Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. After all, the word radical can be a good or bad depending on the context. Sometimes it carries connotations of passionate commitment or admirable zeal. Other times, it can mean fanatical, freakish, or even dangerous devotion to a cause.
But I would argue we should all be radical Catholics. That’s because radical, in its strictest and truest sense, simply means rooted. The word radical comes from the Latin word radix. Radix means the root or foundation of something.
Men understand rootedness. We desire and appreciate things of quality, things with a venerable history, things that are tested and established. We like old cars made of steel and not plastic, gifts passed down from father to son for generations, ancient ceremonies, weathered buildings. Things that have proven themselves strong and true.
As Catholics, we should be radical because we should be rooted. But rooted in what? The traditions of the Church. Not just the infallible Sacred Traditions, but also the small-t devotional traditions that sanctified our forefathers for generations.
We live in an age that glorifies, even worships autonomy and personal choice. “What do you want? Which do you prefer? What makes you happy?” These are the questions everyone wants to be asked. Yet, the Catholic and Apostolic Faith is not something we modify to suit our preferences. It is not a Faith made in our own image. The Catholic Faith is something we receive. We no more choose or make it than we choose our birthday or family lineage.
Tradition has become somewhat of a dirty word in some Catholic circles. It is used dismissively or even derisively. Yet, a Catholic without tradition makes no sense—like a man waking from a coma only to realize he has no memory of who he is. Tradition is the memory of the Church. Without it, we are lost. We have no identity. We are quite literally rootless, tossed about by every passing fad and whim of our fickle age.
The Catholic Faith is not a menu of options, a smorgasbord of choice. Nor is something merely modern that began yesterday, 50 years ago, or even 500 years ago. It is the Faith once delivered to the saints. “Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you received,” says St. Paul—and so we should.
If we Catholics would be strong, if we would withstand the assaults of the enemy, if we would prove ourselves faithful and true, we have no other choice but to steep ourselves in the traditions of our Faith. We must humbly receive the Faith, absorb it, let it seep into our bones. We must let our roots grow deep—for only then will we know who we really are.