About tradition

The word "tradition" is given two meanings in religious education in a Catholic context - and in other areas of Catholic thought and life. The first and most important meaning, represented in the spelling "Tradition," refers to first "all of divine revelation from the dawn of human history to the end of the apostolic age, as passed on from one generation of believers to the next and as preserved under divine guidance by the Church established by Christ" (Hardon, 1980). Second, and derived from the more general meaning, Tradition is "that part of God's revealed word which is not contained in Sacred Scripture" (Hardon, 1980). The Church thus refers to divine revelation being handed on through Scripture and Tradition. 

The second meaning, represented by the spelling "tradition" can be defined in the following way: 

... a special temporal status to a group of phenomena that are both successive and identical (or at least similar); it makes it possible to rethink the dispersion of history in the form of the same; it allows a reduction of the difference proper to every beginning, in order to pursue without discontinuity the endless search for the origin; tradition enables us to isolate the new against a background of permanence, and to transfer its merit to originality, to genius, to the decisions proper to individuals (Foucault, 1982,p.23)

The reason for using Foucault's description of tradition is simple: I want to engage imaginatively in a dialogue with the Church and with Foucault about Tradition. Other voices will be heard because the Church is made up of many learned people who know much more than I do. And the purpose of the dialogue? I am pursuing my goal of re-imagining religious education in a postmodernist world. 


Foucault, Michele (1982). The archaeology of knowledge. New York: Routledge.

Hardon, John A. (1980). Catholic dictionary. New York: Image Books.