A little background first, though. I had seen a video of His Eminence Cardinal Burke speaking on the issue of the Novus Ordo v. TLM. He was speaking rather pointedly and it reminded me of a conversation that I was part of in 1995, with Mons. Richard Schuler (of happy memory) and His Eminence, then the newly consecrated bishop of LaCrosse. That conversation was very similar to the interview that Raymond Arroyo had with His Eminence. Here is the video, Cardinal Burke's interview starts at 19:08 and following:
My recollection of the conversation follows:
When I was a younger Catholic than I am now, 17 years ago, I had the privilege of living for a time with a saintly priest, Mons. Richard Schuler, then-pastor of St. Agnes Church, in St. Paul, MN. I didn’t realize it at first, but it was through the Monsignor’s gentle hand and strong nature that I turned to Traditionalism.
I was privileged to meet many famous and now famous Catholic persons while living at St. Agnes. Of them, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke, then-bishop of LaCrosse in Wisconsin was one that I met on several occasions. I was allowed the distinct honor of being able to be his MC (master of ceremonies) more than once. After the celebration of Pontifical Mass, the Monsignor would always invite then-bishop Burke and his secretary over for lunch after Holy Masses were concluded, roughly 1pm.
The following is my recollection of a conversation between the Monsignor and Raymond Card. Burke, with several seminarians, priests and the sacristan present around the dining room table in the rectory. While it will not be a perfect recollection, it did take place almost 20 years ago, the effect it had on me was profound and my recollection of the discourse is still clear in my mind.Monsignor began the conversation by asking the good Bishop what he thought of the state of affairs in the Church. His Eminence laughed and responded that Monsignor had a better grasp on that than he did, but that he noticed a few things. First, the Church would one day be made up of the young and the old. The middle aged would become lukewarm and apathetic, because they had no proper catechesis. Monsignor agreed. H.E. Burke went on to say that the state of the liturgical life of the Church was in such a shambles that it would take the next generation (at that time the 20 somethings) to recover the sacred.
--at this point, I would like to interject that the concept of recovery of the sacred was unheard of in most circles. The idea of instruare sacra was as taboo as using the word ineffable. It simply wasn’t used.--
Monsingor Schuler then spoke at length to that, speaking about participation and the utter lack of understanding with regard to the Mass and the life of Holy Mother Church. He essentially spoke about participatio actuosa being hijacked in favor of partipatio activa. But, it was through constant vigilance and dedication to the idea that actual participation in the Mass is what is needed rather than active participation. Monsignor Schuler spoke to the idea that if we participate with our whole mind, our whole heart, and our whole soul, it didn’t matter what our body was doing, because that was the true end of worship. Whether Mass was in Latin, or in English, or in Swahili (he liked the Africans, he used to say), if one properly worshiped at Holy Mass, then the experience was fulfilled by how one meditated upon the Mass, in any number of ways…through the Life of Christ, through the Stations of the Cross, through the Passion, Death and Resurrection, the rosary, or through meditating on the Mass proper. It was then that one truly communed with God. Not whether one was acting like the Pharisee and making sure he did things….Oh, he would say that doing things was noble, but it was not the right of the people to do so, it was the right of the ministerial priesthood.
At that Card. Burke interjected. He spoke about the tradition of keeping a male sanctuary as key to continuing the proper idea of what Monsignor was talking about. The ministers were simply extensions of the priesthood and as such they should be male. Wherein he made the caveat of a cloistered convent, but was clear to make the distinction that the female nun would not enter the sanctuary, but remain at the rail.
As lunch and the afternoon wore on, we broke for Solemn Vespers at 3pm. We continued the conversation afterwards, wherein Card. Burke spoke about the need to recommit to proper liturgical catechesis. He spoke about posture. He spoke about language. He spoke about mentality. And he spoke about form. Remember, this was early 1995. Card. Burke spoke about how the Novus Ordo was broken. That it didn’t have a foothold in the Church because it was not rooted in tradition, but rather that it was a wholly new endeavor started in the 1960s. He was quick to distinguish between validity and licitness though. To be valid is to understand that there isn’t a complete break with the 2000 year history of the Church, he would go on to say, but that the actions were not consistent with the laws set forth in the rubrics. And that made it illicit. And that is why he liked going to St. Agnes, because the Mass was said licitly. There was no deviation from the rubrics. Mass was ad orientem. Mass was sung. Mass was Solemn. Mass was in Latin. Mass was ceremonially licit. AND the communicants still received at the rail, on their knees and without the use of their hands.
