Saturday, March 3, 2007

O Magazine Explains Tradition

Somehow I got a subscription to O The Oprah Magazine. I have no idea how this happened - I've read it maybe once in my life! Anyway, since it's been coming, I've been glancing at it in stolen moments. Imagine my surprise when I read the bio for one of the contributors and she seems to back the Catholic church's belief in tradition!

"So much of what we know about the world comes from oral histories, shared experiences - so I write about science in the first person, as if I'm telling a story," says Rebecca Skloot.

Okay, so she's not talking about tradition in Catholicism - but it really got me thinking.

Tradition is a hard concept for non-Catholics to understand. I never realized this until my husband and I started having discussions about it when we first started dating. He would be shocked at things I believed in that he had never heard of before in his Bible church - the Assumption of Mary for one. I was naive enough in my faith at that time (not that I'm much better now, mind you) that I couldn't explain it to him so we'd have to go have a good old apologetics lesson from my deacon dad. It took him a while to get it. Of all the things that he started out questioning, I'd say tradition was the hardest of all for him to come around on. He may still struggle with it for all I know.

It's hard for me to understand not understanding tradition. Every culture in the world respects tradition. People even crave tradition. I remember fellow students at Stephen F. Austin State University lamenting the fact that our college didn't have the tradition that other schools were famous for such as bonfire at Texas A&M or Texas/OU weekend. There was even a push to start some traditions while I was there - parades across campus before games, tailgating, etc. They wanted something to pass down and to know that generations after them would be participating in activities similar to the ones we did while we attended the school. I'm not sure if anything ever did get started.

On the other hand, being a person who likes things to be black and white, I can see where believing in something that is not written down in the Bible - in black and white - can be a little hard to swallow - almost threatening. What if someone passed the story down incorrectly and we're believing the wrong thing? What if it leads us down the wrong path? If it happened and it was so important, why didn't it get written in the Bible? (For a comeback to that argument see John 21:25 by the way).

As Catholics, we should pray that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide our church. Just like we should pray that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide our hearts and to grant us the ability to trust in our Church's rich teaching and tradition.

This line from one of my favorite prayers by Thomas Merton sums it up nicely:
...and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

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