a few years as an Evangelical Missionary, I was received into the Church at the Easter Vigil. These are my personal musings on Scripture, prayer, and living close to Jesus.