--at this point, I would like to interject that St. Agnes has kept the traditions of the Church alive based upon actual implementation of the Council, as it happened. Monsignor’s Bandas and Schuler thought it best to implement the changes as they happened and to stay consistent. First by Bandas’ leadership then through Schuler’s, after being weekend assistant to Bandas and eventually pastor, in 1969.--
Card. Burke spoke about the importance of Latin. He commented that the language of the Church is Latin; that it is the most efficient, complete and universal way that all priests can be united in solidarity throughout the world. He spoke to the idea that the Latin language is perfect for the Church, because the meanings of the words cannot be misunderstood, unless they are intentionally misunderstood, because it is not a daily speaking language. And he said that the poetry of the language simply fit. In a nutshell, Latin is the best option for celebrating the Roman Rite of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.Both Monsignor Schuler and Card. Burke spoke about form. They spoke about how if the Mass was celebrated properly and with no deviation from the rubrics that the substantive changes would be minimal and the restoration of those things which were found questionable would be minimal. They both spoke about three things….they both spoke about the prayers at the foot. And the importance of the preparation that took place. They both spoke about the Offertory and how it was not a presentation of gifts to the ministers from the people, but a presentation of the gifts from the ministers to God the Father; a nuance to be sure, but a VERY important one. And they both spoke about the abandonment of the altar. The priest spends very little time at the altar in the Novus Ordo as opposed to the TLM, Monsignor said. Of course he was and is right.
--to interject, it is this idea of being presidential which has wrought much damage to the sacrifice in my eyes. The priest doesn’t preside, he celebrates. The faithful don’t celebrate, they worship. This changing of theology with regard to the liturgy has changed how the liturgical experience comes to the masses.—
The idea exists that if the Mass was celebrated the way that the Council intended, the liturgical ceremony would be minimally changed. That is true. The big problem as both saw it was that the liturgical theology was now in jeopardy and that the reform would spiral out of control. Largely it has. We are now in the third edition of the revised Missale Romanum. At the time this conversation was had, there was only one revision, 1975. And since Mass was not in English, but in Latin, the translation issue was moot. A point to which both spoke, because of the major translation issues (for all, as opposed to for many) only the offertory was a problem. Something both acknowledged as being an important point of reform and something not to be overlooked.As the conversation was winding down, Card. Burke thanked all of us for our time. He thanked Monsignor Schuler for being faithful to the liturgy and holding the line. He expressed his wish that someday he might be able to do the same. In my eyes, I’d say he’s holding the legacy pretty closely.
There are a precious few who really understood what was said that day. I know that I didn’t understand it all. What it did do though was send me down a path that I am glad I went down. It taught me that understanding the liturgy was to understand why we are Catholic, above all other things. Through several more years of living with Mons. Schuler and listening to men talk like now-bishops LeVoir, Sirba, and Sample, I have a better understanding of the life of the Church. By listening to priests like Frs. Zuhlsdorf, Skeris, Pasely, Fox, Groeschel, Hardon, and Altier, I learned about the various spiritual necessities to fight the good fight and not become disillusioned by roadblocks.
The Mass is the source and summit of our faith. It isn’t bible studies, it isn’t ice cream socials. It isn’t service organizations, but it is worshipping the One True God. To worship God the Father, through the sacrifice of the Mass, in an unbloody way, with the compunction of the Holy Spirit is the best way and the truest way we can accomplish our ultimate end as Catholics and as Christians. If the Mass is to be understood in the context of one form enriching the other, then must be understood that the older must inform and teach the younger, as was the case in this conversation between two learned churchmen and a number of young priests, seminarians and houseguests.
It is my opinion that the Novus Ordo is so damaged that it cannot be solved by a mere reform of the reform. But rather that it must be illumined by the TLM in a way by which the Novus Ordo can sustain some legitimate organic growth. Only then, can there be illumination backward, most obviously through an expansion of the calendar of saints.
I continued to live with the good Monsignor for another few years after that first meeting with then-bishop Burke. I met His Eminence several other times and I can honestly say that I learned more in the 20 or so total hours of listening to those two holy men speak than I did in most of my years as a Catholic child coming through Catholic Schools in the 1980s. Cardinal Burke is doing what Monsignor Schuler did. It isn’t popular. It isn’t fair to the man, but it is right and the reward of seeing a good work done is worth it in the end.
As Our Lady said to St. Bernadette; I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but only in the next.
There are those of us who lived "on the Farm." We were privileged enough to be able to witness conversations with important churchmen and those churchmen had a profound effect; at least on me. I have heard and been privy to conversations which at the time were considered "earth shattering." They were also at the time, considered to be purely hypothetical. Slowly (sometimes too slowly, in my estimation), the Church moves. I don't think that anyone that day thought that Cardinal Ratzinger would be Pope. I don't think that anyone that day thought that then-bishop Burke wouldn't someday be a cardinal. Sometimes it is obvious.
Cardinal Burke has the right idea. Liberals will bemoan it and demonize it, but his understanding is honest, clear and it is with pure orthodoxy. Had the Church gone the way that Cardinal Burke and the Monsignor were speaking, on that day in 1995, there would be far fewer problems. As it is...we continue to fight the good fight.