November 11, 2007

Charism and Tradition

"Spiritual work involves learning to cooperate with God. Of course this does not mean abandoning the inner life; no, rather you must learn to work at spiritual growth, so that the unity built up there bursts out into action in the world and that such outward action draws you back into the inner unity. By following such a program you learn to be free, not addicted to or fleeing from anything. Place your attention on the inner life and from there proceed outwards. If, however, your life in the world conflicts with your interior work, devote yourself to the interior. But ideally the two should proceed together, for then you are working together with God."
~Meister Eckhart

It seems strange to me that Charismatics and Traditionalists should ever be divided. Charism, when it is authentic and not merely human (or worse), is a very good way of being more fully alive in God's Love. Tradition is remembrance (indeed, a remembrance that is more than mere memory, at the very least a re-member-ing) of the Way and Truth that that Life should follow. The two almost need each other in some sense.

Because Charisms are given for outward work to bring others to God, whereas Tradition is that which really roots us deeply and surely with Salvation, I think the same thing can be said of the two as Meister Eckhart said of interior prayer and outward work for God. Tradition, because it is what roots us in the Way, the Truth and the Life, is just like that inward movement to God; Charism just like God sending one on that outward movement. You can't honestly by filled with one and not be led to the other. That's why many at fairly Charismatic communities such as Franciscan University of Steubenville love Tradition as well (there's been quite some hype here about the forma extraodrinaria, believe me), and why a priest full of Tradition such as Fr. Al Lauer will gather Charismatic people.

Certainly Charism needs Tradition to be sure it is authentic, for one thing. On the other hand even if Tradition does not need Charism strictly speaking, it would be so helpful to Tradition if authentic Charism would join it. Perhaps some analogies to illustrate will be helpful, and further logical explanation will work best after them.

Think of a kid coming up to his grandfather shouting "Grandpa, look what I got for Christmas!" That gift, and the way the child holds it up for all to see, are Charism. Grandpa, his attention having been gotten, takes a good look at it, smiles, takes his grandson over to his old model train setup and sets the new toy going on it. That's Tradition. Grandpa and grandson both enjoy the two together.

Charism, like a child thrusting something almost in his friends' faces, gets the many shortsighted people in this world to see Christ. It is enthusiastic, outgoing, visibly on fire. Tradition is the house where that something came from, where it goes in arrangement with the child's many other things. It is strong, stable, steadfast.

Charism is a lot like the way Evangelical Protestants are always crazy for Jesus; Tradition is that thing Protestants lack that protects us from error, and also from falling for counterfeit charisms.

Charism is a fire, and for a good fire you need a fireplace. Tradition is the fireplace. Where one is bringing the fire out into the wilderness, Tradition is the boy scout's lore of how to make a bonfire safe and yet strong.

Tradition often seems to many like a bunch of old stones. Yet for the river of Charism to reach the right destination, you need an aqueduct. Guess what – aqueducts are made of old stones!

Tradition is the bloodline, Charism is the energy of youth. Not all youth will be as energetic as most, but all must come from the bloodline. The more youthful resiliency and energy the youth of the bloodline have, the better. That's why Charism, as long as it flows in Tradition, is such a wonderful thing.

Tradition is the nature of a Pheonix, that which makes it always grow up to be a Pheonix and not an elephant; Charism is the fire that makes the Pheonix young again.

This is the lesson that the hippy "modern" Catholics missed. The reason the Church in America is in shambles right now is because a generation said "we need the people to have more energy and enthusiasm for the Church" and forgot that the Church was something that God set on His foundation, not we on whatever sounds neat to us. The need for that energy and enthusiasm, though, the need to reach out to the world, is absolutely real. We shouldn't discourage those who reach out to the world while filled with authentic fire for God. We should make friends of them so they will be willing to receive the strong Tradition to draw the world back in to (and we should not be overly bothered that those just coming into it need to learn most of it, as is only natural). On the other hand, those full of fire but not so knowledgeable of all the Tradition should seek to learn it more and more, because it's the wellspring of the Way, Truth and Life that they are on fire for.

Thus the more Charismatics and Traditionalists will mix, the better. Once there is no difference between us will we be strongest in our mission to "Go forth and make Disciples of all nations."

UPDATE: I've posted the Catechism's paragraphs on Charisms here.

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Anonymous notabene said...

Very good post, SC! Loved your analogies.

November 12, 2007 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as someone whose roots are in traditionism (sp?) I always found charismatic worship . . . well, not weird, but I always felt awkward - or at least at first. At the same time though I always felt drawn to incorporate it into my roots if I could. I try to do that, but as someone with a Very introverted temperment I often find it difficult.

Good post.

November 13, 2007 3:25 PM  
Blogger Kyle R. Cupp said...

May I induct you into the “I Hate Binaries” club?

November 16, 2007 9:40 PM  
Blogger Shakespeare's Cobbler said...


Someone I was talking to tonight said that wherever the Traditionalist movement comes, the Charismatic movement dies. Frankly, I think that means something is wrong with one of the two movements, not that something is wrong with one of the things themselves. The Catechism is not un-Traditionalist, and it affirms Charisms providing, of course, that they come under the Chruch's supervision. I think I'll add a note on that.

November 17, 2007 7:06 PM  

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