28 April 2012

“Because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.” (Fiddler on the Roof)

Like the Hebrews stretching back to the age of Moses, the Church is upheld by two great pillars: Scripture and Tradition. After the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), large chunks of the Church embraced a whole lot of squishy thinking and threw out a whole lot of its traditions.

Depending on whether you interpret the Council following a hermeneutic of rupture or a hermeneutic of continuity, it was either a “new Pentecost” and a complete break with the ancient Tradition or it was renewal, a way of presenting Tradition to the modern world.

Since the Council ended before I was born, I really don’t have the emotional or ego investment in answering that question, though I note that Pope Benedict XVI constantly preaches the hermeneutic of continuity, while the hermeneutic of rupture is embraced by both the most liberal and most traditionalist forces in the Church.

I can only give you my own experience. Coming from a non-churched family, I went to a Catholic high school at the very height of the try anything empty headed big-hearted post-Conciliar period. After four years of “Theology” courses, I really did think that the entire sum of Catholic intellectual development over 2,000 years was “Jesus loves you” and “be nice”.

While of course God loves us, there’s a lot more there than I was led to believe. I was fed a thin little gruel where my brain and my spirit were seeking after some real, substantial food.

Is it any wonder that when I went on my spiritual quest in my 20s, I never gave Christianity a thought?

The Church I learned about in my medieval history classes in no way resembled the Church to which I had been exposed in high school. That Church, with its great Romanesque monuments, with its contemplative plainchant and its Icons and altarpieces – that Church I might have joined.

This modern thing with its Brutalist architecture, guitars, and harmonicas, with its doe-eyed water-colour Jesus was just plain silly and not worth a second look.

Fortunately, God sent His saints and angels to grab me anyway. I thank Him every day that it only took twenty years.

The younger generation of priests and laity are bringing back what was lost.

This video (courtesy of the inestimable Father Z) is a very good reflection on the new traditionalism in the Church. It’s four minutes well worth your time.

While some Catholics of my generation refer to themselves as “Vatican II babies”, I prefer to think of myself as a “Lateran III baby”.

4 Responses to Tradition!

  1. Paul on 28 April 2012 at 9:02 AM

    I couldn’t agree with this blog post more. I too went through 4 years of Catholic High School “theology” and came out with the same sorts of conclusions. And in my 20’s I wandered quite a bit before coming back to Christianity and Holy Mother Church. It was that intellectual ‘gruel’ that starved me. We’re commanded to Love God with all our minds as well as our hearts, souls, and bodies. So I have to lay a good deal of blame at the feet of those who were supposed to spiritually nourish my mind.

    I’m only glad that, like you, Heaven decided it didn’t want to give me up, and sent me the right combination of people and circumstances to lead me back.

    • Thom
      Thom on 28 April 2012 at 10:14 AM

      Of course, there’s no denying that part of the problem was some of the men who were working in the Church at the time.

      My sophomore theology instructor eventually left the Augustinians.

      And this guy was my freshman theology instructor:

      He taught moral theology, if you can believe that.

      Thanks be to God and His Holy Church that we’ve been getting an entirely new crop this last decade or so.

      • Paul on 30 April 2012 at 10:02 AM

        Thank God indeed. But I wonder how much of it is the people and how much of it is perception. I think there’s definitely this perception that the high school age teenager cannot comprehend theology, or can’t handle digging deeper than “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

        I definitely felt that perception when I was taking classes in high school. It was almost like they were afraid to get too deep into it and they were more concerned with us giving back the rote memorization of the 7 Sacraments and memorizing the Mysteries of the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross.

        Teens need to be challenged. Especially teenagers who are going through that period of puberty where mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually, they are in a huge state of flux. Everything is changing for them, and it is good to give them something positive, uplifting, and spiritually wholesome to sink their spiritual roots into to ground them through life’s trials and tribulations.

        If I ever get the chance to teach theology, I plan to do so with this in mind. I won’t let happen to others what happened to me. Intellectual and Spiritual Starvation on the mere bread of rote memorization and fluff is not enough to live on. We need the meat of our traditions, and most importantly, we need to explain to teenagers -why- our traditions are traditions. It is not enough for them to know -what- those traditions are, they need to know why we still have them and what purpose they serve.

        • Thom
          Thom on 02 May 2012 at 9:45 AM

          Not just teenagers. Remember those who fought the new translation of the Missal because it was too hard for Joe and Mary Catholic? This sort of least common denominator theology is still alive and well amongst those of a certain age.

Pope Francis

Servus Servorum Dei



Theirs was the religion of Saint John and of Saint Paul, the religion of the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, of the Athanasian Creed, and of the Te Deum Laudamus: Trinitarian, Christological, liturgical, and ecclesial.

Theirs was a religion spacious, broad, lofty, deep, and, at the same time, humbly rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation and in the homely economy of the sacraments.

(Dom Jean LeClercq, O.S.B.,
on the 12th Century Monastic reformers)

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament …

There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth…

(J.R.R. Tolkien)

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.

Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.

(G.K. Chesterton)

The Gospel takes away our right forever to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.

(Servant of God Dorothy Day, Obl.S.B.)

Against the disease of writing one must take special precautions, since it is a dangerous and contagious disease.

(Peter Abelard)

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