Total Immersion in Tradition
Thomas A. Droleskey
Each of us learns by immersion. That is, we learn how to speak intelligible words long before we are able to read by listening to our parents. Parents who are blessed with good diction and a sense of Catholic modesty in their speech will find that their children will be speaking like them when they can begin to form words and express themselves. And children who are not exposed to the horrors of television, which saps the mind and depresses the imaginative faculties while polluting the soul with all manner of poisons, learn more quickly how to speak properly from parents who take seriously elocution and diction.
On the other hand, however, children who are immersed in households where parents are poorly spoken (and usually poorly read) and who are slothful in matters of grammar and syntax wind up speaking exactly like their parents, most of whom in today's world have been affirmed in their indolence by television and all of the prevailing influences of what passes for popular "culture." Poorly formed (which means poorly thought-out) sentences, replete with double and triple negatives and the use of phrases that contain no predicate to indicate what it is that the speaker is attempting to communicate, abound in today's era of cellular phones and e-mails and other forms of "instant" messaging. Of particular annoyance is the practice of speakers referring to the first name of an individual that their hearers do not know, thus leaving the hearer in the dark as to the very predicate of the conversation. This is, obviously, the fruit of a world of relativism and illogic, a world wherein the average person thinks has been convinced that functional illiteracy and inarticulation are badges of honor to avoid being labeled as "uncool."
What is true of learning how to speak is true of learning and thus practicing the Holy Faith. Those of us who are cradle Catholics learned what we did about the Faith in our early years by immersion into a particular home setting. In my own case as a child, for example, living the liturgical life of the Church (discussing the feast days of the saints, making pilgrimages to shrines in honor of Our Lady, praying the family Rosary regularly) was not what organized our daily activities. Oh, thanks be to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, I learned the truths of the Faith from the Sisters of Mercy at Saint Aloysius School in Great Neck, New York, from 1956-1962. I did not, however, have the home environment to reinforce those truths in every aspect of my life, which privation would haunt me well into my thirties and forties as I learned, bit by bit, principally from my expose to home-schooling families, what constituted the essential elements of Catholic home life for a child. I had been immersed in an environment that was defective in the Order of Redemption, noting that my late parents did have good natural instincts (the result of the residual Catholicism then extant in our culture) and trained their two sons to be polite and courteous, especially when we were in public places.
Having learned from the wonderful home-schooling families I befriended in the 1980s and 1990s just how completely a family's life is to be shaped by the truths of the Faith in every manner possible, I began to see in retrospect what had been lacking in my own formation as a child. A lot! Indeed, I now understand that I was preserved, despite many twists and turns, from entering into the Sacrament and Matrimony and becoming a father until I was considerably more ready (admitting that I much to learn and to unlearn) for the weighty responsibilities attendant to being a spouse and a father than I would have been before I married my wonderful wife on June 7, 2001.
To wit, Sharon and I were conscious of the need to create a truly Catholic environment for our then preborn child when we discovered on July 25, 2001, that we were parents. Although our child, who turned out to be our dear, dear Lucy Mary Norma, was only about nine days old at the time we discovered she was with us, we knew that she would be able to listen to us when she gained the ability to hear as she was in the sanctuary of her mother's womb. We were thus especially attentive to praying the family Rosary together audibly so that our preborn child could get used to the routine of honoring the Mother of God as we meditated on the mysteries of her Divine Son's great love for us contained in the fifteen decades of her Most Holy Rosary. And we knew that she would hear the glories of Gregorian Chant when we assisted at an offering of the High Mass of the Traditional Latin Mass and that she would hear the prayers offered during Low Mass. In other words, we knew that our preborn child would have experiences prenatally that would have some influence, whether great or small, upon her after her birth.
As we are sensible beings, each of us is indeed influenced by the environment in which we live. A newborn child sees and hears things that he or she does not understand. Nevertheless, a newborn child is influenced by what he or she sees and hears. A home wherein the sacred music of Tradition is played will produce a child who is used to and finds satisfaction in such music. A home which is adorned with Crucifixes and images of Our Lady and Saint Joseph and the other saints will produce a child who seeks to venerate those images as a regular practice. Even a very, very small child who is given holy cards to look at will be impressed by the images contained thereon. My wife sought early on to let Lucy handle holy cards. Our daughter treasures holy cards the way that some children, particularly boys, treasure the baseball trading cards that I found so enticing in my own misspent childhood. And a newborn child listens to his parents praying the Rosary and sees the glories of the Immemorial Mass of Tradition on a daily basis, coming to recognize these practices as a matter of routine that are simply part of daily life.
