Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

I'm Trad, but My Family Isn't. Help!

St. Monica, by Luis Tristan

If you're someone who's come to embrace Tradition, but are frustrated at not being able to live the "trad life" with your family, hurt by being unable to share the most beautiful thing you have with the people you love the most, know that you are not alone. It's a story I've heard many, many times over the years, and the sadness of it all can be overwhelming. Wanting to share the Mass, live out the liturgical year in the traditional way, and partake of all the beautiful traditions and devotions with the people who mean the most to you is so important, and when your loved ones aren't "on board" with traditional Catholicism, it can be lonely and alienating.

Worse, disunity involving something of such great importance -- something that so deeply affects your family's very culture, your way of seeing and being in the world together -- can easily cause terrible sadness, frustration, and even anger, and can drive a wedge between you and those you are trying to convince of the Truth of Tradition. "It's all so obvious! And it's so beautiful, and rich, so ancient, something that binds us together with our spiritual (or maybe even literal) ancestors! Why can't they see that? How can they not want to be a part of this glorious Faith" likely goes through your mind pretty frequently, right?

But don't give up hope! I've also heard many stories of families that started out just that way -- but who eventually "came around"! Below, I offer my advice for helping this to happen. Note that I write with the presumption that the family in question is Catholic, but even if they're Protestant or atheist or something else altogether, many of the same things apply. I pray that what I have to say helps you!

First, what not to do

Don't nag. For the love of all that's holy, d o   n o t   n a g. Don't whine, don't beg, don't plead, don't express anger, don't be snarky, don't be sarcastic, and save any little "asnides" 1 for things that aren't so serious. Don't do or say anything whatsoever with the intention of making yourself come off as "better" or "holier" in any way because you've discovered the Truth about Tradition. Not only would such attempts likely fail -- and act as a sign that you have some spiritual work to do (Luke 18:10-14, John 8:1-11) -- what you know is, or should be, something you want to share out of love, not use as a weapon to beat someone over the head with.

If your family attends a parish that offers the Novus Ordo Mass and they're at least relatively content there -- or, especially, if they love the place --  I highly advise against criticism of their church, its priest, its parishioners, etc. A negative approach like that is more likely to make people defensive and, therefore, closed-up rather than being open to listening to you. It will turn them off, making you appear judgmental and nasty, and rendering you the kind of "salesman" who'd have a hard time selling water to people in the Sahara. This goes double if you're prone to hyperbole, are of a choleric temperament, or are a person who doesn't truly understand traditional Catholicism and believes that Catholics who attend Novus Ordo Masses can't be as "holy" or "Heaven-bound" as you are (wrong!).

Don't assume that everyone approaches matters of the Faith in the same way you do. You might have first been attracted to Tradition because of the aesthetics, the "smells and bells," but waxing poetic about the beauty of, say, the traditional Easter Vigil liturgy won't do a thing for people who, metaphorically, prefer McDonalds to Maxim's. Or, if you're the intellectual type who knows full well that the human element of the Church's presentation of Church teaching about, say, collegiality has changed, your giving lectures about that topic to people whose intellectual lives don't go much beyond romance novels and reality TV will undoubtedly go right over their heads, bore them to tears, and turn them off to even thinking about exploring Tradition, which they will have come to associate with "eggheadedness." Not a good start! The point:  understand your "audience." Know whom you are talking to, what motivates them, what piques their interest, how they use or abuse language, and adjust your conversation accordingly.

What to do

Be an example: The first thing to do is to make sure you absolutely understand this site's page on The Conversion of the Heart -- not just understand it intellectually, but live its message. Being an example to your family is the absolutely best thing you can do. Become the loving person Christ wants you to be and let that show in you. Manifest the fruits of the Holy Ghost and let them see them in you. Become as contented and as happy a person as you can, filled with the peace of Christ, by the grace of Christ, and make it evident to the ones you love. This will intrigue them to no end, at least if, before encountering Tradition, your mind was chaotic or morose. Be the kind of spouse, parent, and son or daughter Christ wants you to be.

