The Sacred Deposit of Faith
The Second Vatican Council teaches: “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the Word of God, committed to the Church.” (Dei Verbum
, 10). In this context, the Word of God refers to all of Divine Revelation, not merely to the written words of Sacred Scripture. Divine Revelation is the Sacred Deposit of Faith. Therefore, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture constitute one inseparable Sacred Deposit of Faith. And the many truths found in Divine Revelation form one unified whole, which is merely a limited reflection of the ultimate Truth: God.
The Most Holy Trinity gives us Divine Revelation in order to save us from sin and to lead us into the fullness of God's love by teaching us the truths of faith and morals. Divine Revelation is Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. The Bible is the sacred infallible writing of God. It is Sacred Scripture. It is God's Holy Truth in written form. Sacred Tradition is unwritten truths about faith and morals. Divine Revelation consists of nothing other than the unwritten truths of Sacred Tradition and the written truths of Sacred Scripture. If we could subtract from Divine Revelation both the written truth of Scripture and the unwritten truth of Tradition, nothing would be left. Divine Revelation is infallible because it is nothing other than the written and unwritten truths revealed by God.
Sacred Tradition is unwritten truths about faith and morals. The unwritten infallible truths of Tradition, as they are expressed by God, are not expressed in words, neither written words nor spoken words. These truths can be discussed by the faithful in words; in fact, the faithful transmit Tradition partly by putting these truths into words and by discussing these truths. But such discussions are not infallible. When the faithful put the truths of Tradition into words, either written or spoken, this expression lacks the guarantee of infallibility. Sacred Tradition can be referred to, discussed, and partially expressed in words, either written or spoken, but Sacred Tradition itself is nothing other than unwritten truths.
Tradition and Scripture are like a song with both music and words. They are in perfect harmony together and together they express the same thing. The music can be discussed in words, but it can never actually be put into words without ceasing to be music. Just so, Tradition is the truths of God that cannot be put into words without ceasing to be Sacred Infallible Tradition.
Certainly, the Sacred Magisterium can express a truth drawn from Sacred Tradition with a guarantee of infallibility that proceeds from the charisms of the Sacred Magisterium. However, such infallible statements depend, at least in part, upon the charisms of the Magisterium for their infallibility. And such infallible statements of the Magisterium are not Tradition itself, even when they are firmly based on and drawn from Tradition. Sacred Tradition itself is unwritten and unspoken.
The Definition of Sacred Tradition
Sacred Scripture is the Holy Bible. You can point to it. You can hold it in your hand. It consists of words that you can read and write down. But Sacred Tradition is much harder to understand. You cannot point to it. You cannot hold it in your hand. It is unspoken and unwritten. Consequently, many persons have mistaken ideas about Sacred Tradition. The true definition of Sacred Tradition is poorly understood by both the faithful and the clergy on earth today.
Second Vatican Council defined Divine Revelation (the Sacred Deposit of Faith) in the following way:
“Now, what was handed on by the apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the People of God.” (Dei Verbum, n. 8)
The Sacred Deposit of Faith consists solely in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. Therefore, Sacred Tradition is everything-other than Sacred Scripture-which was handed on by the apostles and which contributes to the holiness of life and increase in faith of the People of God. Second Vatican Council taught on the relationship between Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture:
“This plan of revelation is realized by deeds and words having an inner unity; the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them. By this revelation, then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both mediator and the fullness of all revelation.” (Dei Verbum, 2)
The above quote is from the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum
, 2). In this quote, “revelation” refers to Divine Revelation, also called the Sacred Deposit of Faith, and “the words” refers to the words of Sacred Scripture. Again, since the Sacred Deposit of Faith is nothing other than Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, “the deeds” must refer to Sacred Tradition. Thus, Second Vatican Council teaches that Sacred Tradition is “the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation.” Since these deeds were wrought by God, the deeds and their meaning are infallible. Christ is God Incarnate. Therefore, Sacred Tradition is also the deeds wrought by Christ in the history of salvation.
Sacred Tradition is “the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation.” The history of salvation obviously includes the deeds wrought by God during Old Testament times as well as New Testament times. Therefore, Sacred Tradition is divided into two parts, just as Sacred Scripture is divided into two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Sacred Tradition consists in those things, other than Sacred Scripture, which God has divinely-revealed during Old and New Testament times.
Sacred Tradition is “the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation.” Sacred Tradition includes both the deeds and their meaning. The deeds of God, and especially the deeds of Christ, teach us Christ's Way of holiness, which is partially-revealed in the deeds God wrought in Old Testament times and fully-revealed in Christ's own life of self-giving. The meaning of the deeds includes love, faith, hope, mercy, prayer, self-sacrifice, and more, as Christ put it into practice in the events of His life, His death on the Cross, His Resurrection, and the “final sending of the Spirit of truth” at Pentecost (Dei Verbum
, 2). Sacred Tradition is not these ideas themselves (of love, faith, hope, mercy, prayer, self-sacrifice, and more), but rather their embodiment in the deeds of God in salvation history, in the life and works of Christ, and in the Church that Christ established. Sacred Tradition is infallible because it is the deeds that God wrought, especially the deeds that God-Incarnate wrought, in the history of salvation. The true meaning of Sacred Tradition is infallible, just as the true meaning of Sacred Scripture is infallible.
Not an Oral Tradition
Many persons mistakenly think that Sacred Tradition is an oral tradition, handed down from Christ, to the Apostles, to their successors. They say that Sacred Tradition is the truths of God expressed in an oral tradition or in spoken form. This idea is entirely incorrect. Sacred Tradition itself cannot be the spoken word of God because the spoken word can be written down. But Tradition is infallible. If such an infallible spoken word were subsequently written down, then we would have two Bibles, not one. But no such second Bible exists, nor could one be composed by writing down an infallible oral tradition.