Indeed, those of us who found our way back to the Tradition of our youth had to be immersed in its glories to re-learn what we accepted all too readily to be taken away from us in the 1960s. A weekly (and then daily) exposure to the Mass of Tradition teaches a Catholic more than can be gained from reading about the Mass, not in any way, however, discounting the importance of such reading to reinforce the sensus Catholicus found in the Traditional Latin Mass. One finds himself learning the parts of the Mass by rote as he is immersed in them on a regular basis. Although a hand missal is necessary to follow the propers of the Mass, a person immersed in the Traditional Latin Mass on a regular basis will pretty much come to know the Ordinary of the Mass by heart within a relatively short period of time and without a great deal of effort.
All of this comes to mind in light of a lecture given by a well-meaning mother at a conference a few weeks ago. The mother said that it is probably best not to "force" a child to pray the family Rosary all at once. Two decades should be said on one day, perhaps three on another. With all due respect to the mother, who does not realize the extent to which she has been influenced by the modernist psychobabble that has poisoned both the Church and the world, this is crazy! Children are far more capable of doing far more things than modern "experts" in child development can possibly imagine.
For example, my own daughter is full of faults (she has a particularly strong will, a phenomenon whose origin is unfathomable to me). She does, though, love God and Our Lady and the things of the Faith. After listening to her parents pray the Rosary day in and day out for the first three years of her life, Lucy Mary Norma insists in leading us in the Rosary. She knows the Apostles' Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory be, and the Fatima Prayer. She also knows the Salve Regina and the Prayer to Saint Michael. She has learned this by immersion. She listens, she remembers, she prays. This is not extraordinary. (She gets upset when she is not leading the Rosary!) This is the simple result of trying to create a Catholic environment in a household, trusting the graces of daily Traditional Latin Mass and the daily Rosary will seep into and take root in a child whose soul still radiates the glory of Baptismal Innocence.
Total immersion in Tradition involves also regular periods of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament, even if only for a period of fifteen minutes or so, helps to habituate a child to the practice of spending time with Our Beloved, Who offered Himself up for our redemption on the wood of the Holy Cross. Once again, children are far more capable of doing fare more many things than modernist child-development experts assert. The graces won for us by Our Lord on Calvary by the shedding of every single drop of His Most Precious Blood and the intercessory power of Our Lady and of all of the angels and the saints build up in the souls of children over the course of time. Only one thinking on a purely natural level can discount the miraculous ways in which little souls can begin to look to Heaven at an early age and to even begin to contemplate on a life of service to Holy Mother Church as a priest or a consecrated religious.
Total immersion in Tradition, however, is not merely a matter of liturgy and regular prayer. It is the result of the environment created in the home and the effort made by parents to insulate their children as far as is possible from any and all influences that could serve as a deterrent to their path to sanctity. Even close relatives whose lifestyles, manner of dress (or lack thereof, more accurately), speech, views and associations are a threat to the integrity of a child's spiritual well-being must be shunned. Our children must be taught to pray for our relatives whose physical presence would represent a near occasion of sin for them. It is nevertheless important to shield our children from all associations, no matter how close, that will be used by the adversary to undermine the Faith (and Tradition and the Faith in the case of our Novus Ordo relatives and friends).
Furthermore, parents must be examples of Christian modesty and decorum, dressing according to Our Lady's Fatima dress code at all times and taking special measures to shield their children from any and all displays of the immodesty of dress that is present in the world. This means that children must be prepared to close their eyes when in the car and immodestly dressed people are visible nearby. We must avoid the tendency to go with the "fashions of the times," which today include shirtless boys and men and girls and women and men dressing in shorts. Look at Jacinta, Lucia, and Francisco, who herded sheep in the heat and humidity of Portugal, for how our children are to be dressed. We actually photographs of the seers of Fatima. We should make sure that our children look more like the Marto and dos Santos children than Jenna and Barbara Bush, who, as far as we have been able to tell, have not been visited by Our Lady to assure them that they will be in Heaven. As a home-schooling family in Indianapolis told us recently, a young boy, who wants to protect his own soul and those of his sisters, tells them to "Hide your heads in a book!" when he sees a man or a woman immodestly dressed (or undressed) within eyesight.
As I noted on so many other occasions, total immersion in Tradition means an eschewing of the popular culture. There are many ways to enjoy one's self in this world (see Little by Little" posted on this site in 2004). Television, movies, the evils of rock music, professional sports (at whose arenas are displayed demonic images and all manner of demonic music and advertising), and any semblance of books and magazines that undermine the Faith and promote the multifaceted evils of secularism. We are living in a battlefield. We must take measure to protect ourselves with the breastplate of Faith and give no quarter whatsoever to the world and all of its false enticements. Nothing less than our children's sanctification and salvation depends upon our doing this. Tradition extends to every aspect of our lives. If it doesn't, then we are no better than the Pharisees who gave lip service to their religion as they excused themselves from its assiduous practice time and time again.
