Seeking Tradition: We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have

As many have recently noted, there is a deficit not in the deposit of faith, but in our access to it. Take, for example, Whispers of Restoration’s recent article “Exiting ‘SquishyChurch,” Eric Sammons’s explanation on the “Old Evangelization,” and OnePeterFive’s mission of “Rebuilding Catholic Culture. Restoring Catholic Tradition.”

When I returned to the faith, having abandoned the shelter of the Church’s wings early in my youth, I remember being zealous for the Church’s permanence and unchanging truths. Such zeal was well placed but confused, for I experienced a tumultuous year when I discovered, among other things, that the liturgy I celebrated had existed a mere fifty years, that religious liberty is opposed by the Church, and that the Catechism was not the bulwark of clear teaching I thought it to be. While I pray that my struggle deepens my faith and draws me closer to Him Who is, I still have yet to be as comfortable as I briefly was upon returning to the Church.

Although this is good for my soul on an individual level, for it demands better study of the faith and, most of all, to trust in our beloved Lord, it is not, I believe, good for the Catholic culture as a whole. Ambiguity, uncertainty, and confusion do not foster the faith, but instead obscure it to the point where many abandon the Church. Those who could rest within her walls freely wander out, carefree of the errors that poison their thoughts, words, and deeds.

The deposit of faith, in which lies so deep a well of knowledge and life, seems to be hardly accessible to us in modern times. We are as a nomadic people who travel the deserts to find even the smallest spring. Just as nomads cannot create for themselves life-giving water, today, we cannot give the truth we do not have. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, said, “For, ‘every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:13-15).

Just consider what was passed down to many of us when we were children. One common primer for children in the ’80s taught that the Eucharist is about friends, family, community, sharing, and any other number of sweet-sounding terms – terms that agree with and don’t offend Protestants and non-Christians. Never did it teach what the Eucharist truly is: the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even today, the well intentioned “orthodox” Catholicism – through which I returned to the faith – can be summed up as merely pro-life and anti-contraception. This is not necessarily due to every individual’s intentions for I believe most of these Catholics are striving to follow Christ as they know how. Rather, it is simply about all that remains of the patrimony of the faith! Those two things are indeed good, but what of the teaching that the poor will always be with us regardless of whatever new humanistic solution we might endeavor to enforce? What of the Church’s teachings condemning religious liberty, indifferentism, and universalism? More importantly, what of her teachings on salvation, grace, the necessity of the sacraments, divine worship, and the dogma that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church?

There is, simply put, a major defect in our knowledge of the faith in the Catholic culture today. This defect must be overcome if Catholics are going to actually live as Catholics once again. It must be rooted out if we are to share the Catholic faith with the world. It is a defect I sadly share and greatly lament.

As many of us have come to realize, the rapid abandonment of the deposit of faith and further obscuring of truth gathered steam throughout the past century. In many of our lives, liturgical innovation has reigned, moral tradition has been scoffed at and scorned, and even the veracity of the Catholic faith is cast in the mud. All this is done not by non-Catholics – they had long been doing so since the heresiarch Martin Luther – but often by those who claim the name Catholic. These Catholics were aptly defined by Pope St. Pius X as modernists. Drawing strength from a lack of clarity brought forth by the Second Vatican Council, a modernist rebellion has swept through our Catholic culture. This synthesis of all heresies destroyed the beauty of our Church through iconoclasm, falsely claimed the right of authority over themselves as Protestants do, and sought to remake the Catholic faith into humanistic secularism with a “Catholic” veneer.

Their full frontal assault failed, for no enemy can defeat Him Who has already triumphed. However, the damage they caused and still cause today is the reality of the Catholic culture we live in. We are children bereft of our patrimony. The deposit of faith has been kept from us, so we cannot share it with others. We are like the ancient tribe of Israel who lost the scrolls of the Law and unknowingly violated it (2 Kings 22-23).

As did ancient Israel, we must humble ourselves, do penance, restore the deposit of faith lost by our fathers, and reform our Catholic culture. We must diligently search out our patrimony, so long buried and even now obfuscated by modernist members of the clergy and hierarchy, and restore it in our homes, our parishes, and our dioceses. We must return to the very fundamentals of the faith – fundamentals that a vast majority of Catholics do not know or explicitly deny.

Though it seems as though no faith would be found were Christ to return today, the Holy Spirit is at work – not in novel ways, as many claim, but by preserving the Faith and enlightening those who seek it. We must respond to Him by digging deep and dusting off the grime that has covered the gems of the Faith that were abandoned by our present age. We must study Tradition and seek out these precious gems – like the beautiful truth on the sacraments taught by the Council of Trent and the prudent warnings of recent popes like Pope St. Pius X and Pope Leo XIII.

When the Holy Spirit leads us to these great treasures, we must sell everything we have to own them. Once owned, we must give our lives to proclaiming the truth of the gospel, for to keep Him to ourselves is to violate the last words He said to us: “Go forth and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19).

We are called to go forth, but we cannot go forth unprepared and empty-handed. We must go forth with Him in our hearts and in our minds and with His praises upon our lips. To do this most fully, we need to be aware of our defect of knowledge and give ourselves to recovering what we ought to have received.

In seeking to restore the deposit of faith, let us heed closely Pope Leo XIII: “With humble and united prayer, therefore, let us all together beseech God fervently to pour out the spirit of knowledge on the sons of the Church, and to open their minds to the understanding of wisdom”(On the Restoration of Christian Philosophy According to the Mind of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, 1879).

The Holy Spirit is at work restoring us to Tradition. Pray we have the strength and grace to respond to His call and faithfully, with His grace, accomplish the part He has given to us – be it in raising our children or sharing Him with friends. Let us raise our voices in lament and pray that the most Holy Spirit might guide us and, through His power, grant us a true Catholic revival, especially through the rediscovery of our stolen patrimony, the full deposit of the Catholic faith.

Immaculate Mother, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us to the Lord, our God, that we may be once again restored to the full deposit of the Faith. May we be granted the strength to do our part in the restoration of the Catholic faith. May the Holy Spirit work in us and give us strength to study Tradition so that we may rediscover what has been lost, and even what we don’t yet know is missing.

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