If an infallible oral tradition existed, then someone could quote from an infallible oral tradition. No such infallible oral tradition has ever been quoted. If Tradition were an oral tradition, then it could be spoken and recorded. No one has ever recorded such a spoken infallible tradition. If Tradition were the spoken word handed down, then some today would have memorized such an oral tradition, so as to be able to pass it on to the next generation. No one has memorized such an oral tradition. When Bishops are ordained, they are not asked to memorize an oral tradition.
Some claim that the New Testament was first an oral tradition. Were Saint Paul's letters first circulated as a memorized oral tradition, and only later written down? If they had been, then they would not be his letters. No, these Epistles were written by Saint Paul himself (or by another at his direction), and by the other authors of the Epistles. Were the Gospels first composed, without being written down, as merely the spoken word, and then circulated among the faithful by being memorized? No, the Gospels were written by the Gospel writers and did not circulate among the faithful until they were in written form. An oral tradition about Christ's words and deeds would not be infallible, because it would involve hundreds or thousands of persons each giving their own version of what Christ did and said. The spoken word is certainly one of the ways in which Tradition is transmitted, but Tradition itself is not any words, spoken or written.
The writers of the Gospels surely based their work, to some extent, on various sources, written and oral, but such sources are not infallible (except for Christ Himself and Mary, His perfect disciple). The various stories about Christ's words and deeds, which circulated among the faithful between the time of Christ's Ministry and the writing of the Gospels, are not in themselves infallible, and so these cannot be considered a part of either Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture. However, the spoken word does pertain to the transmission of Tradition. Some of these fallible stories ended up in various written works, of merely human origin, called the non-canonical or apocryphal works. These fallible writings are clear evidence that such written and oral stories are not infallible Sacred Tradition.
The words that Jesus Christ spoke to the Apostles, when teaching them the Way, were spoken and infallible-but these have not been retained by the Church on earth, except for those words of Jesus Christ written in Sacred Scripture. The Bishops do not have infallible knowledge of specific sentences spoken by Christ to the Apostles, other than those of the Bible.
The specific words of the Twelve Apostles, (remember that Mathias replaced Judas as the twelfth Apostle, Acts 1:26) except for what is found within Sacred Scripture, have not survived to the present day. The specific words of the Apostles, when they taught the Church so many centuries ago, have not been retained by the Church, except for the words of Sacred Scripture. Yet Sacred Tradition has not been lost as the centuries have passed. Sacred Tradition is not an oral tradition handed down from Christ, to the Apostles, to their successors. However, Sacred Tradition is transmitted in a number of ways, including fallible spoken and written words.
The references in Church documents and in the writings of the Church fathers to oral tradition refers to the transmission of Sacred Tradition, but not to Tradition itself. The faithful transmit Sacred Tradition in part by using the spoken word, when teaching each generation about the Way of Christ. But this transmission is not Tradition itself, nor is it infallible. The infallible Sacred Magisterium is able to preserve the truths of Tradition from falsehoods, omissions, and imperfections, even though these truths are transmitted by fallible sinners, who strive only imperfectly to imitate the perfect Way of Christ. Without the Magisterium, Sacred Tradition would not be able to be transmitted, through a sinful world, yet with the purity of a virgin bride.
Sacred Tradition is not an oral tradition. Scripture is written Divine Revelation, and so Sacred Tradition must be unwritten Divine Revelation, but Sacred Tradition is not an oral tradition. Scripture is truth put into written words, but Tradition is not truth put into the spoken word, but rather unworded truth. Tradition is the truth expressed by the Deeds of God.
Not the Writings of the Fathers, Doctors, and Saints
Some persons confuse Tradition with the writings of the early Church Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, and the Saints. Sacred Tradition is infallible. The writings of the early Church Fathers are fallible. The writings of the Saints and Doctors of the Church are fallible. Therefore, the writings of the early Church Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, and the Saints are not Sacred Tradition. Such writings are one small way in which Tradition is transmitted, but they are not Tradition itself.
Some have claimed that the oral tradition handed down from Christ and the Apostles was, to some extent, later written down by the early Church Fathers. On the contrary, Tradition cannot be words handed down orally, and later written, because Sacred Tradition is not a second Bible, nor another infallible Scripture. Also, Sacred Tradition is infallible, whereas the writings of the early Church Fathers are fallible. Even the fallible Fathers of the early Church did not claim that their writings were infallible Tradition.
The writings of the Church Fathers are a part of the transmission of Sacred Tradition, but they are not the sole or main means of transmission, and they are not Sacred Tradition itself. Even the preaching of the Twelve Apostles was not Sacred Tradition itself, but only a small part of the way in which Tradition is transmitted. The Twelve Apostles did not each have the ability and authority to teach infallibly, except for Saint Peter as the first Pope. Papal infallibility applies only to the one who is Pope at any point in Church history, not to each and every Apostle. Thus, the preaching of the Twelve Apostles is not, in itself, infallible.
The Didache, also called “the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” is an early Church document (late first or early second century A.D.) which attempts to put in writing a summary of the teaching of the Apostles. Even if this document were an accurate reflection of the teaching of the Twelve Apostles, it is nevertheless fallible and so cannot be, in itself, Sacred Tradition. Even if the preaching of the Twelve Apostles had been written down, word for word, such preaching would not be infallible and so could not be, in itself, Sacred Tradition. Yet, the fallible preaching of the Twelve Apostles was a part of the transmission of infallible Sacred Tradition.
Where is Salvation?
Is salvation found in the teachings of the Magisterium, in and of themselves? No, certainly not. For mere words, no matter how true or how important, cannot save. However the teachings of the Magisterium point out the way of salvation and are essential to God's plan for our salvation. But by themselves the teachings of the Magisterium cannot save. Salvation is not contained within the teachings of the Magisterium, even though those teachings point out the way of salvation.
Is salvation found in the words of Sacred Scripture, in and of themselves? No, certainly not. For mere words, even the infallible written words of God, cannot save. It is the Word of God, Jesus Christ, God Incarnate who alone saves. All the words of Scripture are Christ speaking to us. But even the words of Christ, by themselves, cannot save. Or if they could, then why would He die on a Cross? If we were already saved by words alone, His death and resurrection would have been in vain. Such is not the case.
