Archaic. Backward. Ignorant. That’s what some people think of tradition. They outright reject it purely for the sake of rejecting it, but that’s as bad as following tradition without knowing what makes each tradition so wonderful.
When I hear tradition, I either lovingly think of my Catholic faith or have Fiddler on the Roof songs stuck in my head. To quote the musical, here’s what’s important about tradition: “Because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”
Most people might think they don’t like tradition, but tradition is very much an answer to man’s search for meaning.
Some traditions might be so old that we don’t know how they were started. Some should be stopped if they do not respect all human dignity. But in the Church, traditions are how people have kept the faith alive in everyday life.
10 Reasons To Embrace Tradition
FAMILY. Families typically have traditions for special events or daily routines to remind them of someone or something important. The same is with the Church’s traditions. As one, universal, huge family including the saints, we connect with our ancestors. Traditions, such as crossing ourselves, connects us with not only important truths but also each other. Some cross their entire body, some cross themselves three times in a row, and some kiss their hand after the sign of the cross. All in all, we are one big happy family with many traditions to keep our faith alive and stay in touch spiritually with all faithful on earth and in heaven. How do you feel connected to family through traditions?
CULTURE. Culture is like the spice of life. Each culture has different languages, dances, foods, and customs. It’s wonderful to see them uniquely shine. Catholicism can be fully believed and expressed anywhere in the world. It transforms people into a vibrant expression of the faith with what they have and where they are. While we celebrate Holy Week, we have certain things that every Catholic Church does, but we express them differently around the world. Moreover, we support the culture of life, respecting the dignity of people from conception to a natural death all around the world. How do you feel alive when you see Catholicism expressed in various cultures?
GROWTH. Tradition is not something that is stunted; it is growing. After over 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has expansive theology, philosophy, and stories of the faithful. You will never be able to list every saint that ever lived! These traditions that we express with our faith are the same that brought the saints to God—and seek to bring you to Him as well! How do you grow in your faith life through traditions?
NEWNESS. You’re probably thinking that tradition might be able to help us grow, but there’s nothing new about it. Well, there’s plenty new about it! For example, you can find a tradition, like a devotion or a pilgrimage, which is new to you. Or you could start a personal tradition by incorporating your faith into your daily life in a new way. Or you could become a saint and spark new traditions for others to find God through your intercession. Follow traditions that make you new! This especially is the sacrament of the Eucharist. What transformative experience have you had during adoration or Communion?
BETTERMENT. Our lives are constantly challenging us, whether with too much or too little change. In our beautiful, vibrant Church, we live the Gospel together through the liturgical seasons. Whether it’s Advent, Lent, Easter, Christmas, or Ordinary (as in numbered—or ordinal, not boring and commonplace), this tradition reminds us of important truths. Each season has important meaning and its own customs, right down to its color. How do the seasons help you become a better follower of Christ every year?
GUIDANCE. Have you ever run a relay race? Passing the baton can be smooth or klutzy—or even dropped. Imagine that baton is our faith lived out through a tradition. I hope you wouldn’t want to drop it! Tradition is not a cage in which to feel trapped; it is a way for truth to be passed on and help free others from their sin and unbelief. God has secured us the truth of Christianity through the apostles and our ancestors passing on Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition to us. They also passed on little traditions we do for each other that help us fully live what is sacred to us, like lighting a candle in prayer. How do you feel guided to true freedom by tradition?
TRUTH. As for uppercase-T Traditions, the Church teaches us the authentic interpretations of the Bible as taught by followers of Christ like the apostles. Mark Brumley points out in an article dealing with the capitalization distinction (https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/tradition-with-a-capital-t): “Furthermore, Catholics distinguish capital “T” Tradition, which comes from God, either through Christ or the apostles (Luke 10:16), from lower-case “t” human traditions or customs… [Jesus’s] words and actions actually supported [in Matt 15:6-9] a central element of it–the idea of Tradition as the authentic understanding and application of the biblical message.” In the Church, we not only have human customs which help us live saintly lives but also Sacred Tradition that helps us understand Sacred Scripture as it is meant to be. How do you feel confident that we can know absolute truths in the Church founded by Christ on steady rock?
SCRIPTURE. According to G.K. Chesterton, it is truly the traditional that are the rebels: “To the orthodox, there must always be a case for revolution; for in the hearts of men God has been put under the feet of Satan. In the upper world hell once rebelled against heaven. But in this world heaven is rebelling against hell. For the orthodox there can always be a revolution; for a revolution is a restoration. At any instant, you may strike a blow for the perfection which no man has seen since Adam.” Scripture might not seem all that revolutionary to others, but to those who truly embrace it, it changes everything. In addition to Sacred Tradition to help us with Sacred Scripture, we also have been gifted the Bible through devout followers before us who cared to record it, pray about its canon, and spread it. How does the Word of God in your everyday life and traditions create sacredness?
GRACE. Mary was full of it—of grace, that is. This grace is a divine gift from God. We can receive God’s never-ending grace, too, through the sacraments of the Church, which are overflowing with tradition. Again, G. K. Chesterton speaks truth to us, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” How do you love “what is behind” you and fight for Christ gracefully, especially when celebrating the sacraments?
HABIT. Traditions we keep in our everyday, ordinary lives are what help us form habits, which help us practice virtues, which help us live holy lives. We are all called to be saints, so in following traditions that help us practice the faith that the saints also practiced, we will be answering that call. Our habits become not just empty habits but virtuous prayers. How do you live out traditions in your daily routines that help you pray without ceasing?