“Every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” – Matthew 13: 52


A central tenet of the faith of a Catholic is that by an act of love, God has revealed Himself and given Himself to man (CCC. 68). This mystery contained in this revelation is gradually communicated through visible signs and tangible deeds, via spoken words and in silence. At the heart of this, is God’s plan which “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth” (1 Timothy 2:4; CCC. 74). Christ, in whom the complete and entire revelation of God is found, has commissioned his apostles, and sent them out to preach and to live out this truth, so that this revealed truth may remain in its entirety, and transmitted to all generations and to the ends of the world (cf. John 14:6; CCC. 75).


The faith that we profess, continues to be transmitted orally through the handing on of the spoken word, the preaching of the Good News, the witness and examples of the apostles and the saints, and by the institutions that continue their legacies (CCC. 76). This faith is also transmitted via writing – in the Scriptures (CCC. 76).


The written and oral sources are then culminated in an apostolic line of succession, and passed down in their entirety from generation to generation, in a continuous line that can be traced directly back to Christ. The transmission of the faith is not dead, but alive, and this living transmission that is accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is known as the Tradition of the Church (CCC. 77-78).


Sacred Scripture is thus the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit (CCC. 81).


While Sacred Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit (CCC.113). This Living Tradition espouses what the apostles learnt from Jesus, and contain what they had received from Jesus’ teaching and example and what they had learnt from the Holy Spirit. This is seen in such forms as the laying of hands, the Sacraments, and the words that accompany these sacraments. This is important as the first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and relied thus on the authenticity of what had been handed directly to them by Jesus as a guide (CCC. 83).


This Sacred Tradition is distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical, or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time that arose in addition to the apostolic Tradition that had been handed down. In the light of Tradition, with the capital “t”, these traditions in the lowercap “t”, can be retained, modified, or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church’s magisterium (CCC. 83).


The task of ensuring the authenticity of the Sacred Tradition, and the unpacking of an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, is entrusted to the living, and teaching office of the Magisterium, who exercises authority over these matters in the name of Christ Jesus. The magisterium is made up of bishops who are in communion with the direct successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome (CCC. 85).


The sum of both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition make up a single unit of the sacred deposit of Faith that is handed down (CCC. 84). “By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So in maintaining, practising, and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful.” (Pope Pius XII, 1950).


St. Paul expounds on the importance of how our Faith is received and handed on. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, St. Paul states, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you..,” and again in 1 Corinthians 15: 1-6, “Now I am reminding you brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with scriptures, that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2013).


As the Church is a living Church that is made up of people, living in times that are often changing, the Church needs to be open to constant renewal and reform (Groeschel, 1990). While the Deposit of Faith in the Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Tradition remains the same, that is the Truth that is handed on remains the same, reform and spiritual renewal often examines the How of things, and how this Deposit of Faith is handed on has implications on the growth of the Faith. While reform and renewal serve to prune the Church, major reform about how things are done, usually happen when the Church is in decline. For example the Council of Trent (Weidenkopf, 2019) was convened by Pope Paul III as a response to the Protestant Reformation, to define in greater clarity what Catholic Doctrine was.


Reform and Renewal have to do with a deep soul-searching, and often call for a fundamental return to the foundational principles, purposes, and truths.


Today, the Church faces the challenges of Apathy – who cares, it is none of my business; Disengagement – the teachings are not relevant to me, the Church seems pedantic, judgey, bigoted, and preachy, I don’t want to be a part of this; Complacency – we have always done it this way;  Scandal – where is the accountability; and a steady stream of Popular Societal Opinions that push for their own agendas. If the people of God are not formed, it is easy for the currents of the world to carry them asunder. There is an urgent call to renew how the faith is imparted; how the faith is encountered, and how the Church engages with the people of God.


We are called to be custodians of the Word and of Tradition and stewards of both exterior and interior transformation. Perhaps, this first begins with a reform of the self, which then should cascade to the way we live out and witness to our Faith.


By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan




Catechism of the Catholic Church. (n.d.) Vatican Publishing House.


Groeschel, B. (1990). Reform in the Church and in Society. The Reform of Renewal. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.


Pope Pius XII. (1950). Munificentissimus Deus. [Apostolic Constitution]. AaS 42, 756. Vatican Publishing House.


United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2013). Stewards of the Tradition: Introduction. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved October 12, 2022 from https://www.usccb.org/committees/divine-worship/stewards-tradition-introduction


Weidenkopf, S. ( 2019). The History of the Council of Trent. Catholic Answers. Retrieved October 12, 2022 from https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/the-history-of-the-council-of-trent