So how does Christ save? If His mere existence as the Second Person of the Trinity were salvific, He would not have had to become Incarnate. But if His mere Incarnation by itself were salvific, then He would not have to teach and heal. But if His mere teaching and healing were salvific, then He would not have to die on a Cross. It is Christ's death on the Cross that brings about our salvation. Now certainly all of these other events, from the Incarnation through every suffering and teaching and holy act of Christ in His entire Life, contribute to our salvation, as do all the deeds of God throughout salvation history. But the pinnacle and height of Christ's work of our salvation is His salvific death.
Christ's death on the Cross, along with all of the surrounding deeds of Christ's Life and all of the surrounding deeds of God throughout salvation history, is our salvation. And the very same is Sacred Tradition itself. Therefore, Sacred Tradition itself contains our salvation, whereas Scripture and Magisterium do not contain our salvation.
But if Tradition were defined in some other way, which did not include the deeds of God, and particularly the deeds of Christ, in salvation history, then salvation would not be found within Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. Tradition and Scripture is Divine Revelation, authentically interpreted and taught by Magisterium. But if Tradition is defined as anything other than the salvific deeds of God, especially of Christ, then Divine Revelation would be insufficient for salvation. If Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium are insufficient for salvation, then our faith would be in vain. Such is not the case.
Tradition is Not Transmission
The confusion between transmission and Tradition is perhaps the most common error made in teachings about Tradition. This confusion has even made its way into the Catechism of the Catholic Church
“This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, 'the Church, in her doctrine, life, and worship perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.' ”
(CCC, 78. The inner quote is from Dei Verbum, 8)
On the contrary, transmission is not Tradition, and Tradition is not the means through which the Church transmits something. Rather, Tradition is what is being transmitted. This quote from the Catechism has an inner quotation from the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum. However, the partial quote from Dei Verbum is misleading and misused.
The full quote first defines the Sacred Deposit of Faith (i.e. Tradition and Scripture):
“Now, what was handed on by the apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the People of God;” (Dei Verbum, 8)
and then it continues, on the point of its transmission:
“and so the Church, in her doctrine, life, and worship perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.” (Dei Verbum, 8)
Second Vatican Council clearly distinguishes between Tradition and its transmission, but the Catechism and many teachers among the faithful do not.
Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross for our salvation. The Crucifixion and death of Christ on the Cross is the preeminent Deed of God in salvation history. All the deeds and words of Divine Revelation reach their summit in that one Deed: the suffering and death of the Word of God himself on the Cross. All the Deeds of God in salvation history lead up to, or follow from, that One Deed of Christ. All the words of Sacred Scripture lead up to, or follow from, that one wordless expression of the Love of God.
The death of Christ for our sake contains the entire moral law, at least implicitly. By dying on the Cross, so that we could live forever, Christ showed both the summit of the teaching “Love God,” and the most perfect expression of “Love your neighbor.” He showed us the true meaning of Love and Mercy, Faith and Hope, and of all the teachings of the moral law.
The Sacred Magisterium
The Magisterium is the teaching ability and authority of the Roman Catholic Church on earth. The Spirit guides the Pope, and the body of Bishops led by the Pope, so that the truths of faith and morals will be understood and taught without error. The Spirit enlivens the Body of Christ on earth, enabling the Church to teach the truth. The teaching of the Sacred Magisterium is infallible because it is the teaching of the Spirit. The Magisterium is not merely the authority to teach, but also the ability to understand and teach the truth.
The Sacred Magisterium is the infallible ability and authority of the Pope, and the body of Bishops led by the Pope, to understand and teach the truths of faith and morals found within the Sacred Deposit of Faith. The Ordinary Magisterium is the fallible ability of the Pope and the individual Bishops to teach the truths of faith and morals found within the Sacred Deposit of Faith. The Magisterium can only teach from Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. The truths found outside of the Sacred Deposit of Faith cannot be taught by either the Sacred Magisterium or the Ordinary Magisterium.
The Sacred Magisterium is not a part of the Sacred Deposit of Faith. Divine Revelation consists solely in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. The Magisterium guards and protects the Sacred Deposit of Faith. The Magisterium learns and teaches from the Sacred Deposit of Faith. The Magisterium lovingly cherishes the gift of the Sacred Deposit of Faith. But the Magisterium is distinct from the Sacred Deposit of Faith.
The Sacred Magisterium is like the Ark of the Covenant. The two Tablets of the Covenant within the Ark are like Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. The Ark is not the Tablets of the Covenant, but the Ark contains and protects the Tablets of the Covenant. In the same way, the Magisterium is not a part Divine Revelation, but it contains and protects Divine Revelation.
One of the Deeds of God in salvation history is the Inspiration of the books of the Bible by the Holy Spirit. As a Deed of God in salvation history, the writing of Sacred Scripture is an act of Sacred Tradition. Therefore, Scripture proceeds from, and is dependent upon, Tradition. Faith cannot be based on Scripture alone, because Scripture itself is based on Tradition. Another of the Deeds of God in salvation history is the establishment and formation of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, including its Magisterium. The Magisterium proceeds primarily from Tradition. The authority of the Magisterium, in Peter and his successors, and in the other Apostles and their successors (the Bishops), is also established by Scripture. Since Scripture is dependent upon Tradition, the Magisterium proceeds primarily from Tradition and secondarily from Scripture. Therefore, Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Magisterium are a reflection of the Most Holy Trinity. Scripture proceeds from Tradition; therefore, Tradition is greater than Scripture. The Magisterium proceeds primarily from Tradition and secondarily from Scripture; therefore, Tradition and Scripture are greater than the Magisterium.
Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium are three aspects of one gift to the people of God. This one gift is a reflection of the Most Holy Trinity. Tradition is a reflection of the Father; Scripture is a reflection of the Son; Magisterium is a reflection of the Spirit. Tradition gives rise to Scripture and Magisterium, just as the Father gives rise to the Son and the Spirit. Tradition is the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation. The Father is the First Source of all the Deeds of the Holy Trinity.
