Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years.
Because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.
Tradition accidentally became a bit of a big deal in my family. What I ascribed to personal laziness where creativity and new adventures were concerned, my kids saw as comforting. Turns out the experts are right: kids do need routine and continuity.
Each fall our family, like many, takes a trip to the pumpkin patch. It has become an orchestrated event rife with doing things “how we always do it.” When the oldest was the only and the second was en route, we were newly returned to the city and in search of a pumpkin patch. A friend recommended Barthel’s and for the past 18 years, we have faithfully driven the 20 miles to Mequon being sure not to forget the checkbook and last year’s apple basket.
There is comfort in doing some things the same way every year. They like knowing what to expect and it gives us a sense of identity. We are Fredianis and this is how we do it. Friends come in and out of their lives; teachers and schools change and they even look a little different each year but the trip to the pumpkin patch stays the same.
Our families are the domestic church and some of our traditions naturally flow from traditions in our Catholic faith. Much of our Catholic faith rests on tradition. “Sacred Tradition is the common life, worship and teaching of the Catholic faith,” said Mark Shea on the National Catholic Register blog in March 2011. Through Tradition, passed down both orally and via the written word we learn how to live, we learn how to pray and we learn how to be. I know that whether I attend Mass in Milwaukee or Milan, it will be the same Mass. I know what to expect and I am comforted. These traditions identify us as Catholic.
When we tie our family traditions to our Catholic traditions, we hand down the practice of our faith. The word “tradition” actually means handing down (dictionary.com). We help ensure that not only do these things continue with the next generation but that our children learn their identity as Catholics.
Some traditions are functions of family uniqueness. They are special and unite us as family. We can unify ourselves to our Catholic family by creating traditions related to our faith. The simplest is treating Sunday Mass as inviolable. Children will grow up with the comfort of the regularity of attendance and instead of being a burden, it will be a matter of course. This faith tradition can then be linked to a family tradition. In my house growing up Sunday Mass was followed by chocolate covered, cream filled donuts.
Other traditions can be developed and tweaked to appeal to your family. When our kids were young I wanted them to appreciate that Advent and Lent are special times. During Advent I made a poster board Christmas tree and stuck it to the wall. They could add stars or stickers to it when they did something nice for someone else. Similarly for Lent one year I tacked a tree trunk with bare branches to the wall. When they did nice things they added a leaf to the tree so we could watch it bloom. The excitement of getting a sticker or tree leaf encouraged them to think about others. We also always have an Advent wreath on our kitchen table and they take turns lighting the candles.
Traditions don’t have to be just around the holidays. A tradition can be something as simple as weekly pizza and a rosary, watching Veggie Tales videos, volunteering at a food pantry or attending Adoration together. Perhaps it is a special prayer that is said together at dinner. What exactly it is isn’t so important as the fact that you are building your faith as a Catholic family.
As we enter the holidays I encourage you to consider some traditions you can start with your own family. I assure you that even though my kids are teenagers we will be arguing over whose turn it is to light the Advent wreath candles each night, and that is part of the tradition!
Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as..as a fiddler on the roof.
Teyve, Fiddler on the Roof