Traditions. We hear of them all the time. Traditions kept by certain countries, societies, groups, individuals, families, the Church happen all around us. There is an appointed purpose for traditions.
But what are they and what do they really mean?
Are they simply to bring up sentimental memories? Or are they to remind us of what went before?
Are they tools to teach and bring a community together? Or are they simply an excuse for having a big party and indulging in sins? Such as events like Mardi Gras in various parts of the world?
So what are traditions, really?
We know them by things passed down from generation to generation. Traditions can encompass bread making techniques, family game nights, Christmas celebrations, even how we worship or approach the Creator.
They define who we are and what society we belong to, such as the Native American dress and dance, the Indian sari, or the American ingenuity and courage of the older generation.
Traditions presuppose a respect for the wisdom of elders, and responsible parenting to pass on those gifts. It cannot lay dormant in the heart of the teachers or those in charge, or they will be lost in a single generation.
The word “tradition” has its etymological roots in Latin, traditio. It is defined as the delivery of opinions, doctrines, practices, rites and customs from father to son, or from ancestors to posterity; the transmission of any opinions or practice from forefathers to descendants by oral communication, without written memorials…Most of our early notions are received by tradition from our parents. (America Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828)
Traditio is a verb meaning to hand over, give up, deliver, surrender; to consign, transmit, pass on; to entrust, confide, commit;…to bequeath, leave behind, hand down; to relate, narrate, report, recount, retell; to teach, expound, propound. (Dictionary Latin Latinum Dictionarium,1967)
Catholicism and Tradition…
One of the biggest differences between Protestantism and Catholicism is the use of traditions and historical references. As Catholics, we know that even the Bible told us that there were so many things taught by Jesus that all the books in the world could not hold them. (John 21:25) The Church uses Traditions as a part of Her teachings, even as far back as the first century.
Traditions include the form and function of the Mass, the central piece of worship in Catholicism. Recitation of certain prayers, including the recitation of all 150 Psalms in a week. In the past during the first few centuries, the anchorites and desert monks would memorize and recite all the Psalms as a part of their daily liturgy. This is now compiled in books recited by priests, nuns, Third Order, Oblates, and some laity alike, called the “Breviary”.
The candles, incense, vestments, and even the altar and linens all find their place both in historical information. Such can be found in the writings of the Didache from the first century.
These traditions can also be found in other first and second writings from the Fathers of the Church.
Heroditus and others proffered historical accounts of these early Christians.
Examples of traditional practices…
Merging what was common at the time, such as the cloaks worn by people at that time, the vestments had evolved in form over the next four hundred years or so.
The hats, called a Beretta, have been worn by the priests since the early centuries. They were replicas of the ruling class of the Roman times. At the time, the fourth tab on the top had been cut off as a sign of humility, preventing the priest from becoming vain because of his station in life. So it remains today in that 3 tab form.
(Scott Hahn and other great modern Theologians go into much greater details on all of this. And far better than I ever could. So I won’t cover it here.)
The point is…
Traditions are important in our lives. Especially in our religion, but also in our personal lives.
We learn morality and follow it as a culture. Moral character used to be taught in everything from Romper Room on public television to sitcoms of the early day.
That changed with the advent of Sesame Street. Children were indulged in bright, mind-numbing, flashing colors and stupid acting puppets.
Morality? God? Respect for authority? The children were the central ruling class. It was all about them. All else was thrown out the window for the sake of hedonism. Far worse today as the socialistic propaganda fills the airwaves and children’s broadcasts. (MTV anyone?)
We didn’t have violence in the streets. Yet watched Cowboy and Indian television shows filled with fake violence. No kid carried guns to school to shoot up their classmates. We all knew it was wrong.
Stealing wasn’t a thing, either. We had reading books like the McGuffy Readers this was wrong. These readers also taught how to behave in public and private.
Those traditions have been lost. Adults not only have failed to pass those important things along to the children, but they had forbidden anyone else from engaging in such a practice as well.
