Why Do Catholics…Part 12 – Do things that aren’t in the Bible?

“Hey, Mom?  Where is the Bible story about Mary going to Heaven?”

“It’s not in there, Sweetie.”

“It’s not?  Then why do we believe it?”

 

One of the beautiful parts of the Catholic faith is our Tradition.  Many of these traditions are never inscribed in the Bible, but they are no less part of our faith.  So why do we follow these traditions, when other churches don’t?   bible

The Catholic Church, from its inception, has always believed, taught and practiced  Holy Traditions that were not in the Bible.  One common objection to this is that the Bible preaches against adhering to traditions (with a lower case “t”).  The traditions that the Bible is referring to are the man-made traditions – expectations that society throughout the ages have placed on believers, such as circumcision or the rules of cleanliness from the Old Testament.  But what we are discussing here is Tradition with a capital T.

In the beginning of our Church, Gospels were not all written down.  They were passed along by oral tradition, largely because of the lack of people who could read and also how information was not easily disseminated to large numbers by passing around books.  But through the telling of the stories of Jesus, the faith was spread.  In fact, the Bible was not assembled until hundreds of years after the death of Christ.  So for a few hundred years, all we had was faith passed on by telling others about Christ.  It was by this Tradition that the Bible was even put together.

The Tradition of the faith, including the gospels, was the Sacred Faith Tradition of the Apostles.  Many times in the letters of St. Paul does he request believers to hold fast to the Traditions of our faith (1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thess 2:15, 1 Cor 15:1-2).  Through this Sacred Apostolic Tradition, Christianity spread like wildfire.

Other churches may believe that if it’s not in the Bible, then it can’t be true – Martin Luther’s belief of sola scriptura.  But ironically, nowhere in the Bible is sola scriptura supported!  In fact the Bible actually points to Traditions being followed and other Bible stories untold.  “Jesus did many other signs….not written in this book.” (John 20:30) or “There are also many other things that Jesus did , but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).  So there were many other stories could have been told.  The Bible also tells us to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us to all truth.  So we must rely not just on the Bible for truth but on guidance for truth.

In some cases, that guidance by the Holy Spirit is through the Church for the interpretation of both the Bible and Traditions.  In truth, the Bible itself is just ultimately Tradition that had been passed on for hundreds of years and eventually written down.  How can we say that some Traditions such as the Bible, are valid, but others such as continued Church Traditions are not?  And more importantly, how do we answer our child’s question?

First of all, we can explain that before the Bible even came to be written down, the stories and beliefs that Jesus started were told out loud to others.  They didn’t have any Facebook or texting to send it around to others so they had to be handed down through the generations orally, by storytelling.  And these stories became our first faith Traditions.

Eventually, the Holy Spirit guided people of faith to write down some of the Traditions that the Church believed so that they could be shared more easily.  Other Traditions, especially those with great and genuine reverence, were still shared by telling them rather than writing them down.  These are Traditions that we share even today with the first Apostles from so long ago.

Because the Holy Spirit is guiding both our Biblical Tradition and our Oral Tradition, we can rely on Him to guide our Church in the right paths, with the correct Traditions.

 

Look for the next issue of Why Do Catholics…Part 13 – Have different books of the Bible?

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