Scripture proceeds from Tradition, just as the Son proceeds from the Father. The Son is the Word of God; Scripture is the written Word of God. The Magisterium proceeds primarily from Tradition and secondarily from Scripture, just as the Spirit proceeds primarily from the Father and secondarily from the Son. The Magisterium is a work of the Holy Spirit acting within the Body of Christ. Scripture and Magisterium depend upon Tradition, just as the Son and Spirit depend upon the Father.
The Trinity is three distinct Persons, yet one Divine Nature. Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium are three distinct aspects of one Divine gift to the people of God. Just as the three Persons share one Nature, so also do the three aspects share one Divine Revelation. Tradition and Scripture are different expressions of one Divine Revelation, the Deposit of Faith. The Magisterium can only teach from the one Sacred Deposit of Faith. Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium share the one Sacred Deposit of Faith, just as the three Persons of the Trinity share one Divine Nature. Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium are clearly distinct from one another, just as Father, Son, Spirit are clearly distinct from one another. Everything found in Sacred Scripture comes from Sacred Tradition, just as everything found in the Son comes from the Father.
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.” (Jn 14:8-11).
Show us Sacred Tradition and we shall be satisfied. Has Sacred Scripture been with you so long and yet you do not understand? He who has understood Scripture has understood Tradition. How can you say, “Show us Sacred Tradition”? Do you not believe that Scripture is in Tradition and Tradition is in Scripture? The words of Sacred Scripture do not speak on their own authority, but come from Sacred Tradition and are a work of Sacred Tradition. Believe that Scripture is in Tradition and Tradition is in Scripture.
“These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (Jn 14:25-26).
Even now you have been given Divine Revelation. But the Sacred Magisterium, a work of the Holy Spirit, will continue to teach you all the things found within Divine Revelation and will remind you of everything found in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture.
The Whole Truth
The whole truth about God can never be contained within Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, nor can it ever be fully expressed by the Magisterium. The whole truth about God can never be fully understood by any created thing, not even the Human Nature of Christ, nor even the Virgin Mary with all the Saints and Angels put together. God is greater than all of Creation. God is beyond the complete comprehension of everyone, except God alone.
The Sacred Deposit of Faith does not and cannot contain every truth. The Sacred Deposit of Faith does contain the whole moral law. Every truth about right and wrong can be found, explicitly or implicitly, within the Sacred Deposit of Faith. Even the Crucifixion of Christ by itself implicitly contains the whole moral law. However, not every truth about God can be found within the Sacred Deposit of Faith. God is greater than words can ever express, even the words of Sacred Infallible Scripture. God is greater even than His own Deeds in Sacred Tradition. God is infinite and eternal. God cannot be completely described or completely understood by Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, nor by any finite thing. Therefore, not every truth of Faith is found within the Sacred Deposit of Faith.
Persistence of Scripture and Tradition
Sacred Scripture is not merely a set of words in a book. Sacred Scripture is the words and their meaning. Yet Scripture is so much more than words in a book. Sacred Scripture is lived by the faithful. Sacred Scripture is alive within the Body of Christ. The words and their meaning are inseparable from the Community of believers on earth. If every book of the Bible were to disappear from the world, Sacred Scripture would still persist within the hearts and minds and lives of the people of God. And the same is true for Sacred Tradition.
Sacred Tradition is not merely the past events in salvation history, it is also the meaning of those events. The deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation and the meaning of those deeds are understood and lived by the faithful. Sacred Tradition is alive within the Body of Christ. The deeds and their meaning are inseparable from the Community of believers on earth. The deeds are in the past, but the events and their meaning still persist in the hearts and minds and lives of the people of God. Sacred Tradition has been indelibly imprinted on the people of God on earth, so that it can never be lost or forgotten. Sacred Tradition is a living Tradition.
The Deeds of Christ
Sacred Tradition is the deeds wrought by God in both Old Testament times and New Testament times. The true meaning of the deeds of God in Old Testament times were made fully manifest only when Christ came to live and teach among us. In a special way, then, Sacred Tradition is the deeds wrought by Christ during His Sacred Life in our midst. Sacred Tradition is summarized by the one Deed of Christ's death for our salvation. Sacred Tradition reached its summit in the salvific suffering and death of Christ on the Cross.
The salvific death of Christ on the Cross is the preeminent Deed of Sacred Tradition. Sacred Scripture contains words describing that Deed. But mere words about the Crucifixion cannot save anyone's soul. Only the actual Deed of the Crucifixion can bring us salvation. Christ is often called the Word of God. For the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity proceeds from the First Person like one true full word, containing all truth all at once, proceeding from the Divine mouth of the Father. But the Second Person of the Trinity can also be considered to be like one true all-encompassing Deed, containing all loving and merciful deeds all at once, proceeding from a Divine Act of the Father. Christ is the Deed of God, just as He is the Word of God, just as He is the Truth of God. Christ encompasses Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, all at once.
The Immaculate Conception of Mary, in the womb of her mother Saint Ann, is a deed wrought by the timeless Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The perfection and holiness of the life of the Virgin Mary is a deed wrought by the unbounded Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The Incarnation of Christ and His Virgin Birth are deeds wrought by Christ, Who is God. The deeds of Christ's life among us, and the Way of Love and Sacrifice and Mercy that He taught us are deeds wrought by Christ. The suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ are deeds wrought by Christ in the history of salvation. The sending of the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon the Church is a deed wrought by God in the history of salvation. These are all examples of Sacred Tradition.
Are any deeds of Christ not part of Sacred Tradition? The deeds of Christ which are part of Sacred Tradition include “everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the People of God.” (Dei Verbum
, 8.) Some deeds of Christ might not seem to be part of Sacred Tradition, such as the simple human acts of eating or walking or talking about ordinary things. However, the very fact that Christ's life included such ordinary acts tells us that such things are not sinful (and therein lies a moral lesson). Also, Jesus Christ did everything, even the simplest of tasks, with reverence and humility and love for His heavenly Father. Therefore, everything that Christ did in His Life in our midst is a part of Sacred Tradition.
