Cardinal Burke Feels the “Call of Beauty”

Here is Cardinal Burke’s strong defense of the pre-Vatican II Mass, with assurance that he doesn’t reject the reformed rite.

I think liturgical scholars will have a heyday with this.

That he confuses the synagogue and the temple at the outset, in his advocacy of reinstating the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, is no doubt a slip of the tongue that can happen to anyone, but it raises the larger theological question of how the Church’s worship relates to the temple. His defense of the old “offertory prayers” is even more problematic. Does he know why they were, as he puts it, “very much stripped down and actually changed in character”?? He also likes the “strong sense of our sinfulness” in the unreformed rite. But maybe only bigtime sinners like me really need that any more?? And of course – this keeps being restated – the reforms after Vatican II didn’t follow what the fathers of Vatican II really intended.

Have at it. Enjoy the Frenchy organ music.

awr

H/T National Catholic Reporter.

20 comments

  1. I’m going to sneak in here with something I’ve been wondering – can the liturgy be too beautiful? We had on separate occasions a visiting priest who chanted the Mass in a gorgeous tenor, and a visiting tenor who gave a beautiful solo at the Offertory. My problem is that their voices were so wonderful that they were distracting – I was caught by the beauty rather than by the prayer. Maybe the target we should aim for is good amateur levels rather than professional levels.

  2. I think perhaps up until about the 2:00 mark, there isn’t much that’s objectionable in CB’s comments. Up to that point I think what he says represents a healthy preference without rejecting V2, the OF, etc. After that, partisan sensibilities are going to prevent much of a fruitful discussion.

    I did rather enjoy the Frenchy organ music, but YMMV.

  3. “It has a beauty to it that is beyond discussion, at least to reasonable people.” – Cardinal Burke on the pre-Vatican II “extraordinary form” Mass. Okay, I grew up on this, and I can appreciate what’s good in it. But to say “It has a beauty to it that is beyond discussion” is simply to refuse the possibility of any person from a different cultural milieu could find anything to discuss. And to add “at least to reasonable people” copperfastens the tunnel vision. If I even find reason to discuss it, I’m immediately judged unreasonable. It seems the cardinal feels the need to use hyperbole, and in the process he loses sight of the amazing breadth of riches in the Catholic tradition.

    1. Pádraig McCarthy : “It has a beauty to it that is beyond discussion, at least to reasonable people.” – Cardinal Burke on the pre-Vatican II “extraordinary form” Mass. … But to say “It has a beauty to it that is beyond discussion” is simply to refuse the possibility of any person from a different cultural milieu could find anything to discuss. And to add “at least to reasonable people” copperfastens the tunnel vision. If I even find reason to discuss it, I’m immediately judged unreasonable. It seems the cardinal feels the need to use hyperbole, and in the process he loses sight of the amazing breadth of riches in the Catholic tradition.

      That’s not a reasonable construal of Cardinal Burke’s words. Burke’s interview is itself a discussion, so obviously it doesn’t mean “can’t be talked about”. “Beyond discussion” is an idiom that means “beyond dispute.” You don’t dispute that there is beauty in the EF (even if you don’t like everything about it). He didn’t say “it’s beyond discussion that everything about it is beautiful.”

      Fr. Ruff: His defense of the old “offertory prayers” is even more problematic. Does he know why they were, as he puts it, “very much stripped down and actually changed in character”??

      Does he not? It’s not fair to expect a short interview to be a complete historical study of the reasons for the changes, it’s more of an invitation to learn more.

      And assuming that he does know why they were changed, there’s no reason he can’t think that was a mistake to change them. Disagreement of reasonable people on this point is clearly not impossible. The fact that they were changed after Vatican II itself shows that the prayers are changable.

      You could just disagree with him without suggesting that he’s ignorant.

      And for someone who complains about my “nitpicking”, you’re emphasizing his “confusion” of synagogue and temple why? It’s not needed to engage w/ the point about temple worship.

  4. I’ll mull over the content of the video, Cdl. Burke’s commentary, at another occasion.
    I really think you might consider withdrawing your caricature of the background track, “Frenchy organ music,” as it brings unseemly memories of cultural biases, such as the British penchant for labeling things French as “froggy” or the American’s nicknaming the Brits as “limey’s.”
    And, I’m wondering if the “Frenchy organ music” was actually a Brahms choral motet in German, btw. No matter, I recall singing it both at my parish and at colloquium. Could be Faure in Latin, doesn’t matter, it’s beautiful.
    In any case, AWR, for what it’s worth, it seemed a cheap shot.

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #4:
      Charles – thanks for your comment. Oh, how we can be understood on the internet! I LOVED the organ music, thought (rightly or wrongly) that it’s French, and thought I’d say something positive since I really felt it. Really. That’s all.
      Peace,
      awr

  5. Presumably the imagery in the video was meant to illustrate the beauty of the older form. What I recall several hours after seeing the video are these images:

    a red hat

    the backs of several men wearing embroidered brocades

    people kneeling in front of a man distributing Communion

    a man in a brocaded vestment sitting in a chair

    A very passive person in the pews with an abstracted expression – they were thinking, but thinking of what?

