Creating Catholic Traditions

By Susan Hoefer for Family Foundations magazine.

In the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye, the father of 5 daughters who are looking to get married, speaks of the importance of tradition.  “Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as—as—as a fiddler—on the roof!”  Given our society’s current infatuation with progress, it seems as if the idea of tradition is experiencing a bad rap.  Reflecting on rituals that connect us with each other and those who’ve come before us may seem as passe as last month’s Tik Tok trends.  And yet, isn’t that the point?  Aren’t we created for communion, to live our lives for and with others?  As T.S. Eliot writes in “After Strange Gods”,

Tradition is not solely, or even primarily, the maintenance of certain dogmatic beliefs; these beliefs have come to take their living form in the course of the formation of a tradition. What I mean by tradition involves all those habitual actions, habits and customs, from the most significant religious rite to our conventional way of greeting a stranger, which represent the blood kinship of ‘the same people living in the same place’.

But even beyond uniting “the same people living in the same place,” tradition creates a connection which transcends our present, connecting us with those past and future as well.  All of this to say, that traditions shouldn’t be relegated to a dusty shelf somewhere, only to be inconsequentially dusted off on rare occasion.  Rather, traditions create a strong foundation for living a life for and with others. 

Bonds That Unite

The bonds that unite us as persons are varied and many; as family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, citizens, and acquaintances.  But arguably the most significant of these bonds is as husband and wife.  It is here where man and woman enter into a covenantal relationship, giving each other their entire being as self-gift to their betrothed.  Given the magnitude of meaning found in marriage, it only seems fitting that a married couple share a life rich with traditions and rituals which serve to strengthen their bond.  These traditions connect us, aiding us through the “good times and in bad, in sickness and in health…”. 

In recognizing the significance of forming traditions and rituals in your marriage, you’ll want to consider these three areas:  spiritual, corporeal, and communal.

Spiritual

Spiritual traditions encourage us to grow in relationship with Jesus, in and through our relationship with our spouse.  Some ideas here include:

  • Set aside time each day to pray with your spouse.  This can be as simple or involved as you like.  Ideas include praying an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be together, lectio divina, Liturgy of the Hours, etc.  The important thing is that you’re praying for and with your spouse daily.
  • Attend Sunday Mass together.  This is critical in creating the spiritual foundation of your family.
  • Practice devotional practices together.  These could be praying novenas, rosaries, etc.  One such option is to share in weekly sacrifices.  My husband and I observe the traditional practice of abstaining from meat on all Fridays during the year, not just during Lent.  It’s something we can do together, creating a mutual spiritual gift.

Corporeal

Corporeal traditions are those which connect us with the importance of our earthly existence.  We are embodied spirits, and therefore what we do with our bodies matters – how we engage others around us, how we interact with the world.  Some corporeal traditions would include:

  • Tending to the home, whether through the routines you engage in surrounding mealtime, cleaning the home, or other regular chores. 
  • Remembering to physically connect as a couple throughout the day.  This could be a kiss good-bye when leaving home, or greeting your spouse with a hug when they return from work. 

Communal

Finally communal traditions help us build and maintain our relationship with each other and those around us.  Examples include:

  • Regular date nights.  This becomes even more important as your family grows and you’re pulled in different directions as a couple.
  • Enjoy leisure time together, perhaps by engaging in a co-rec league, having a regular game night, or just reading a book together.
  • Commemorate milestones and celebrations in significant ways, such as birthdays and holidays.  Perhaps it’s enjoying a favorite birthday dinner, or making grandma’s pumpkin bread for Thanksgiving.  We regularly use food to add meaning to holy days, such as enjoying a white dinner of fettuccine alfredo on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Create and Incorporate

The opportunities to create your own traditions as a couple are as unique as you are.  When considering how to incorporate traditions and rituals in your relationship, take things one at a time.  And don’t be afraid to change as your family life changes.  What’s important is that you’re always focusing on ways to strengthen the foundation of your marriage, so as not to become as shaky as – as – a fiddler on the roof!

Susan Hoefer has been married for almost 22 years, and is the mother of four children. She has been a CCL teacher with her husband for many years. She has been working in the Diocese of Lafeyette-in-Indiana for over 12 years, promoting natural family planning, chastity, and pro-life causes, assisting couples preparing for marriage, and empowering parents to live out their God-given role as primary educators of their children in the faith.  When she’s not working for the diocese, Susan uses her gift of gab, love of music, and her sense of hospitality to help those around her come to personally know and love Jesus.