Pray for and with them: Pray for them, that they come to know, understand, and crave the beauty and Truth of Tradition.

Ask them to pray with you that your entire family comes to serve Christ in the way that best pleases Him -- without mentioning the TLM (the Traditional Latin Mass) or Tradition. Leave those words out of it and make it open-ended so they won't see the prayer as pressure. But we all know that the Traditional way of the Faith is the most pleasing to Christ, so it amounts to the same thing! Also pray together in your own words for all of your family's needs, with each adding his own supplications -- and when praying with them, end with a Pater, Ave, and Gloria in Latin -- even if you have to read it from a piece of paper. This will make younger children very, very curious!

Ask certain Saints to pray for your family, especially St. Monica, who prayed for years for her son, the future St. Augustine to convert.

Fast, make sacrifices, and offer up your sufferings for their conversion: Learn about fasting and redemptive suffering and make use of them for the good of those you love.

Ask them to go to Mass with you:  Ask them if they will go to the "TLM" for two months. Just two months. Explain what the TLM is like, show them the Order of the Mass, explain to them why you love it so without putting down the Novus Ordo Mass inordinately, without speaking hyperbolically negatively about it. Focus on telling them about the priest's movements and why he makes them, how the TLM stresses reverence.

If you're a man wanting his wife and daughters to go, buy each of them a beautiful mantilla (if you're wanting to surprise them, it'd be best if you printed out a few pictures and ask, "just out of curiosity," which they like best so you end up getting the color, length, and style of veil each would prefer). If you can't afford nice mantillas, make sure they bring some sort of head-covering (hats, scarves, etc.) so they don't feel as if they stand out.
But in any case, print out the page on veiling and let them read and think about it before going to Mass.

Practice traditional devotions: Use the sacramentals and practice traditional devotions that have dropped out of favor since Vatican II. Make them curious! Let them see how beautiful some of these devotions and sacramentals are! Let them see how they affect you! Start bowing your head and, if you're a man, removing your hat, at the mention of the Name of Jesus. Cross yourself when passing by a Catholic church to honor Christ in the tabernacle, or in times of trouble (such as when hearing sirens or getting bad news), etc. The Being Catholic section of this site is filled with descriptions of such practices. Make use of the Green Scapular.

Live the liturgical year in your home: So many of our traditional ways of celebrating the liturgical year are so beautiful and charming that they can't fail to intrigue others and delight any young ones you have around. On December 4, St. Barbara's Day, bring in some cherry branches! Plant a Mary Garden in the Spring! On St. John's Eve and Walpurgisnacht, plan nice bonfires! Celebrate Hallowe'en in a Catholic way!  Visit graves on All Souls Day! And have all the stories behind these Saints and Feasts ready in order to explain what they mean. They'll come to see which is a more rich, beautiful way of life! The Seasonal Customs pages off the Being Catholic section of the site will give you plenty of ideas.

Make your home a domestic church: Make your home a cozy, happy place that's alive with Tradition! Have books around for kids to pick up and get inspired by -- books on the Saints, on our beautiful Church architecture, on the Middle Ages, etc. Have fun with your family so that they'll want to please you, want to be with you. They might even start attending the TLM with you just for that reason -- and then come to love Tradition later, on their own, after they've come to see how superior and reverent it is.
The page on The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home will give you lots of pointers in making your home deeply Catholic.

Print out a few articles to leave around:  Print out a few things from the internet and leave in places where they're likely to get picked up and read (e.g., the breakfast table, the end table on your spouse's side of the bed, on the front seat of the car, on the table next to the comfy reading chair in the family room, etc.). I recommend the following as your best bets, in addition to the aforementioned page on veiling for women:

Be patient:
Just that. Don't stake your own holiness or your contentment on whether or not you can share what you have with those you love. No matter what, rely on and trust in Jesus. Don't give up!

1  "Asnide": my own neologism for those "snide asides" folks tend to mumble under their breath when they're being snarky. This needs to be a formally recognized word in the next edition of Merriam-Webster's, non?

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