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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.

36 thoughts on “Seeking Tradition: We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have”

  1. “Never did it teach what the Eucharist truly is: the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    I received my first Communion I believe around 1980 and grew into adulthood knowing nothing about the faith and finally broken by sin, lying on a couch sick as a dog with ulcerative colitis which caused me to lose 50lbs, I started watching EWTN and heard Mother Angelica explain that holy Communion is actually the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord truly present. I had never heard this before much less believed it. I thought back to those CCD classes, I wasn’t a good student but had I missed a week where they explained this? I was in my 30’s, supposedly a lifelong Catholic and this was the first time I had heard this. That to me is still amazing to this day that they never taught that truth.

    If some read or hear my sharp, aggressive criticisms of and often outright mocking of nuchurch, now you know why.

    • John, we must all respond to the crisis at hand by the manner and means available to us. And it is precisely the lack of virility in the Church and the emasculation of so many of our prelates that has led us thus far down our present slide into the abyss of radical scepticism. As my good friend points out in his article, without an illumination of the intellect that comes by way of the hard teachings of our faith, properly preached or presented, by what means is the current drift of Catholic teaching to be corrected?
      A profound quote from the author David Schultenover, S.J. in his work “A View from Rome: On the Eve of the Modernist Crisis” p.33 puts an emphatic exclamation point on Mr. Williamson’s lament:
      “[Pope Pius X’s] overriding concern, like Leo XIII’s, was the tranquillity of order: for the…implications of Modernism are profound, far-reaching, and devastating for religion…as well as for the state whose social bond depends upon them. This concern rested on the argument that Modernism, because it originates from individual sentiment and internal authority, necessarily denies external authority and therefore must end, on the one hand, in atheism and the destruction of all religion, and, on the other, in anarchism and the destruction of all society.”
      Without an immediate return to Catholic tradition and the full deposit of the Faith, is this not precisely the road that we are currently travelling?!?!

      • It’s a great article by your friend. For years I had worried ” how come I did not know that was our Lord? Did I know and now I’m not remembering that I knew?” I have thought about this many times so to read what your friend wrote “Never did it teach what the Eucharist truly is: the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That confirms it for me, there is someone else who knows that they didn’t teach the number one must important truth of the faith.
        The last novus ordo I went to was in September at a family funeral. I did not respond verbally during the mass nor did I receive Holy Communion because I have read and believe in Quo Primum. I will say this, the folks there (family in this case) are lost, I can’t say all of course but at least my family members, they’re lost, they have no idea what they’re doing when they walk up to Holy Communion. I can confirm this because I was asked later that evening why I did not go up for Holy Communion. I responded with some teaching on sin and confession and what constitutes a sin. They scoffed, apparently embarrassed that I did not go up for Holy Communion. This is not mere happenstance, somebody made the changes to the mass and teaching so that people would end up in this state.

  2. Good article. I would suggest, however, that the Holy Ghost is at work in at least one novel way which just did not exist when I abjured my heresies and converted to the Catholic Faith 30 years ago. That novel way is via the internet.

    Thanks to the internet, every Catholic with a laptop, PC or smartphone now has access to the full Deposit of the Faith if they are prepared to do some diligent searching. What I had to spend hours of travel and searching for in the Catholic Library in London (England) is now available with a few clicks of the mouse from Catholic translations of the Bible to the Summa Theologica, Patristics, Councils, Cathechisms, Papal teaching – you name it. (Try to imagine the disdainful look on a librarian’s face when an oik of a student from Imperial College has the temerity to ask if he can borrow any of his 36 volumes of the Summa!)

    Back then I only had a little monthly magazine called “Christian Order” to point me in the right direction. Now somebody can get as much info from 1P5 in a couple of days as a yearly subscription to CO would bring. The disadvantage the modernists have now that they didn’t have in the days of Vatican II is that the truth is out there for those who want to find it. It is very difficult for them to go unnoticed and unchallenged these days. The faithful no longer need to rely on a modernist-infested hierarchy to discover what the Deposit of Faith is.

    Zane Williamson, you are a novel collaborator of the Holy Ghost. The message does not change, but the voices He uses do. Thank you.

    • “…The truth is out there for those who want to find it…”; indeed it is, if not for Mulder and Scully, at least for the rest of us: “Seek, and ye will find, knock and the door will be open.” And with the Internet, we’re not going to be bullied like we were. That’s over. And thank God for that.

  3. How can one go forth, if the Church is not behind him or her?

    For every truth that I may know, by the grace of God, for every sincere effort on my part to impart that truth, by the grace of God, there are many priests and bishops and cardinals and now a full fledge pope, that says the opposite.

    The Church needs leadership; and pretty fast.

    • We go forth and keep all of this as Our Mother did, in her heart.
      The young are traditional. They want the Mass of the Ages. So when The Church comes around and goes back to being what she was, we need to be the ones that hold the faith. The books, the statues, the Catholic lifestyle. Teach our children and save our treasures. We ARE the leadership.

    • Don’t forget that the Church isn’t just here on earth. You may not see it, but when you go forth the Church Triumphant is behind you. Yes, there is much resistance. But the Church IS behind you. So be bold.

  4. “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.”

    Amen, a thousandfold!

    Reading Leo XIII and Pius X, among other earlier popes, was crucial in my awakening to the fullness of the Catholic Faith. When you read almost any Catholic materials from before the Second Vatican Council, you find a richness and a beauty that seemingly disappeared overnight.