Christ established the Church and the Sacraments. Christ established Peter and his successors as the temporal and spiritual leaders of the Church on earth until His Return. These deeds wrought by Christ are also part of Sacred Tradition. Christ gave the Church the ability and authority to teach the truth under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This ability and authority is called the Magisterium. The establishment of the Sacred Magisterium is a deed wrought by Christ in the history of salvation; this deed is part of Sacred Tradition. The Magisterium proceeds primarily from Tradition because Christ Himself established the Church and the Magisterium. The Magisterium proceeds secondarily from Scripture because the words and deeds of Christ in Scripture confirm that Christ Himself established the Church and the Magisterium. The Magisterium teaches primarily from Tradition and secondarily from Scripture because the Magisterium proceeds primarily from Tradition and secondarily from Scripture.
The Effects of Sacred Tradition
The deeds of Sacred Tradition have an effect on the Community of believers, just as the words of Sacred Scripture have an effect on the Community of believers. This effect is not Tradition itself, nor Scripture itself. But the effect serves to perpetuate and to transmit the truths of Tradition and Scripture from one generation to the next. In other words, the transmission of Sacred Tradition occurs partly by means of the effect Tradition has on the Church.
Sacred Tradition (the deeds and their meaning) has the effect of changing people into the people of God. Sacred Tradition has the effect of making us more like Christ. Sacred Tradition gave rise to Sacred Scripture, formed the Church, and gave us the Sacraments. All this and more comes from Sacred Tradition.
Sacred Tradition includes the deed wrought by Christ wherein He suffered and died for our salvation, pouring out Grace from Eternity to every Time and Place. This deed, above all the other deeds of Tradition, transfigures us to become more like Christ. Sacred Tradition is transmitted by the lives of all those who have become more like Christ (even non-Christians). Tradition continually makes us more and more like Christ. Sacred Tradition changes us to become like Christ and, in living like Christ, we become a living example of Christ's teaching. Our lives, in so far as we imitate the deeds of Christ, help to transmit those deeds and their meaning to other persons in this and future generations.
Sacred Scripture also has the effect of changing us to become more like Christ, so that our lives are a living example of the teachings of Sacred Scripture. Our lives, in so far as we live Christ's teachings in Scripture, are a living reflection of the Bible, a living (yet imperfect) reflection of Sacred Scripture. In the same way, Sacred Tradition has an effect on us which turns us into a living (yet imperfect) reflection of Tradition. Of course, we are all sinners, so the reflection of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition found in any one sinner's life is incomplete and imperfect. However, the Church as a whole, including all those outside the visible structure of the Church, who nevertheless live as children of God, is able to transmit all of Sacred Tradition, unmarred, from one generation to the next, by means of the Sacred Magisterium.
Sacred Tradition also has far-reaching effects on society, law, and culture. The strong influence that Judeo-Christian ethics have had on culture, law, and society is one of the effects of Sacred Tradition. God taught the Israelites right from wrong through God's deeds in Old Testament times. Christ taught us right from wrong through the deeds and words of His Life and, even more importantly, through His salvific death on the Cross. The moral meaning of the deeds of God has had a far-reaching effect on the world. Thou shalt not steal is the law, even in very secularized modern society. A sense of the importance of conscience is ingrained in modern civilization.
Unfortunately, sin has also had its effects on culture, law, and society. Original sin and personal sin have had far-reaching negative effects on society, law, and culture. At this point in time, A.D. 2005, abortion and contraception are legal in many places throughout the world, and are sometimes even encouraged. Many people are taught incorrect lessons about right and wrong by the society in which they live. Though Sacred Tradition has had a far-reaching effect on secular society, so too has sin. Therefore, we cannot depend upon society, law, and culture to teach us the truth on questions of faith and morals.
Sacred Tradition's effect on the Church has greater clarity, depth, and breadth than its effects on the world. The example of Christ's life has led countless persons to live as Christ lived. Some of these persons so desire to live as much like Christ as possible that they separate themselves, to one extent or another, from the world. Some of these form religious communities. The effect of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture on the Church gives birth to religious communities, formed in the likeness of Christ.
Sacred Tradition causes families to reshape themselves according to the pattern of Christ's life. Tradition causes individuals to accept martyrdom, rather than to deny a truth of faith or morals. Sacred Tradition brings sinners to repentance. Sacred Tradition, especially as found in the deeds of Christ, transfigures individuals, families, groups, and society in general to become more like Christ. Is it the example of Christ's life that has this effect? Yes, but to a much greater extent, the act itself of the One Holy Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is what transforms us to become more like Christ. That deed has an effect far beyond mere example.
It is not merely the example of Christ's suffering and death that changes us, but the actual deed itself in its mystical effects. This one deed of Christ, the Sacrifice of His Life, has the effect of pouring out Grace upon the souls of all the faithful throughout all of Time and all of Place. Sacred Tradition is not merely the examples or ideas taught through the deeds of God. The deeds themselves transfigure us, body and soul, to become like Christ. We are transfigured by the deed Christ wrought on the Cross. If Christ only taught, but did not suffer and die for us, then we would not have Grace from the Cross and our salvation would be lost.
The Hebrew people were transfigured by the deeds that God wrought. He brought them out of slavery. He led them and nourished them, body and soul, in the desert for forty years. He brought them into the Promised Land. These deeds of God do not merely teach truths, they have the effect of changing people, transfiguring them according to God's will. The deeds of God in Tradition have a salvific effect on humanity. Therefore, the deeds of God in Sacred Tradition cannot possibly be merely myths or teaching stories, entirely lacking in any historical basis. A teaching story without any historical basis would not be salvific.