    The chalice that appears in some shots does not seem to be the focus of the activity

  6. Burke and others insist on making a distinction between the authority of the Pope and Bishops as manifested in SC and the same authority exercised by the Pope and Bishops in the implementation of the revised rites following the council. These are the same people who would have us believe that we should accept with a graceful compliance all that the “Church” (the preferred term for Pope & Bishops) proposes for our belief and practice. Their inference (or outright accusation) is that some nefarious individuals misinterpreted the intent of the Council Fathers and somehow managed to impose prayers and rubrics which distorted the “true meaning of the Mass”. This understanding requires, of course, that all the Council Fathers somehow were unavailable to prevent this from happening. The truth is that the same Fathers were chief among those who besieged the Vatican with requests to extend the reforms beyond the letter of SC. So SC said nothing about Communion in the Hand or Communion under both species on a regular basis, so these must be practices that are turned back for the sake of a more proper “reverence”. SC said nothing about de-emphasizing Benediction or devotion to the Blessed Sacrament outside Mass, so those developments become part of the intentional effort on the part of the nefarious people to do in all that is sacred. Through the revised rites of the Mass, people were able to be united to the Lord through their acceptance of his invitation to “take and eat, take and drink”. The practice of devotional looking at the Blessed Sacrament simply became less attractive.
    Cardinal Burke and others may find certain celebrations of the TLM more beautiful, sacred, and reverent. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It isn’t what I saw in those routine and hasty Masses of old. I regard the old Mass when celebrated with devotion in the same way I view celebrations of the various Eastern Rites: Quite beautiful, but more mystifying than inspiring. De gustibus non disputantum est.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #9:

      Fr. Jack: Cardinal Burke and others may find certain celebrations of the TLM more beautiful, sacred, and reverent. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It isn’t what I saw in those routine and hasty Masses of old.

      Thanks Jack for highlighting the importance of diversity in liturgy. When I see a “promotional” video for the EF online, I am sometimes dismayed to see that the footage is often taken from a pontifical Mass, in this case an ordination Mass. Why not take footage from a said low Mass, even a “quick” daily Mass? Aren’t those EF Masses as well? Promoting the EF through the most ornate or rubrically complex liturgies is, in my opinion, akin to “deceptive advertising”. An average parish sung Mass isn’t usually going to feature vestments which many parishes would have to take out a second mortgage to afford. Also, while some persons might find very ornate furnishings and vestments edifying, others might find such accoutrements gaudy or distracting. Architectural and liturgical simplicity is certainly not a preference limited to the ordinary form. Simplicity does not necessarily imply liturgical “liberalism” or a lack of liturgical sophistication.

      EF videos which focus on pontifical ceremonies to the near exclusion of less rubrically complex liturgies not only minimize the assembly’s role, but also an assembly’s natural diversity of liturgical sensibilities.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #11:
        The mention of the need for a parish to take out a mortgage if it wanted to purchase such elaborate investments reminds me of my parish’s current mortgage, taken out to build a gymnasium and gathering rooms. The gym is occupied almost every night in the week by the youth of the parish!

      2. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #11:
        I have to agree with Jordan that using a Pontifical Sung Mass where everything is choreographed and by the rubrics and in a Baroque church building (nothing left to the creativity of the imagination of those celebrating it, BTY, as this Mass was celebrated by the strict, minute rubrics and instructions of the 1962 missal,) does an injustice to what was and is the norm for the Tridentine Mass. Today and even prior to the Council it was rare for the normal parish to have a Solemn Sung Mass with deacon or subdeacon let alone a Pontifical Sung Mass in their humble parishes as this usually was reserved to the Cathedral and for solemn occasions. The Sung Mass and the Low Mass in the typical parish today and prior to the Council was imbued with a noble simplicity not only in terms of the architecture of the churches but also the vestments. The same is true today of the Normative Mass, vestments can be very rich and modern and extremely expensive or quite cheap depending on the resources and tastes of liturgy committees and priests. But in terms of the Offertory Prayers and the Prayers at the Foot of the altar, I was schooled in the history of how these came to be added and why they were eliminated after scholarly research on these two parts of the Mass (although I think some now question some of that historic scholarship). But that points out that one needs not only scholarly input but also needs to ask the question what harm it caused the faith of both the clergy and laity to have the prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the more complex Offertory Prayers. And was there any harm in removing the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and revising the “Preparatory” prayers? In both cases, probably not. Having them or not having them, what impact either way does it have. Scholarship is fine but other considerations seem to be more important.

      3. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #11:
        Were I to make a promotional video I would pick a run-of-the-mill Sung Mass since that is what most people would expereince were they to pop in on a local EF.

