Healer of Souls

The Mass, said Archbishop Burke in his homily on October 18 in the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament in St. Peter’s Basilica — the Feast of St. Luke — leads us toward “the perfect healing of our souls”

By Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome

“Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.” —Luke 1:1-3

“Penetrating the mysterious world of the liturgy which was celebrated at the altar in front of us was an exciting adventure. I realized with increasing clarity that I was encountering something which had been created neither by an individual, by a great mind nor by Church officials. This mysterious tapestry of texts and actions had developed over centuries, out of the Church’s faith… Not everything was logical. Some things were jumbled. In places it was difficult to find one’s way. But despite all, it was a wonderful building, a spiritual home… The inexhaustible reality of Catholic liturgy has been my companion through all the stages of my life.” —Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), reflecting on the liturgy he attended as a child in Bavaria, in his autobiography, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977

Today I would like to give a more detailed account of what took place at the Mass — “this mysterious tapestry of texts and actions” — celebrated by Archbishop Raymond Burke in St. Peter’s Basilica yesterday morning, the first High Mass according to the old Latin rite celebrated in the Basilica for 40 years, since 1969.

The Day: The Feast of St. Luke

Yesterday, October 18th, was the feast day of St. Luke, author of the Gospel of Luke, and also of the Book of Acts.

Luke was, therefore, the chief historian of the primitive Church — the chief chronicler of the events of the first years of the faith.

The Gospel of Luke opens with the words above.

Luke greets his friend, Theophilus, and explains his method to him: that he had made an effort to “investigate everything carefully from the very first,” in order “to write an orderly account for you” of “the events that have been fulfilled among us.” This means that the entire Gospel is, in a sense, a long news report.

This is a model for me, in these newsflashes — though I have often been unable to gather all the information I would like to have to make these accounts complete.

St. Luke has a special importance to me, because Luke is the name of my second son.

The uniqueness of Luke

Luke has a unique perspective on Jesus.

He gives us six miracles and eighteen parables not found in the other Gospels.

Luke’s is the Gospel of the poor and of social justice.

Luke is the one who uses “Blessed are the poor” instead of “Blessed are the poor in spirit” in the Beatitudes.

Only in Luke’s Gospel do we hear Mary’s Magnificat, where she proclaims that God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52-53).

Luke has a special connection with Mary, Jesus’ mother.

He the only writer who tells us the story of the Annunciation, of the visit to Elizabeth, of the Presentation, and of Jesus’ disappearance in Jerusalem.

Many scholars believe this is because Luke talked to Mary herself, and learned these stories directly from her.

St. Paul mentions Luke more than once as the companion of his travels. He calls him “Luke the beloved physician,” his “fellow laborer.”

It is believed that Luke was born in Antioch, in Syria.

St. Hippolytus says St. Luke was crucified at Elaea in Peloponnesus near Achaia. Some accounts tell us he was crucified on an olive tree at the age of 84.

Luke stresses in his Gospel what relates to Christ’s priestly office. This is why the ancients assigned to St. Luke the symbol of the ox or calf, the emblem of priestly sacrifices, when assigning one of the four creatures mentioned by Ezekiel (the man, the lion, the ox and the eagle) to the four evangelists (the man was assigned to St. Matthew, the lion to St. Mark, and the eagle to St. John.)

The Rev. Alban Butler, in his Lives of the Saints, tells us that Luke was not only a doctor, but also an accomplished painter, and that he painted many portraits of Mary — and even of Jesus himself.

“The Menology of the Emperor Basil, compiled in 980, Nicephorus, Metaphrastes, and other modern Greeks quoted by Gretzer in his dissertation on this subject, speak much of his [Luke’s] excelling in this art [of painting], and of his leaving many pictures of Christ and the Blessed Virgin,” Butler writes.

“What they tell us is supported by the authority of Theodorus Lector, who lived in 518, and relates that a picture of the Blessed Virgin painted by St. Luke was sent from Jerusalem to the Empress Pulcheria, who placed it in the church of Hodegorum which she built in her [Mary’s] honour at Constantinople.

