A Catholic reads the Bible, week 25: Two Maccabee, or not to Maccabee?

The books of Maccabees has Laura Bernardini scratching her head.

Laura Bernardini is director of coverage in CNN's Washington Bureau. The views expressed in this column belong to Bernardini.

Laura Bernardini

(CNN)This is week 25 of an ongoing series: A Catholic Reads the Bible. Read Week One, Week Two and Week Three.

My reading has slowed to a crawl again. It takes me 10 minutes to read one page, my slowest pace thus far. There have been days where I couldn't read my daily three-page allotment because I would have been up all night.
I knew my streak of fun with the biblical books of Tobit, Judith and Esther had to end.
    The story of the Maccabees are told over two books in the Old Testament. Like the books of Judith and Tobit, the books of Maccabees are in my Catholic Bible but not Protestant versions.
    The books of Maccabees focus on the years around 150-100 BC, when the Greeks ruled that part of the world. Judas Maccabeus and his soldiers are the heroes who are trying to maintain the faith while Israel and the Jewish temple have fallen and assimilation is encouraged.
    There is a lot of war in these books.
    There is mention of Hanukkah and how it becomes a holiday. (I would have missed it if it weren't for the footnote.) To be honest, I read a much better explanation of the holiday while reading "Hanukkah Bear" to my friend's kids. That was not reassuring.
    Still, the footnote in my Bible gave me enough history I needed to round out the Maccabees' story: They fight back and save the temple and the faith.
    All in all, it should be pretty interesting.
    So why am I struggling?
    My editor suggested I seek out some guidance from the clergy. Which led me, last Sunday, to blurt out to my Mom's priest: What's the point of Maccabees?!?
    Monsignor John McDermott has now become my favorite priest. Ever.
    I should have known that I would get help from McDermott. Astute readers might remember him from my bad behavior during Mass, as I recounted in Week 18.
    McDermott reminded me not to lose the central message in all the unfamiliar history. The theme of faith forsaken is a constant throughout the Bible -- not just Maccabees. Its part of Scripture's overarching message: stay strong in your beliefs, no matter what happens.
    In the second book of Maccabees, I came across a section that made me giggle like a child. It's labeled "Author's Preface," and it introduces the story of Judas Maccabeus's purification of the temple. The subsection called "purpose and method" admits that the "flood of statistics" (Hello, Mr. Anachronism!) may make it difficult for some readers to dig into the historical narrative. You think?
    "For us who have taken upon ourselves the labor of making this digest, the task, far from being easy, is one of sweat and sleepless nights."
    You and me both, buddy.