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Tradition and Catholic Retailing

"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.
Orthodoxy", G. K. Chesterton

This quote that I have seen before but was reminded of by Meg's Musings, reminds me of something that I have found to be true in the Catholic retail business. The Church is steeped in traditions both "T" and "t". Without these traditions, the Church would be an anchorless boat tossed about by the whims of the present.

Catholic retailers need to accept this reality if they want to have a successful, long-lived business. Part of the problem with our industry and the religious education establishment within the Church as a whole has been an attempt to cut the anchor on the Faith and create something new. The problem with this approach is that eventually the "newness" wears off and you are left with something stale and dated.

For example, if you walk into most Catholic churches pre-1920 you can identify the church as having beauty. You can identify when the church was built but it doesn't look dated. The reason is that the design of the church is inspired by the timeless tradition and theology of the church and the architects intentionally tried to communicate the Faith through their design.

Most newer churches have been built on the whims of fashion without any concern for the past. As such, they are identifiable as belonging to a specific age and also as being trapped in that age. They are unable to communicate the timeless aspects of the Faith because the builders had no interest in that when they were constructed. Failing to design churches that communicate the Faith and failing to educate children in the Faith is like taking a lake and cutting off its source. The lake will look full for a while but eventually it will dry up.

When you are presented with a new product, think about whether this item speaks to the timeless tradition of the Faith. Is it part of the "Feast of Faith" or is it the latest diet fad? Is the product going to affirm and strengthen people's faith or is it going to make them question their faith and possibly convince them to leave the Church? Here's a tip: if the author is in favor of changing Church teaching, carrying that author is sabotaging your business. Could you imagine a sporting goods store carrying products that advocate not exercising? Or how about a natural food grocery store extolling the virtues of hormone enhanced beef and junk food? In the same way, carrying authors that contradict and question the Faith puts you in the odd position of being a business that wants to decrease its customer base.

As painful as it may be, I strongly suggest going through your current inventory and asking yourself if the products you carry are presenting the fullness of the Faith or questioning whether the fullness of the Faith is really worth experiencing. If it's the later, I suggest you close your doors and find a new line of work or decide to give your customers the Faith in all its richness. I hope you choose the second option.

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • SW May 4, 2006, 9:40 pm

    Hi!

    I was over at LiturgicalLeotards.com, looking for the latest in the Glory and Praise series, Can Do Cantoring. When I realized that they didn’t have the book, I looked at their html code (I’m big into codes these days), and saw that there was an embedded hominim that spelled out TomTom, and that of course led me to your site. Wow! Who knew that this Catholic stuff had so many accessories! Anywhoo, I’m really anxious to get my hands on the Cantoring book since I start next week, and I don’t even sing!

    BTW, I’m also looking for Burlap Scented Potpourri as our banners need freshening.

    Thanks!

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