“Moreover, a very ancient inscription was found in a vault near the Church of St. Mary in via lata in Rome, in which it is said of a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary discovered there, ‘One of the seven painted by St. Luke.'”

For this reason, in the Orthodox East, Luke is regarded as the original source for all the holy images and icons of the Virgin Mary.

Also through Luke, and only through Luke, we have the words of the Hail Mary prayer: “Hail Mary full of grace” spoken by the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, and “Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus,” spoken by her cousin Elizabeth.

Luke’s Gospel is filled with a spirit of forgiveness, and of stories about God’s mercy to sinners.

Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son, welcomed back by the overjoyed father.

Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, then drying them with her hair.

Throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy.

And the Gospel for yesterday’s Mass was taken from this Gospel, written by Luke to Theophilus, and through Theophilus, handed down to us.


A Report on the Mass

I have been asked to write a column every two weeks for the Zenit news agency. This afternoon, I wrote a column on Archbishop Burke’s Mass. Here are excerpts:

An Extraordinary Tridentine Rite Milestone

Archbishop Burke Presides Over High Mass in St. Peter’s

By Robert Moynihan

ROME, OCT. 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- There has been almost no coverage anywhere in the mainstream press about an extraordinary event that occurred yesterday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica — the celebration by Archbishop Raymond Burke, head of the Apostolic Signature, of the first High Mass according to the old Latin rite in St. Peter’s Basilica in 40 years, since 1969.

And because of that lack of press coverage, the old Mass, that “mysterious tapestry of texts and actions,” as Cardinal Ratzinger once termed it — sometimes illogical, sometimes jumbled, but nevertheless always wonderful — returned to St. Peter’s Basilica after 40 years without any special notice at all, almost, as it were, silently, almost like “a thief in the night.”

The chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament, which is on the right side of St. Peter’s Basilica, was filled to overflowing by the time the Mass began at just after 9:30 am.

Outside, it was raining, and a bit of water pooled and glistened in different places on the marble floor where those present repeatedly knelt down on the hard stone during the celebration…

Monsignor Guido Pozzo, recently appointed by Benedict XVI to head the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the commission in charge of dialogue with the Society of St. Pius X, which wishes to celebrate the Mass only in the old rite — was also present.

A unique spiritual experience

The two choirs, of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, one of brothers and one of sisters, were extraordinary.

As one Italian who attended put it, “It seemed we were immersed in choirs of angels. The presence of the celestial dimension of the rite was almost tangible. Believe me, I am not exaggerating”…

Burke’s homily

Archbishop Burke’s homily was in Italian. It concentrated on two things: on the meaning of the Gospel passage from St. Luke, and on the meaning of the celebration of this Mass in the old Latin rite.

Standing in the back of the chapel, I was able to scribble a few phrases on a sheet of paper as he spoke.

“Today’s Gospel tells us the story of the miraculous healing of the son of the young ruler, who came to Jesus seeking his help,” the archbishop said.

“But the physical healing we read about in Luke’s Gospel is a sign of a deeper, spiritual healing, which Jesus brings,” he continued. “It is a sign of the healing of sin, and of the most profound effect of sin, death eternal.

“We too can be healed,” Archbishop Burke continued. “Just as the young ruler believed the word Jesus spoke to him, and his son was healed, as he later learned, ‘at that very moment,’ so too we should believe the word Jesus speaks to us, and that word can be the beginning of our own healing.”

“In the Holy Mass,” he continued, “the Son renews his sacrifice on Calvary, the sacrifice through which he will accomplish the perfect healing of our souls. Every gesture of the Mass signifies our encounter with Christ, who comes to heal us. In the sacrifice of the Mass, earth and heaven meet.

“As the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council taught, the Holy Mass is the source and summit of our faith. The Popes throughout the ages all took great care that the celebration of the Eucharist be carried out correctly and with great reverence.