The Deeds Actually Occurred
Since Sacred Tradition is “the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation,” those deeds must actually have occurred. Sacred Scripture cannot be understood as merely a set of true teachings on faith and morals, which is historically inaccurate or unreliable. It is a contradiction to say that Tradition and Scripture are historically inaccurate and unreliable, yet are infallible on faith and morals. The teachings of faith and morals in Tradition and Scripture cannot be separated from the historical events. Sacred Tradition is the deeds God wrought in those historical events. And Sacred Scripture proceeds from Sacred Tradition. Therefore, the Divine Revelation of Tradition and Scripture is infallible concerning events of salvation history, as well as in its teachings on faith and morals.
The deeds of God in the Old Testament include the creation of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, the Ten Plagues on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and very many more. If these deeds of God did not occur, or if they were merely natural events, then the Old Testament portion of Sacred Tradition would not be the deeds God wrought and would not be Divine Revelation. Scripture proceeds from Tradition just as the Son proceeds from the Father. If Tradition is myths and teaching stories, instead of historical events, then Scripture is unreliable. If Tradition and Scripture are unreliable, then “our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor 15:14). But such is not the case.
The same is true for the deeds of Christ in the New Testament portion of Sacred Tradition. The deeds of God in the New Testament include the Annunciation to Zechariah, the Annunciation to Mary, the Virgin Incarnation, the Christmas Star and the Magi, the Flight to Egypt, the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, the Finding in the Temple, the many miraculous and wondrous events of Christ's Ministry, Christ's Passion, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost, as well as the events of the early Church related in Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles. If such deeds did not occur, then the New Testament portion of Tradition would not even exist. And then Sacred Scripture would be merely a set of fanciful or exaggerated stories, rather than a true account of historical events. If so, then Tradition would be meaningless, Scripture would lose its force, and our faith would be in vain. Such is not the case. Therefore, the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation must actually have occurred. They cannot be fictional, or inaccurate, or distorted stories told for the purpose of teaching truth. They can only be true stories, which teach us the truths of faith and morals, in addition to any and all other truths, which are asserted by Sacred Scripture, on any subject.
Many Christians mistakenly believe that Divine Revelation is found only in Sacred Scripture. They have rejected the idea of Sacred Tradition because they do not understand its meaning. These same Christians believe in the Deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation, and in so believing they are implicitly accepting Sacred Tradition. They explicitly reject Tradition, because they do not understand it. Yet, at the same time, they implicitly accept Tradition by faithfully believing that God wrought many wondrous deeds in the history of salvation. Some of these Christians are among those who defend the historical truths of Scripture against misguided scholars. In doing so, they are defending Tradition, for Tradition is nothing other than the Deeds of God in salvation history. If God had not acted within the history of the human race, there would be no Promised Messiah, no Crucifixion and Resurrection, no salvation, and no Scripture. If only they understood the true meaning of Sacred Tradition, perhaps they would accept it explicitly, as inseparable from Sacred Scripture.
The Infallibility of Mary and of Tradition
The Virgin Mary is more than merely sinless. She always did God's whole will throughout her entire life. The Virgin Mary is and always has been infallible. She could not ever have believed anything to be true, which was in fact false, for believing in falsehoods is contrary to the will of God. She could not ever have believed anything to be false, which was in fact true, for this also is contrary to God's will. Adam and Eve, before the Fall from grace, could not be mistaken in anything that they knew, for at that time their minds and hearts were free from the confusion and disorder introduced by original sin and personal sin. (Aquinas, Summa Theologica
, First Part, Q. 94, Art. 4). Mary is not only free from both original sin and personal sin, she had God's grace to an extraordinary degree. Therefore, Mary could not be mistaken in anything that she knew, nor could she be mistaken in whether or not she knew. Furthermore, she had perfect clarity of mind and heart. She did not possess all knowledge, but she could not err whatever knowledge she did have. And she more easily obtained knowledge and understanding because her heart and mind were pure.
Sacred Tradition is the Deeds of God; it is not the things created by God. God created everything that exists, but the things of Creation are not, in and of themselves, infallible Tradition. The Virgin Mary was created by God. Her creation is a deed of God; her Immaculate Conception is a deed of God; her death, resurrection, and Assumption are deeds of God. But the Virgin Mary herself is not a part of Sacred Tradition. Yet, as a perfect reflection of the will of God, Mary is also a perfect reflection of the Deeds of God in salvation history. Mary manifests Sacred Tradition to us with perfect clarity.
The Apostles and the transmission of Tradition
The deeds and words of the Apostles are not a part of Tradition, but they are one of the ways in which Tradition is transmitted throughout each generation and to future generations. In fact, the deeds and words of every faithful Christian, in so far as these adhere to the example and teaching of Christ, help to transmit Tradition. The role of the Apostles in transmitting Tradition is not all inclusive. The role of all the Popes and all the Bishops throughout the history of the Church in transmitting Tradition is not all inclusive. The primary way that Tradition is transmitted throughout any single generation, and from one generation to the next, is by the countless, lowly, unknown Christians, throughout the ages, who have lived and loved according to the teachings and example of Christ. Tradition is mainly transmitted by the example, words, deeds, decisions, prayers, spiritual life, self-denial, love, faith, hope, mercy, patience, et cetera, of ordinary individual Christians. But the Apostles did have an important role, and so do the Popes, Bishops, priests, deacons, and religious throughout the history of the Church.
The Jewish people have had a special and indispensable role in transmitting Sacred Tradition, particularly the Old Testament canon of Sacred Tradition. For faithful Jews have not only given Christians the books of the Old Testament, each written by one or more Jews within the larger Jewish community of believers. They have also helped to transmit that portion of Sacred Tradition that pertains to the Deeds of God during the time of the Old Testament. Without the transmission of Old Testament Tradition by the Jews, and their transmission of Old Testament Scripture as well, Christianity would not be the same.
Protestants have helped to transmit Sacred Tradition, in so far as they have lived and taught the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even heretics and schismatics have helped to transmit Sacred Tradition, in so far as they have retained and practiced something true and correct from the teachings of Christ.