For those who would think that this is just "too tough" and is somehow not required by the teaching of the Church, consider the words of Pope Pius XI in Divini Illius Magistri, 1929:
It is no less necessary to direct and watch the education of the adolescent, "soft as wax to be moulded into vice," in whatever other environment he may happen to be, removing occasions of evil and providing occasions for good in his recreations and social intercourse; for "evil communications corrupt good manners."
More than ever nowadays an extended and careful vigilance is necessary, inasmuch as the dangers of moral and religious shipwreck are greater for inexperienced youth. Especially is this true of impious and immoral books, often diabolically circulated at low prices; of the cinema, which multiplies every kind of exhibition; and now also of the radio, which facilitates every kind of communications. These most powerful means of publicity, which can be of great utility for instruction and education when directed by sound principles, are only too often used as an incentive to evil passions and greed for gain. St. Augustine deplored the passion for the shows of the circus which possessed even some Christians of his time, and he dramatically narrates the infatuation for them, fortunately only temporary, of his disciple and friend Alipius. How often today must parents and educators bewail the corruption of youth brought about by the modern theater and the vile book!
Worthy of all praise and encouragement therefore are those educational associations which have for their object to point out to parents and educators, by means of suitable books and periodicals, the dangers to morals and religion that are often cunningly disguised in books and theatrical representations. In their spirit of zeal for the souls of the young, they endeavor at the same time to circulate good literature and to promote plays that are really instructive, going so far as to put up at the cost of great sacrifices, theaters and cinemas, in which virtue will have nothing to suffer and much to gain.
This necessary vigilance does not demand that young people be removed from the society in which they must live and save their souls; but that today more than ever they should be forewarned and forearmed as Christians against the seductions and the errors of the world, which, as Holy Writ admonishes us, is all "concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes and pride of life." Let them be what Tertullian wrote of the first Christians, and what Christians of all times ought to be, "sharers in the possession of the world, not of its error."
Pope Pius XI went on to discuss the principal end of a family's efforts to educate their children in the totality of the Faith, reminding the entire Church that parents have the principal obligation to provide a fitting environment for the instruction of their children in the Faith unto eternity:
The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism, according to the emphatic expression of the Apostle: "My little children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you." For the true Christian must live a supernatural life in Christ: "Christ who is your life," and display it in all his actions: "That the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh."
For precisely this reason, Christian education takes in the whole aggregate of human life, physical and spiritual, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic and social, not with a view of reducing it in any way, but in order to elevate, regulate and perfect it, in accordance with the example and teaching of Christ.
Hence the true Christian, product of Christian education, is the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illumined by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ; in other words, to use the current term, the true and finished man of character. For, it is not every kind of consistency and firmness of conduct based on subjective principles that makes true character, but only constancy in following the eternal principles of justice, as is admitted even by the pagan poet when he praises as one and the same "the man who is just and firm of purpose." And on the other hand, there cannot be full justice except in giving to God what is due to God, as the true Christian does.
The scope and aim of Christian education as here described, appears to the worldly as an abstraction, or rather as something that cannot be attained without the suppression or dwarfing of the natural faculties, and without a renunciation of the activities of the present life, and hence inimical to social life and temporal prosperity, and contrary to all progress in letters, arts and sciences, and all the other elements of civilization. To a like objection raised by the ignorance and the prejudice of even cultured pagans of a former day, and repeated with greater frequency and insistence in modern times, Tertullian has replied as follows:
We are not strangers to life.We are fully aware of the gratitude we owe to God, our Lord and Creator. We reject none of the fruits of His handiwork; we only abstain from their immoderate or unlawful use. We are living in the world with you; we do not shun your forum, your markets, your baths, your shops, your factories, your stables, your places of business and traffic. We take shop with you and we serve in your armies; we are farmers and merchants with you; we interchange skilled labor and display our works in public for your service. How we can seem unprofitable to you with whom we live and of whom we are, I know not.
The true Christian does not renounce the activities of this life, he does not stunt his natural faculties; but he develops and perfects them, by coordinating them with the supernatural. He thus ennobles what is merely natural in life and secures for it new strength in the material and temporal order, no less then in the spiritual and eternal.
Trusting always in Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, especially during this month of August, we implore her to help us to immerse ourselves and our children exclusively and completely in the glories of Tradition so that we will be better fortified to make reparation for our sins and to do battle with the forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil. And we ask Our Lady to help us to understand that our children are indeed capable of scaling the heights of sanctity in prayer and in deed from the very moment they are incorporated as members of the Mystical Body of Christ in the Baptismal fount.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saint John Eudes, lover of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
Blessed Francisco, pray for us.
Blessed Jacinta, pray for us.
Sister Lucia, pray for us.