There is a great deal of concern about Catholic tradition these days because, since the 1960’s, the Church herself has been heavily impacted by a secular culture which disdains tradition. As a result, many traditions have fallen by the wayside and, clearly, the Catholic sense of identity has been weakened.In assessing this problem, it is important to understand the difference between traditions (usually written with a small “t”) and Tradition itself (often capitalized for clarity), for Tradition has a very specific meaning in Catholicism. It does not include all the customs, art, liturgical forms and disciplines which make up the various human traditions associated with the Faith. Therefore, it is well to start with a definition of Tradition.Tradition is, in fact, a source of Divine Revelation. Once one understands this, it becomes immediately obvious that while various Catholic traditions may be altered or even abandoned without anything essential being lost, the same cannot be said about Tradition properly understood. But Scripture is also a source of Divine Revelation essential to the life of the Church, and so the question arises of the relationship between the two.The richest recent magisterial explanation of the role of Tradition in transmitting Divine Revelation is found in Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. This document is worthy of careful reading and meditation to increase our appreciation of how we receive the fullness of what God wishes to reveal for our salvation.
If you only have time to look at three things, LOOK AT THESE.
- Definition of Tradition
- The Relationship between Tradition and Scripture
- A Deeper Appreciation (Vatican II, Dei Verbum)
And if you've got more time...
Although not essential to the constitution of the Church, human Catholic traditions are important to us because of how human persons receive their identities and imbibe values.
Thus family and ethnic customs, widespread Catholic practices (some of which may be imposed by the disciplinary authority of the Church) and above all the sacred liturgy all play a role in the transmission of the essential Tradition, especially by contributing to personal formation.
The Liturgical Year section of CatholicCulture.org is full of practices and customs (in a word, traditions) for developing a richer culture to support Catholic life.