Muslims have helped to transmit Sacred Tradition, in so far as they have worshipped the one true God and have lived, to one extent or another, according to the truth.
All persons of good will and good judgment, even unbelievers, who live according to reason and the moral law have helped to transmit Sacred Tradition to successive generations. For the whole moral law is found within Sacred Tradition. And reason itself, far from in any way undermining the truths of Tradition and Scripture, helps to support these truths.
Examples of Tradition Itself
The following is a list of some examples of Sacred Tradition itself. This list is not comprehensive; it is only intended as a way to more clearly explain the meaning of Tradition.
Acts of God in the Old Testament time-period of salvation history include, but are not limited to:
- The Creation of the Universe, of the earth, and of life on earth
- The Creation of the human race
- The Flood
- God's acts to save of Noah and his family by having Noah build an Ark
- God's call of, and Providence over, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
- God's acts building up the Hebrew people, in the midst of slavery, in Egypt
- God's call of Moses and His Providence over the life of Moses
- The Ten Plagues God sent upon Egypt through Moses
- God's call of the Hebrew people out of Egypt and out of slavery
- God's acts building up the Hebrew people as they wandered in the desert for 40 years
- God's call of the Hebrew people into the Promised Land of Israel
- God's call of the Hebrew people to continued repentance and holiness
- God's promise of a Messiah
- And many, many other acts by God in Old Testament salvation history
These events are also recounted in Sacred Scripture. However, if there was no Sacred Scripture, these events would still have occurred and would still have had their Divine effect on the Community of believers. These Divine events have a life beyond their description in words within Sacred Scripture. Sacred Tradition includes the Acts of God themselves and their meaning, which we know not only through Scripture, but also through their lasting effect and remembrance among the faithful.
Acts of God in the New Testament time-period of salvation history include, but are not limited to:
- The Immaculate Virgin Conception of the Virgin Mary
- The miraculous Virgin Birth of the Virgin Mary
- God's grace and providence throughout the life of the Virgin Mary
- The Annunciation to Zechariah and the miracle of God permitting he and his wife to conceive
- The virginal marriage of Joseph and Mary
- The Annunciation to Mary
- The Incarnation of the Son at His Virgin Conception in the womb of Mary
- The Christmas Star and the call of the Magi
- The Presentation of the Christ-child in the Temple
- God's grace and providence over the life of John the Baptist
- The finding of the Christ-child in the Temple
- All of the acts of Christ, Who is truly God, throughout His Life and His Ministry
- All of the miracles and signs given by Christ
- The Passion and Crucifixion of Christ
- The Resurrection and Ascension of Christ
- The sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
- The acts of the Holy Spirit within the early Church
- The Revelation to John
- The miraculous death, the resurrection, and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
- Any and all acts of God that are a part of salvation history, even to the present day
- Any and all acts of God that will become a part of salvation history, as they occur
- Acts of God in the future that are prophesied in both the Old and New Testaments
Examples of the Transmission of Tradition
- the imitation of Christ by the Apostles, Mary, the first disciples, and the early Church
- the imitation of Christ by any and all persons and groups throughout Church history
- the words, written and spoken, of early Church fathers and the example of their lives
- the words and examples of the Saints, Blesseds, and Venerables
- the words and examples of the Popes, Bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and martyrs
- the words and examples of ordinary ignominious Christians throughout history
- the use of the Magisterium to keep the truths of the faith from error, omission, and imperfection
- a parent who teaches the faith to a child
- a teacher who teaches the faith to a student
- a person who acts with true mercy toward another person
- acts of true self-sacrifice, which are humble reflections of Christ on the Cross
- acts of true spiritual love, faith, and hope, as well as the other virtues
- a Protestant who reads the Bible and then puts it into practice in their life
- a Catholic who accepts the teaching of the Magisterium and acts accordingly
- a Jew who continues to live according to the teachings of Old Testament times
- a Muslim who prays five times a day because he continues to believe in the one true God
- an atheist who, despite lack of belief in God, lives a live of true love for others
- a heretic who, despite a lack of the fullness of faith, suffers persecution for the faith
- a schismatic who, despite unwisely breaking away from the Church, continues to live the faith
- an author or speaker who clarifies the teachings of the faith, so that persons can live more like Christ
And there are many, many other possible examples of the transmission of Sacred Tradition. Sinner, unworthy to be called disciples of Christ, nevertheless are the ones who transmit Tradition within the same generation, and from one generation to the next.
The Canon of Sacred Scripture
Divine Revelation in Sacred Scripture consists of two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Nothing can be added to, subtracted from, or changed within the truths expressed by Scripture. Neither can any new books be added to the books of the Old and New Testaments. The canon of Scripture is the set of books included in the Bible. The canon of the Bible is said to be closed, meaning that no new books can be added to the Old or New Testaments. The writing of the Old Testament was completed long ago, and likewise with the writing of the New Testament. No Saint, or Angel, or Pope, nor even all the Bishops put together, can add any new books to the canon of the Old Testament, nor to the canon of the New Testament. However, Sacred Scripture is not yet complete.
The canon of Sacred Scripture is closed, but it will be reopened when Christ returns in the year 2437 A.D. When Christ returns, he will not be passive and silent. When Christ returns, he will not immediately bring an end to the world. Instead, Christ will perform deeds and speak words, and he will continue to teach the truth to the Church. Many will write about these deeds and these words of Christ. How could they not? And God will inspire some of these persons to write infallibly about these new deeds and new words of Christ, during His new Ministry on earth. Such writings, those few that will be infallibly inspired by the Holy Spirit, will become the Third Testament of the Bible: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Third Testament. But the Third Testament will not be written until after Christ returns.
