Spiritual Counsels |
Two Meanings of Tradition |
Rejecting Tradition |
Lets Suppose It Could Be Wrong |
Lets Suppose Its True |
Maybe versus Maybe:
Gains and Losses |
Do You Really Love God?
much you study the Bible, it is still important to
understand that there is more to Christianity than the Bible itself. The
tradition of the Catholic Church, in fact, has as much value as the Bible.
Why? Well, Church tradition determined which books constitute the Bible in
the first place.
When speaking about
tradition, it will help to understand that the word actually has two
meanings relevant to the Church:
In its most simple sense,
tradition refers to a particular manner of doing something. For example,
the Byzantine rite of the Catholic Church is a traditional way of celebrating
the Eucharist that differs from the traditional way of celebrating the Eucharist
in the Roman rite. Both ritesalong with all the other rites of the
Catholic Churchare equally right because they all preserve
the same basic doctrine of what constitutes
In its broadest and most profound
sense, tradition refers to all the knowledge and practices by which
a doctrine is preserved. Thus, when we speak of the Tradition of the Catholic
Church, we are referring to everything that the Church has done, beginning
with the teaching and acts of Jesus Himself, to expound the fundamental meaning
and practices of Christianity.
During the Protestant Reformation,
beginning with Martin Luther himself, Protestants criticized various Church
traditions (in the simple sense), and, in revising those disputed traditions,
an they created an entirely new tradition (in the broad sense). Thus, in
rejecting the traditions of the Catholic Church, the Protestants created
an entirely new doctrine. Even though they continued to call themselves
Christians, they formulated ideas and practices that departed from and completely
missed the point about true Christianity.
Sadly, many persons today who
call themselves Christian blatantly reject Catholic Tradition as well, saying
that many things central to the Faith are no longer
relevant to todays enlightened and liberated
These persons may believe that
they are merely tinkering with unwanted traditions, but they
are in danger of rejecting fundamental Christian doctrine itself. Still,
I know that arguing with anyone about any of this wont get us anywhere.
So lets try something different. Lets look at some issues from
the perspective of common sense.
It Could Be Wrong
Lets suppose that the Tradition
of the Catholic Church could be wrong. Maybe the Churchs teaching
about moralitysuch as artificial birth
control and abortion, for examplethat
isnt found explicitly in the Bible is wrong. And maybe Christs
teaching about divorce (Matthew 5:3132;
Mark 10:1112; Luke 16:18), for example, even though it is explicitly
stated in the Bible, comes from an archaic culture and really doesnt
apply to todays liberated modern world. Maybe the
Churchs teaching about the Trinity is wrong.
Maybe the Churchs fidelity to Christs own actions in not ordaining
women to the priesthood is all wrong. Maybe the Churchs understanding
of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
is wrong, and maybe we should be celebrating Communion with somethinglike
coffee and donutsthat is relevant
to the modern world.
Maybe the Tradition of the Catholic
Church is all wrong, maybe it doesnt have any relevance to Christianity,
and maybe God doesnt care about any of it.
All right. And now that we are
on an equal footing here, consider the other maybe.
Maybe the Tradition of the Catholic
Church is true. Maybe there are ideas and practices which Christ handed
on to the Apostles that didnt get recorded in the Bible. Maybe the
Tradition of the Catholic Church has been inspired by the wisdom of
the Holy Spirit over the ages, even if to the eyes of modern logic it seems
restricted and conservative.
So what is a rational, enlightened
person to do in the face of one maybe versus the
Maybe: Gains and Losses
Well, consider, then, what you
have to gain by rejecting the Tradition of the Catholic Church. You
would gain personal convenience and pleasure, perhaps, but nothing
And what do you have to
lose by accepting the Tradition of the Catholic Churchthat is,
if it really doesnt matter? In restraining your
desires, you would lose only personal convenience
Hmm . . . so far, it seems
more-or-less trivial, right?
So now consider what you have
to gain by accepting the Tradition of the Catholic Churchthat
is, if the Tradition of the Catholic Church really does matter: you would
gain everlasting life.
And what do you have to
lose by rejecting the Tradition of the Catholic Churchthat is,
if it really does matter? You would be thrown out of the
wedding banquet and into the darkness because
you refused to put on the wedding garments provided for you. You would,
therefore, lose everlasting life.
Do You Really
So think about this now. If you
have turned your life over to Jesusthat is, if you truly love God above
all else and seek to live a holy life as Christ
taught usthen wouldnt you do anything to avoid violating
Gods will? Wouldnt common senseif not
love itselfsay, I cant risk doing
anything that will offend Him, even if theres only the slightest chance
that it might be wrong?
And if a soul, retaining
the slightest stain, were to draw near to God in the beatific vision,
it would be to her a more grievous injury, and inflict more suffering, than
Purgatory itself. Nor could God Himself, who is pure goodness and supreme
justice, endure her presence. She would be out of place, and the sight of
God, not yet entirely satisfied (so long as the least possible purification
remained to be accomplished) would be intolerable to her, and she would cast
herself into the deepest Hell rather than stand before Him and be still
Saint Catherine of Genoa
Treatise on Purgatory, Chapter XIV
In the end, therefore, isnt
your rejection of the Tradition of the Catholic Church proof in itself that
you havent really turned your life over to Jesus? In your rejection
of the Tradition of the Catholic Church, arent you saying psychologically
that youre willing to risk everything for the sake of nothing more
than your own personal convenience and pleasure, and that you value your
own reason more than you value love of God? And, in doing and saying all
this, isnt your so-called faith really just a veiled form
of pride, the great sin of placing human reason
above Gods holy Will?
And for this
reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word
of God in hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is,
the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.
1 Thessalonians, 2:13