Tradition: A personal essay
Please note: This is way too long, I just couldn’t figure out how to condense it. If I were you, I would skip reading the whole thing and just skim it.
This new forum is a great addition to Catholic Answers and I appreciate the efforts Jo Benedict–her thread on how the TC forum was going led directly to me thinking about writing this essay. I noticed that several people wrote about their unfamiliarity with those of us who consider ourselves to be traditionalists–lower case or capital t, I can never keep them straight. I am writing only about me, my essence, which makes me a person who believes that to be Catholic is to be Traditional. Or you can even state the converse–to be Traditional is to be Catholic. I think that the capital T is correct in this case, it is the Faith passed down to us from the Apostles, eventually written down into the Gospels and Epistles. The important part for me, passed down from the Apostles and while much was written, much was left unwritten but said and bequeathed to generation after generation.
Most people that read and post on these threads have much more education and knowledge of the theology of Catholicism than I do. I speak as a man who has a simple faith in the Church. I am sure that some will find fault with what I believe. They will point out passages in the Bible or the Catechism that prove me mistaken. My only defense can and will be that my conscience was formed by great teachers. I know the difference between right & wrong. There is a clear, bright line between the two. You may believe that that bright line has blinded me, I think it illuminates the road to Heaven.
I was taught by parish priests who were men of Faith. They believed with their whole heart in the Holy Trinity and the devil. They saw and passed on their view, black or white, of Good and Evil. By their example and sermons they filled us kids with the dread and the exhilaration of the anticipation of growing up and becoming Soldiers of Christ. They filled our hearts, minds and souls with not only the stories of Saints who were very pious, but even more of the Saints that fought with external and internal evil that threatened to overcome their souls. These men and women fought with satan, just as we fight with satan in our lives. They overcame the temptations that we too often succumb to. That’s why they are Saints. We can only strive to be the same.
The good Felician Sisters of St. Philip Neri Catholic grade school not only reinforced what our priests were doing, they taught us through their example. In their heavy brown wool habits, they taught us in un-air conditioned classrooms and never seemed to even sweat. And many a day was over 100º. They loved us enough to demand only the best of us. Excuses for misbehavior was unacceptable. Take your punishment and offer it up for the forgotten in Purgatory. Be the best you can be, but never endanger your soul to be the best. Humility is your best friend. It will deflect even the most virulent criticism into an opportunity to improve yourself.
Do you see what all these wonderful men and women that have given their lives to God were teaching us? They were teaching us to be Catholics. They were teaching us that while we may own our physical lives, we owed our souls to God. Our lives must be lived to please God, for God will judge us on not only what we have done wrong, but also on how we honored and glorified Him.
In the mid 1960s the Church was buffeted from without and within. Drugs, sex and rock & roll were beating at the gates of the Vatican. The United States was dealing with the mess in Viet Nam that the French had left behind. Heroin, LSD and marijuana were exploding in both the ghettos and the college campuses. Revolution was in the air. Liberation priests in South America were preaching that murder was OK if it furthered “social justice” (read communism). The Bishops in America and Europe were debating the “pill”. Many, if not most were willing to allow artificial birth control as long as it was not using a barrier. The United States was racked by assassinations and racial riots. Europe was split asunder over nuclear proliferation.