What being traditional means, to me

After reading a post by Father.Z I just had a few thoughts. I was going to post them on his blog comments section but I thought it might be a bit too long, and I wanted some responses.

At first I was critical of the Bishop (Father Z even responded to my comment in the combox and pointed out that I was being overly critical perhaps). But after reading what the Bishop has had to say, I think Father was correct. Shows that prudence and judgement really are things to think about [especially for myself, I think it’s something I suffer from, judging others rashly]. I think I understand, in some part, what the Bishop is saying. It relates heavily to Traditional Catholicism and what “trad” movement, I believe.

Bishops and Priests have a hard job. I don’t think anybody can deny that. And we are critical of them, sometimes rightly so. But I felt as if I read through what His Excellency was saying in a major way. The Priest’s job is to care for souls. He is one man caring for hundreds if not thousands of souls. Imagine the weight that must be on his shoulders? Similarly, a Bishop has to carry hundreds of thousands of souls on his back. That is a heavy burden in itself. And it gets tricky at the pinnacle of Christian worship: the sacred Liturgy. Why?

Because people - including, sadly, traditionalists like myself - are fickle. They don’t always have the best motives despite what they will tell others or convinces themselves of. If a Priest were to suddenly start making a few changes (i.e. take his personality out of the Mass, for example) the reaction might be horrible. People might stop attending Mass. Yes, I hear you -“it’s quality, not quantity”. Sure, and I agree. But that has to have a deeper meaning and sense. God cares for people, not a somewhat Platonic idea of what quality or form of the Mass we are trying to perfect. I ask you: as a Priest, would you feel fine letting all these people go? Knowing you had their souls in your hands? Of course it’s not as cut and dry as that, and these people are responsible for themselves. Still, there is a sense in which I can imagine myself not knowing what to do. Priests are only human. It is difficult.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t value quality. As a ‘trad’ that is what I value. Liturgy that is in line with rubrics. Liturgical worship that is pleasing to God, not to me. That fine line between my own preferences and what is due to God alone has to be tread carefully.

I think as traditional Catholics we can learn a lot from the ‘liberal’ camp. It seems that they are focused on pleasing people. On the “spirit” of the law rather than the letter of the Law as it were. As Trads we are focused on pleasing God alone (ideally) and focus on the letter of the Law. I think we can forcefully reject the idea of a “spirit” vs “letter” of the Law and start to see what being a real Catholic is all about. I want to start rejecting this notion of “Traditional” Catholic - as if it’s merely an interpretation of Catholicism that is in opposition to the (left, liberal) interpretation.

No. Rather, there is a fantastic way in which the Church functions and how the Holy Spirit guides us. The letter of the law serves to animate and give life to the spirit of the law. They are not in opposition, but rather they compliment each other. I think there is a sense in which the liberal camp doesn’t want to be in opposition to the faith, but only to find a legitimate expression of it. Finally I can start to understand, and accept, and endorse, that the EF and OF are indeed equal and are indeed fully Catholic expressions of the faith - and one needn’t be a liberal or a trad to prefer either one.

I know what I’m saying isn’t new, or enlightening, or all that helpful. But I want to be more personal as a Catholic. I don’t want to leave my heart at the door. All for the greater glory of God - and part of His greater glory is leading as many souls as possible to heaven. This is the task of a Priest and Bishop, and of course every one of us too.

So have some sympathy for the Priests and Bishops of the world. Quality will certainly bring Catholics home. Jesus Christ is Truth, and I hope to never try interpret that truth as a “trad” or “liberal”. I want to encounter the Truth of Jesus Christ face to face, as a servant of God, leaving my own agenda and opinions at the door.

Here’s the post by FrZ


Good comments. The Church has spent a lot of the last 2000 years trying to navigate a path though two extremes, and it’s never going to be easy.

You make very good points.

The way I see this ‘trad’ vs. ‘liberal’ dilemma is that being traditional and sticking to the law guards the faith against all sorts of heresies and dangers. The church has done a very good job in that respect. But if we let the guard down and embrace a ‘spirit’ that yields to the spirit of the times, then we are in more trouble than usual because the church weakens itself from the inside. Traditional Catholics are very critical of this and thus can seem stubborn and reluctant to open up to change. Of course, the church can and will survive all sorts of crises like it has so far, but rejecting tradition doesn’t help at all: it is like shooting oneself in the foot. I am convinced that the church would be able to deal better with the current crisis in the western world (spiritual, moral and intellectual) if it had kept a strong catholic identity without ifs and buts. And I don’t think liberals understand this. They want to please the world and reform everything they can get their hands on to be more ‘relevant and modern’.

Thanks for the response, and I agree with much of you you’ve said here. I want to touch on this point, however

And I don’t think liberals understand this. They want to please the world and reform everything they can get their hands on to be more ‘relevant and modern’.

I don’t think this is true. “Liberal” Catholics don’t want change for the sake of change. I think I have read this a lot on the forum from self confessed liberal Catholics. I highly doubt they see modernization as an end in itself. That would be silly. It would be like their accusations of Traditional Catholics wanting things to be “old” and “traditional” as an end in itself. That’s a caricature we rightfully reject. These are loaded terms that have loaded meaning in each camp. As a Traditionalist we seem to shy away from the words “modern” and “change” . Liberals shy away from “tradition” and “continuity”. But we should start seeing things as we each understand it, and perhaps as the Church herself understands it.

We need to be relevant. The last 2 Popes have said as much. There is a call to the “New” Evangelization. That is relevancy, that is modern. But it is certainly not bad or breaking from tradition.

The Liberal, again, puts emphasis on the individual finding himself. The Conservative puts emphasis on losing oneself and placing our Trust in what we know. This can be reconciled if we avoid the extreme. We can find ourselves by losing ourselves in God through the sacraments and guidance of the Holy Spirit who in turn guides the Church. I don’t want to that to sound too self-important or dramatic or as if I’m trying hard to be poetic. I doubt I am eloquent enough to be making my point properly.

I just think we need to give each “camp” its due and credit and say, “Hold on a minute. A Catholic is someone who doesn’t take a self intepretation or stick to a crowd, but rather, lets the Holy Spirit guide in all things”.

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