The younger generation has no knowledge of the history of countries. They believe the things taught to them at the knees of socialist doctrines, without question. And without the ability to think for themselves. Questioning what is taught is forbidden as well.
And so, in one generation, the current generation has lost their moral compass. There is no foundation on which to place their understanding of any aspect of civil life.
Our culture has run amok. With a few exceptions (such as the lady ladies who yanked her son out of the Baltimore riots), most parents blissfully allow their children to lose the important aspects of their lives. They leave the real child rearing to the state.
Today, we have Seattle burning to the ground. Chicago citizens are killing each other in spite of strict gun laws. New Yorkers and Californians fleeing the states to find more stable ground elsewhere.
Because the parents who don’t really need to work two jobs to supply “stuff” for their kids, or didn’t plan to curb their pre-children spending habits, are justifying their lack of attention to their offspring because of their chosen “busyness”. Kids are carted off to extra curricular activities, but the family life has suffered. The only stable foundation these modern children have is their peers – the ones they are around more that their siblings or parents.
My sibling and I grew up in a strict household. The neighbor one day confronted my mom, asking her why she didn’t lay off the kids.
We were brought up to respect authority, attend Church on Sunday, and follow a moral code. Our television was limited to one hour a day. This was alot back in the day. Television viewing then is equivalent to the kids on videos or gaming today.
We were not allowed to have a dedicated phone line in our rooms. This would be the equivalent of kids today who have been given their own personal cell phone line.
And our choice of friends were monitored while we lived under the roof of our parents. This is something considered off limits in today’s society.
It wasn’t easy, and the contemplation of running away was very real.
We had our ups and downs in our childhood. There is never a perfect parenting style except in the movies…and the minds of psychologists today.
But, in the end, we turned out pretty well rounded. And we are best friends. Family is our safety net.
The father held the mother so the son could punch her in the stomach. All in the privacy of their next door house.
The kids became drug runners, hoodlums, and thieves. They even trying to steal from us while we were away from home attending Mass.
The cost of enduring a childhood with boundaries was worth it.
Think about it…
When raising children, we need to think about how they will turn out tomorrow. These are little people who will become the adults down the road.
Are the kids out of control in public, demanding things from the store shelves? Do they disrupt conversations so they can be heard, even pulling the faces of the parents toward them in the middle of a conversation so they can talk? Do they get whatever they want because the parent is tired of listening to them whine and pitch temper tantrums?
What about their activities? Are they at gym, softball, dance, etc. more than they spend time with their parents at home? Do they have meaningful conversations with their parents, siblings, and other respected adults? And does that help to teach them the ways they should go in their adulthood? Do they show disrespect toward each other, their friends, their parents, or other adults? Or are they well mannered and behave accordingly?
It takes time to raise a child. And it a selfless commitment.
Times to train them to be quiet at a restaurant isn’t at the restaurant. It is at home.
Those traditions that were once taught need to be revived. Not just by those who want to imitate the culture of yesteryear. That is easy. But by embracing the understanding and reasoning behind why things were accepted and done back then.
Next time you do a celebration, whether for birthday of yourself, your spouse, your children, or Christ Himself, ask yourself this:
What am I doing this for – myself, or for the sake of others, including your Creator?
Traditions are more than mere outward experiences. They embed themselves deeply inside the heart and soul of every human being. It is what draws us together. Tradition unifies us by the familiar, and gains for us a camaraderie we would otherwise miss.
It expands our world beyond ourselves. We become selfless when we understand and embrace the very mystery and function of Traditions.
Create your own memories…
Figure out some traditions lost in your family’s past that bring back good times. See if you can dig up the old photo albums and Super 8 videos. Reflect on what was going on in the soundless movies and old black and white stills.
There is more there than meets the eye.
Then, once you find out even just one tradition, implement it in your family life. Replace the distractions of the world outside your door, and bring your family back together again.
It is what makes a society strong. And it begins with the family.
This is the appointed purpose of tradition.
Become a part of that renewal.