The Book of Cain: On Adding a New Book to the Family Bible
By: Bill Cain
The Bible, as Bill Cain reminds us, is largely made up of family stories—stories of birth and death, of generations and legacies, joys and losses—with the astonishing claim that in these stories God is telling us a sacred story. What makes us think that story ended 2,000 years ago? He writes: “Perhaps—every hundred years or so—every family can be invited to submit a book of their stories, the stories of their journey with God through the events, large and small, of their time. And, if every family’s entry cannot be added to everyone’s Bible, perhaps—every hundred years—each family can add a new book to the family Bible.”
In this moving account of the months he spent caring for his mother through the ordeal following a diagnosis of terminal cancer, he shows us all how to add “a new book to the family Bible.” With humor, affection, self-awareness, and his skills as a prize-winning playwright, Fr. Cain invites us to consider the ways that God’s story is written in all the everyday dramas of family life—especially those that open our hearts, teach us to give and let go, and remind us what it means to be human. He writes:
“I make a quiet vow here alone at the kitchen table, where I sat with my mother just a few days ago. . . . I will honor my parents’ stories as Abraham and Sarah’s children did theirs. As Jesus’s friends did his. . . . As best I can, I will sift through a hundred years of stories, always looking for what God chose to reveal in the lives of two perfectly ordinary, absolutely extraordinary people. A new book. Non‑canonical perhaps, but nonetheless revelatory. And perhaps, in doing so, I might be able to find a way to keep the story that began with Abraham and Sarah going forward.”
Bill Cain is a Jesuit priest and acclaimed playwright, who co-created the television series “Nothing Sacred.” He is author of The Diary of Jesus Christ (Orbis 2021).