By DON FIER
(Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics for which he provided his illuminating insights are the Message of Our Lady of Fatima, an appraisal of the situation in which the Church finds herself in contemporary times, and the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.
(This interview has appeared in three parts in The Wanderer. This part is the conclusion.)
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Q. Recently, Robert Cardinal Sarah again called for a serious implementation of a “reform of the reform” (RoftR) as it relates to the postconciliar Roman Rite. But most pastors (and diocesan worship directors), if they are sympathetic to the Cardinal’s suggestions, are eager to gradually implement these suggestions, recognizing that for many in the pews, a rapid implementation would be too much, and in fact would cause the same type of confusion and frustration many experienced after the Second Vatican Council.
So, which reforms suggested by the Cardinal should we focus on first, acknowledging that each parish and diocese is unique in its needs? Are there elements of the RoftR that are more important than others and should be focused on first?
A. Certainly I think the correction of all the liturgical abuses that were identified in Redemptionis Sacramentum [2004 Instruction issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments] is critical. At the end of his pontificate, Pope St. John Paul II concentrated on trying to correct liturgical abuses. In a positive way, the two suggestions that Cardinal Sarah has made give us a good direction.
First, he encouraged offering the Mass with everyone facing the Lord [ad orientem]. This will help so much to restore the sense of worship and to show that the Mass is not some kind of social event between the priest and parishioners, or the parishioners among themselves. Rather, it is an action of the whole community with the priest at the head acting in the person of Christ [in persona Christi], of “worshipping the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23) as our Lord said to the Samaritan woman at the well. I think this would be a very good place to begin.
Cardinal Sarah explains this very well in an article he published in L’Osservatore Romano on June 12th of 2015 and then again in his presentation at the Sacra Liturgia Conference in London on July 5th of 2016.
Cardinal Sarah addressed a second area of reform at the 2017 Sacra Liturgia Conference in Milan when he asked once again for consideration of receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue. I think those are two areas to address that would be very effective.
Of course, we also have the whole reform that needs to take place with regard to the disposition of the Church. For example, in so many places the tabernacles were removed from the sanctuary of the Church as the result of a false interpretation of the Second Vatican Council. Likewise, other things were done that disturbed the image of worship, such as the sacred music that is employed.
I think the matter of orientation of all towards the Lord with the priest at the head (toward the East if possible, unless it is physically impossible because of the geographical location of the church) and the manner of receiving Holy Communion reverently on one’s knees and on the tongue are important places to start.
Interesting to note is that here at the Shrine it has become the custom to receive Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling. People have gladly embraced this practice, and I have never once received any hate mail or any criticism in its regard. Also, as Cardinal Sarah requested, we implemented the liturgical practice of ad orientem observance of Mass this past Advent and people have commented on what a greater beauty this has brought to the celebration of the Holy Mass.
Q. Asked recently by The Wanderer if Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s influence on the liturgy continues, Dr. William Mahrt, president of the Church Music Association of America, said: “It’s still with us, absolutely, yes,” and continued on to state: “He had this notion of ars celebrandi, the art of celebrating the liturgy.” Dr. Mahrt added, “His writings on the liturgy are still being read, and we instituted many things upon his inspiration, which will continue.”
Your Eminence, do you concur with Dr. Mahrt’s assessment of Benedict’s ongoing influence on the liturgy? Can you add any personal observations on what you think his enduring legacy on liturgical worship will be?
A. Yes, I know Dr. Mahrt — he is a wonderful man. There is no question in my mind that the most splendid contribution of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI was in the area of restoring the correct order and beauty to the Sacred Liturgy. The art of celebrating (the ars celebrandi to which Dr. Mahrt refers) not only was exemplified in the manner of Benedict’s offering of Holy Mass, but also that by his teaching he helped so many priests to see that the priest gives over his body to Our Lord. It is the Lord Who offers the sacrifice and thus, the priest’s whole concentration should be on letting Our Lord act through him. In that way we avoid self-referential actions that have nothing to do with the Sacred Liturgy.
I believe that Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching was so profound because he had the courage to issue Summorum Pontificum [apostolic letter issued moto proprio in 2007]. The teaching contained in that document will certainly endure in its effects. Another enduring contribution was his magnificent book entitled Spirit of the Liturgy.
Q. Over the past few months, according the various news reports, you have stated that you do not believe that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. It has been suggested that this is inconsistent with the teachings of Vatican Council II (e.g., Lumen Gentium, n. 16; Nostra Aetate, n. 3) and public statements made by Pope St. John Paul II (e.g., Address to Young Muslims, Morocco, August 19, 1985). Your Eminence, can you provide clarity regarding this apparent contradiction?