After Christ returns, he will punish the unrepentant, reward the perseverance of the faithful, and establish his kingdom on earth. Then Christ will ascend to heaven again, in the Second Ascension. And next he will send out the Holy Spirit, this time on the whole world, in the Second Pentecost. The deeds and words of Christ after He returns, and until he ascends, as well as the acts of the Holy Spirit in the renewed Church of that time, will become a part of Sacred Scripture. There will be an account of Christ's deeds and words, similar to the Gospels. There will be an account of the Holy Spirit's deeds, similar to the Acts of the Apostles. And there will be letters (or the like) by inspired leaders of that time, similar to the Epistles. Such will be the Third Testament of the Sacred Bible.
The Three Testaments of Sacred Scripture are a reflection of the Most Holy Trinity. The Old Testament is a reflection of the Father. The New Testament is a reflection of the Son. The Third Testament is a reflection of the Spirit. The three Testaments are One Scripture, just as the Three Persons are One God.
Salvation history is divided into three parts. First is the Old Testament time, which established the worship of the one true God, and which prepared for the Arrival of the Christ. Second is the New Testament time, including Christ's Ministry on earth, which advances the knowledge of God and the holiness of God's faithful on earth, so as to prepare for Christ's Return. Third is the Third Testament time, when Christ returns and establishes his kingdom on earth, and when the Holy Spirit renews humanity through the Second Pentecost. Each period of salvation history has a section of Sacred Scripture. The New Testament section of Scripture was not written until New Testament times; likewise, the Third Testament will not be written until Third Testament times.
The Canon of Sacred Tradition
Sacred Tradition is “the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation.” Christ is God, and so Tradition is also the deeds wrought by Christ in the history of salvation. Tradition, like Scripture, is divided into an Old Testament canon (the Deeds of God during Old Testament times) and a New Testament canon (the Deeds of God, and particularly of Christ, during New Testament times). Just as Scripture will have a Third Testament added when Christ returns, so also will Tradition have a Third Testament added to its canon, which is the Deeds of God, and particularly of the Holy Spirit, during that future time period.
When Christ returns, He will perform deeds that shall be among the deeds necessary to the salvation of mankind. These deeds of Christ must be a part of Sacred Tradition. This conclusion is inescapable. Therefore, there will be a Third Testament added to Sacred Tradition.
Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture teach the same Divine Revelation. The Old Testament canon of Sacred Scripture was closed with the completion of the books of the Old Testament. The New Testament canon of Sacred Scripture was closed with the completion of the books of the New Testament. The canon of Sacred Scripture will have nothing added to it until after Christ returns in 2437 A.D.
The Old Testament canon of Sacred Tradition was closed with the completion of the Deeds of God during Old Testament times. But the New Testament canon of Sacred Tradition is not closed because God continues to act toward our salvation. Any and all acts of God that are a part of salvation history, even to the present day, and any and all acts of God that will become a part of salvation history, as they occur, are a part of Tradition. These acts also are Deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation.
Tradition and Scripture express one and the same Divine Revelation. Therefore, the deeds that will be wrought by God in the time described by the book of Revelation must also become a part of Sacred Tradition, for these deeds are described by Scripture and are deeds wrought by God toward our salvation. As the events described in the Book of Revelation unfold, these Deeds of God will also become a part of Sacred Tradition. These deeds of God, as described in the prophecies of the Bible, are necessary to the salvation of mankind. Therefore, the canon of Sacred Tradition is not closed. In truth, the Canon of Sacred Tradition was never closed, because God unceasingly works toward the salvation of mankind.
The canon of Sacred Scripture is closed and will not be reopened until Christ returns. Then a third Testament will be added to the Bible, one which contains the deeds and words of Christ at His return. Sacred Tradition will continue with the Return of Christ, during the time period of the Third Testament. Thus, the canon of Sacred Tradition can never close, until mankind's salvation is complete. Sacred Tradition is the deeds of God in salvation history. God continually seeks our salvation, so the canon of Sacred Tradition cannot close. But when mankind's salvation is finally completed, perhaps then the canon of Sacred Tradition will be closed.
Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are each divided into three Testaments: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and a Third Testament that will begin with Christ's Return. Sacred Tradition will have three parts: first, God's deeds in Old Testament times; second, God's deeds in New Testament times, including the present age, and especially those events prophesied by Sacred Scripture; and thirdly, God's deeds, when Christ returns to establish His kingdom on earth, and when He sends out His Spirit to renew the whole world.
So the first two parts of Sacred Scripture are completed, and the third has not yet begun. But only the first part of Sacred Tradition is completed. The second part of Sacred Tradition continues even now. And the third part of Sacred Tradition has not yet begun.
The Teaching of the Magisterium
The Magisterium can only teach from Tradition and Scripture. It is often said, and it is generally true, that nothing new can be added to the teaching of the Magisterium. For the Magisterium only teaches what is already taught, explicitly or implicitly, in Tradition and Scripture. However, the canon of Tradition is not closed. God continues to perform Deeds in salvation history. Such deeds add significantly to Tradition. Therefore, the Magisterium can teach newly-revealed truths of Divine Revelation, found within the new Deeds of God in salvation history. The teaching of the Church can be increased, not only by the development of doctrine or by the explicit teaching of a truth formerly only implicit, but also by the newly-revealed truths of the Deeds of God.
For example, the Day of Repentance is a day in the not too distant future, when God will perform a Deed that will be a fundamental and indispensable part of salvation history. (I am writing this in 2005.) On the Day of Repentance, God will offer to each and every soul on earth the opportunity to repent from each one's particular sins and failings. This worldwide spiritual event will change the course of salvation history and the course of the human race. This event is a Deed of God in salvation history and, therefore, it will be a part of Sacred Tradition. And there will be other Deeds of God, in the days and years following that day; such Deeds will also become a part of Sacred Tradition. These future Deeds include some of the events prophesied in the Bible. Since such events are a part of Sacred Scripture, and since Scripture and Tradition are one and the same Divine Revelation, such future events must be a part of Sacred Tradition. Therefore, the canon of Tradition is not closed, and neither is the canon of the teachings of the Magisterium.
May the Most Holy Trinity be praised, blessed, loved, adored, and glorified, both now and forever. Amen.
by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
September 12, 2005
updated on February 2, 2006