        The typical EF has fiddlebacks, but not super ornate ones – they might be vestments that would have otherwise ended up in a garbage heap back in the 70s. It typically takes place in a church that was remodelled to make celebrating the EF somewhat awkward (altar pulled forward too much, no communion rails, likely no suitable place for the choir).

        The typical sung EF is, IMO, a perfect picture of “noble simplicity” – moreso than the OF. Videos of unusually sumptuous celebrations can be nice and have their place, but they mislead and hide the fact that the EF is naturally beautiful in and of itself without the help of expensive objects.

  7. A beautiful mass doesn’t = Jesus, as Burke states in the beginning of the video. Jesus’ crucifixion was anything but beautiful. The beautiful is dwarfed (I think) by the good and the true, amd though I can’t believe I’m quoting Augustine, I agree with what he said about beauty … “Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked.”

  8. He claims to accept NO, but he finds it lacking in coherence and in clear organic continuity with the EF. This is of a piece with Ratzinger’s project to fuse the two forms as expressed in his letter to Lothar Barth. If Burke became Pope, nothing would stop this juggernaut of liturgical reversion.

  9. Brigid Rauch : The chalice that appears in some shots does not seem to be the focus of the activity

    Brigid, don’t start calling it a “chalice”! You’ve caught the disease!

    1. @Claire Mathieu – comment #13:
      Jesus may have taken a cup, but what we have in our churches today are definitely chalices. Maybe instead of pretending that Jesus took a chalice, we should start using cups ourselves! 😯

  10. Fr. Ruff – also enjoyed the background music as I laughed through this video.

    It matches with something Rocco Palmo highlighted today as Chaput handed over his Denver archdiocese to his replacement during Vespers last nite. Chaput tweeted during the ceremony (really?):

    +Chaput to his Denver successor: “You’re marrying a beautiful bride…. And I’m overjoyed to pass the baton to you!”

    This video reminds me of a story by Eugene Kennedy who relayed a sermon by a newly ordained priest:

    “He was drawn again to the magnetic metaphor of the marital bed as a setting for receiving the Eucharist, “Communion defines who you are as spouses. The bridegroom has given himself to the bride. The priest receives first as the bridegroom in fulfillment of the wedding promises. So the bridegroom is within you. The priest then blesses the bride in the name of the Holy Trinity.”

    This misplaced sexual allusion reminded me of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen as a member of an ecumenical panel commenting on a national television network on the outdoor Mass Pope Paul VI offered on a chill October evening in 1965 after a whirlwind one day visit to New York and to the UN. Sheen spoke with hushed grandiosity of the Eucharist as celebrated on an altar as a functional sacramental marriage bed. He was almost breathless as he evoked the moment of reception as that sublime instant of union between the lover and the beloved. In the stunned hush that followed, a Protestant bishop intervened in a gentle but mildly ironic tone “I had always thought of the Eucharist as a meal and the altar as the table…”

    Ah yes, much more *transcendent*.

  11. Don’t know if the first link will work, but if it doesn’t then try the second and scroll down for a video clip of the Closing Eucharist of the XVII General Chapter of the Society of the Divine Word.
    Our Chapter theme this time was “From Every Nation, People and Language – Sharing Intercultural Life and Mission”. The Closing Eucharist reflects input from all over the world so while it may not come over as a unified whole, it reflects an attempt to celebrate the cultures of our confreres and the people we work with. Our new Superior General, Fr Heinz Kuluke, until his election was a Professor of Philosophy at San Carlos University, Cebu, Philippines, however he also worked with families who made a living from what they could recover from the city’s garbage dump and with girls/young women who were forced to work in the cities red light district. Working on the margins, among the marginalized gives one a different perspective on life and liturgy among other topics.
    Also during the Chapter the SVD was honored by a visit by Benedict XVI; as Fr Joseph Ratzinger he worked with other periti on Ad Gentes at our house outside Rome. During the visit two of our Indonesian confreres presented him with a statue of the BVM embracing Jesus that was carved on the island of Bali
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmXuF5kV-Jg&feature=player_embedded
    http://svdgc2012.blogspot.it/

  12. Thanks for posting this, Father Kelleher. Wonderful to see the outreach, enculturation, and respect for the diverse world catholic community – real mission and evangelization focused on the gospel imperatives.

    Contrast that with this video of Burke. Suggest also reading this story of the oldest active priest in NYC and his liturgies (so different from Burke).

    http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=5244

    Money quote:

    – ““I think I have come a long, long way from when I was ordained,” he said. As a seminarian, he said, he liked the idea of saying Mass, hearing confession and being addressed as “father,” but that was “like a fairy tale.”

    “It isn’t about serving the church in the way you have envisioned, from the altar, and from the position of authority and power,” he said. “But it is learning what human nature is, and what the struggles of people are. And where Jesus really is.”

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