A. In the Council documents and in Pope St. John Paul II’s writings, it is stressed that Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, teaches us that there is only one God, the Creator of the universe. So we are united in the belief that there is only one God. However, the God described in the documents of Islam as well as the actions of the very aggressive and violent Muslims do not portray Allah as a God of love. Love is the principal quality of God according to our Christian faith, for as St. John the Evangelist writes, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).
The Muslims of some countries, in fact, have objected to Catholics using the word “Allah” (the Arabic word for God). They protested by saying, “Your God is not our God.” What is needed here is simply a realistic recognition of the teaching on God in Islam. I believe it will indicate that the Islamic understanding of the one God is in contradiction to the Christian teaching on the one God.
Q. It seems as if pro-life and pro-family apostolates are being viewed more favorably by the majority of the populace as a result of scientific advances conclusively proving when life begins, disclosure of the abhorrent practice of selling baby parts from aborted fetuses, and many other factors. It seemed unlikely just a few short years ago that defunding Planned Parenthood would even be discussed. In light of our new administration and the changing opinions of our country’s citizenry, what is your assessment of the progress being made by pro-life and pro-family movements in the United States?
A. I feel strongly that real progress has been made. For example, the annual March for Life and all the efforts on the part of individuals and groups who have the promoted respect for human life by such practices as providing free ultrasounds for women who are expecting a baby, giving witness at abortion clinics, praying the Rosary, giving help to young women by counseling them, and providing assistance to women who are having difficult pregnancies are producing good effects.
At the same time, the horrible evil of destroying an innocent, defenseless human life is becoming even clearer to people.
We now have a president, who, from all indications based on concrete actions he has taken, is pro-life himself. I personally have not studied this, but it is said that in the past this was not always so. The past does not make a difference; what matters is that now he seems to understand. I believe what is important now is that we make even stronger our pro-life and pro-family movements and build on the momentum that has been generated. The worst thing that could happen would be to rest on our laurels; we could then lose all this progress that has been made.
It is a constant battle. Satan hates human life: “He was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). We know that the Evil One is constantly about the work of promoting the lack of respect of human life. So we really need to persevere and be vigilant in our continued promotion of a “culture of life.”
Q. Your continued perseverance and faithfulness to the Gospel message despite the many changes and the ill treatment you have experienced over the past few years have been an inspiration to countless faithful Catholics. It is truly amazing how you are able to maintain your rigorous travel and speaking schedule, which must be very physically taxing. What is the most important lesson you have learned during this time?
A. I believe the most important lesson I have learned is that I must abandon myself totally to defending Christ and His Church out of true love for Him and for His Mystical Body. We can always be confident that God will assist us with the grace we need, even in matters of physical strength and of being able to endure very difficult situations. I have discovered this more and more because there have been times when things that have been said about me are very painful. Just the physical demands of extensive traveling and of preparing, in the best way possible, presentations of the Church’s teaching have made this realization ever more evident to me.
At times, what seemed impossible to me has been accomplished if I remain serene in carrying out this work to the best of my ability. I know the strength comes from Our Lord because I do not have it in myself.
From my childhood, I have been rather sensitive to being criticized by other people — it is not something I enjoy. But I have found that the recent, somewhat harsh criticism does not deter me from doing what Our Lord asks of me and that I am very much at peace.
Support This Endeavor
Q. An ambitious and praiseworthy project that I know is near and dear to your heart is the effort you initiated in 2016, through the formation of a “Memorare Army of Prayer,” to raise funds for the construction of the “Father John A. Hardon, S.J., Marian Catechist Apostolate Center and Retreat House” at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. What progress has been made thus far and have any definitive timelines yet been established? What can readers of The Wanderer do to help?
A. Towards the goal of saying the Memorare 500,000 times, a total of 377,023 have been prayed to date. From a financial perspective, we have raised over eleven million dollars towards the goal of thirteen million dollars. We were hoping that we could go well over the thirteen million dollar goal in order to build more of the Father John A. Hardon, S.J., Marian Catechist Apostolate Center and Retreat House.
Moreover, in order to secure the financial situation of the Shrine, seven million dollars of the funds that are raised go immediately into the Endowment Trust, in order to bring its holdings to ten million dollars. The Endowment Trust will then generate significant annual earnings to go towards the ongoing work of the Shrine.
We have not yet gone into the general phase of the capital campaign. Right now, we are simply approaching individual donors to get an initial substantial amount that would then encourage others to be generous. We should be bringing that to a conclusion by the Fall and then will make a general appeal to the public. So it is coming along well, but we hope to do even better.