Cdl. Burke Backs Cdl. Sarah’s Liturgical Reforms

 •  •  September 27, 2017   

"The two suggestions that Cdl. Sarah has made give us a good direction"

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LA CROSSE, Wis. ( - Cardinal Raymond Burke fully supports Cdl. Robert Sarah's call for the priest to face God during Mass, as well as his request for each member of the faithful to receive God on the tongue while kneeling.

In a recent interview published in its entirety on Thursday, the former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest court, was asked about which liturgical reforms requested by Cdl. Sarah, the Vatican's head liturgist, should come first. The two that Cdl. Burke holds up as primary are the direction of the priest offering Mass and the posture of the communicant.

"First, he encouraged offering the Mass with everyone facing the Lord [ad orientem]," affirmed Cdl. Burke. "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." The cardinal explained that this orientation exemplifies that Mass is an "action of the whole community" with the "priest at the head," leading the prayer of the people "in the person of Christ."

Reforming the liturgy by restoring ad orientem worship, said Cdl. Burke, "would be a very good place to begin." He next emphasized the posture of the faithful while receiving Holy Communion. "Cardinal Sarah addressed a second area of reform at the 2017 Sacra Liturgia Conference in Milan," Cdl. Burke noted, "When he asked once again for consideration of receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue." He added, "I think those are two areas to address that would be very effective."

The cardinal highlighted these two aspects of what's commonly called a "reform of the reform," whereby liturgical abuses are stopped and authentic or organic liturgy is restored. "I think the matter of orientation of all towards the Lord with the priest at the head ... and the manner of receiving Holy Communion reverently on one's knees and on the tongue are important places to start," the cardinal reiterated. He pointed out that both reforms have been successfully instituted at the shrine he founded in La Crosse, Wisconsin, called the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As a side note, it was at this location where the interview took place.

The priest's whole concentration should be on letting Our Lord act through him.

"Interesting to note is that here at the Shrine it has become the custom to receive Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling," confirmed the cardinal. He went on to say that people have "embraced the practice" with no blowback whatsoever. Ad orientem liturgy has become the norm there as well, he said. "Also, as Cdl. 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."

The cardinal did bring up that there's a "whole reform," involving the "disposition of the Church" that needs to take place. This, he said, involves such things as restoring tabernacles back to the center of sanctuaries and a return to the use of sacred music. He clarified that such problems had occurred "as the result of a false interpretation of the Second Vatican Council."

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was warmly praised by Cdl. Burke, who said his greatest contribution was his teaching on the liturgy that he presented both in his writings and in the way he offered Mass. "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." Cardinal Burke remarked that Benedict's presentation of the liturgy in word and deed formed priests in a right understanding of the priesthood.

[H]e 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.

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