    I also agree with Deacon Augustine below that the internet is a good novelty that has reconnected millions with Tradition. Deo gratias!

  5. I don’t think the author really means there is a deficit in access to the faith. What he means is that we are living in a time of information overload and there are competing faiths and ideas available.

    You could argue that in the Middle Ages there was a deficit in access to the faith. Most people were illiterate and had to rely on clergy, and in any case, there weren’t many books around to read. Most people never traveled far.

    Nowadays most people are functionally literate and the internet puts worlds of ideas and information at out fingertips. What the author is saying is that we now have access to other faiths that drown out orthodoxy and compete for our attention.

    • There was no deficit in access to the faith in the middle ages when everyone knew everyone and life in the town revolved around the Church or Cathedral, everything was closed Sunday, everyone was at Church, learning the faith through the priests words and the statues and stain glass windows. When the bells rang everyone knew it was a funeral or a baptism, wedding or consecration. Every Catholic holy day was known and celebrated by all. It was total immersion, life inseparable from the faith.
      Since Luther’s revolt the revolutionaries have been hell bent on erasing the Church from every part of everyone’s life life.

    • But if people don’t know that they *should* be looking for Catholic truths, they won’t go looking, so having it available isn’t enough. I have shared with cradle Catholics things I’ve learned from sites like 1P5 and, usually, they are astounded with information they had never before heard. The Church is supposed to be our mother. She’s been a negligent one because of the agendas of people being crushed by the sin of pride – even some who believe they are examples of humility.

      • But that’s what we pray for surely? That Our Lord will wake these people up and that The Holy Ghost will pour into their hearts the fire they need? But they have to hunger for truth. They have to thirst for God, they have to be open. Just being Catholic now is NOT enough – you have to have and live the True Faith without taint.

        So it is up to us. We are to pray always. We are to ask, seek, and beg for the grace of conversion for these poor deluded people. God WAITS for our prayers. His Providence has taken into consideration all souls and he wants us to pray for them.

        Read Providence by Garrigou-Lagrange especially the chapter on prayer.

    • “What the author is saying is that we now have access to other faiths that drown out orthodoxy and compete for our attention.”

      No, that is NOT what the author is saying at all. You are no doubt right that there is a great deal of (useless) competing information available, but Williamson is saying something very different: that the post-Vatican II anti-Church is shrouding the truths of the Catholic Faith with innovations which are inimical to the Faith, thus rendering the Faith almost invisible.

      This is the reality.

  6. It will be the youth that will restore the Catholic Church. When I see my grandchildren loving the Traditional mass and look with scorn at the modernist NO, it gives me great joy and hope. They are just teens, but their parents both taught them well, the love of the Traditions and the need for the Sacraments.

    • This is one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Church. There has always been baptism of desire, and baptism of blood. What do these baptisms mean? If you are taking instruction in the One True Faith, and plan to be baptized at Easter, and you today get hit by a truck and die – Our Lord may save you. If you are murdered by a Muslim terrorist at the baptismal font just before the priest pours the water over your head, Our Lord may save you.

      Baptism of desire is NOT the vague feeling of those on the outside – gee, I wonder if what the Church teaches is true? I guess I will have to look into this – but not if it really means I have to stop living with my boyfriend…and baptism of blood is NOT when someone murders you because you are at Mass one morning out of curiously – you have to have the gun to your HEAD and be asked to deny the Faith.

      These are rare occurrences. The narrow way sounds just so damned harsh and cruel! So be it. That’s what we mean by the real truths of the Church. With the harshness will come all the love and grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ poured out on the soul who longs, thirsts, hungers for Him.

    • Do you have My Catholic Faith? On page 253 it says, ‘Those who through no fault of their own have not received the sacrament of Baptism can be saved through what is called baptism of blood or baptism of desire.

      Either baptism of desire or of the blood entitles one to the possession of heaven, just as baptism by water. However, only baptism by water imprints a character on the soul, and so entitles one to the reception of the other sacraments.

      An unbaptised person receives the baptism of blood when he suffers martyrdom for the faith of Christ.

      One who lays down his life for Christ or some Christian virtue is said to have received baptism of blood. Our Lord promised, “He who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39). Thus the Holy Innocents whom Herod slew out of hatred for the Infant Jesus received the baptism of blood.

      An unbaptised person receives the baptism of desire when he loves God above all things, and desires to do all that is necessary for his salvation.

      One who loves God above all things, is sorry for his sins, and ardently longs for Baptism when it is impossible to receive it; or one who not knowing the necessity of Baptism, sincerely wishes to do all required for salvation, is said to have received baptism of desire. Our Lord promised that whoever loves Him will be loved by the Father (John 14:21). Therefore only those who have attained the use of reason can profit from the baptism of desire.’

      Now in researching this question I found that MCF changed maybe even ‘ahead of the times’ as new editions came out, but I’m going to assume that the edition republished by Angelus, even thought it uses the BC, is okay.

    • The claims that baptism of desire and baptism of blood were invented by the writers of the Baltimore Catechism are false as they are both Catholic Doctrine defined by the Council of Trent which obviously predates the Baltimore Catechism. Further reading includes ‘Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma’, (the Sacrament of Baptism) by Dr Ludwig Ott and Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine’ (Chpt 12 Baptism) by Abp Michael Sheehan.


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