“And our current Pope, Benedict XVI, in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, has taught clearly that there is no contradiction between the two forms of the Mass in the Latin rite, the old Mass according to missal of St. Pius V, and the new Mass of Pope Paul VI. There is progress, but no rupture with the past.”

“And Pope Benedict has made very clear that the old rite, now called the extraordinary form of the Latin rite, cannot be rejected or regarded as dangerous in any way,” Archbishop Burke noted. “The double rite is a gift to the Church. The two forms will mutually enrich each other.

“For example, with regard to the old rite, new saints’ feast days, and new prayers, can be added. And, the sense of the sacred which so permeates the old Mass can exert a positive influence on the new form of the Latin rite.”

After the Mass, when Benedict XVI prayed his noon Angelus from his window above St. Peter’s Square, he did not make any direct mention of the Mass.

However, he did greet warmly those in the square “after attending a conference in Rome on ‘Summorum Pontificum‘” — a reference to the people who had just marked the close of their conference by the celebration of the Mass in the old rite.

Papal high Mass?

The question that comes to mind after attending this event is, could the Pope celebrate such a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica?

There are some impediments.

The ceremonial for a pontifical High Mass in the old rite is elaborate, and it has been so many years since one has been celebrated that many feel it would not be celebrated smoothly, if the Pope decided to do it.

And many Vatican officials seem reluctant, at best, to embrace the return of the old Mass.

No high-ranking Vatican officials were present at the Mass except for Monsignor Pozzo.

And Vatian Radio yesterday broadcast a report on a Mass celebrated elsewhere in the Basilica for the 400th anniversary of St. Leonardi, but made no mention at all of Archbishop Burke’s Mass.

And so the Mass was celebrated quietly, almost unobserved.

And after Mass, in the square, the sun broke through the clouds, and bathed the piazza in a warm October light.


Robert Moynihan is founder and editor of the monthly magazine Inside the Vatican. He is the author of the book Let God’s Light Shine Forth: the Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI (2005, Doubleday). Moynihan’s blog can be found at www.insidethevatican.com. He can be reached at: [email protected].


On the Net:

Brief segment of the Mass: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iRrf1k53Oc

The end of the Mass: https://www.youtube.com/user/ioannessonnen#p/a/u/1/SnfJyEDo1nc

Who Is Archbishop Burke?

By chance, I was in Wisconsin this summer, and was seated across the table at a dinner from the older sister of Archbishop Burke.

She and her husband told me many stories about the archbishop’s childhood.

One struck me in particular: that Burke, when he was just a boy, insisted that all his brothers and sisters and friends attend imitation Masses that he celebrated.

“It was very important to him,” his sister said. “We knew then that he was someone special.”

Burke is not a detached intellectual. His roots are on a Wisconsin farm, where there were chores to perform daily, as he and his sister both told me.

And he is one of the great defenders of the small family farm in the American hierarchy today. Over the years, he has worked in the bishops’ conference to draft and publish documents in defense of the small family farmer against the pressures of the land developers and large agribusinesses, because he believes that farm families nourish and develop character, bringing a benefit to a society, and to an economy, that is difficult to quantify in dollars and cents, in the short term, but is very real and important.

So, Burke may go down in history as the celebrant of the first old Latin High Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in 40 years, but other historic moments may still be ahead for him.

Why an American?

Why was this Mass celebrated by an American?

The strongholds of support for the old Mass are in France, with pockets in the United States, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere.

But it was Burke, an American, from the American heartland, who celebrated this old Latin Mass, not a Frenchman, not a German, not an Italian.

In a way, I think it is significant, just at the moment when the entire post-war “Pax Americana” is being brought increasingly into question.

America came out of the Second World War as a colossal world power, with approximately 55% of gross world product — a staggering percentage, more in comparison to the rest of the world than any other single nation has ever enjoyed.

It was inevitable, then, that this enormous wealth, along with an almost uncontested military pre-eminence, would make the second half of the 20th century the “American Age.”

I do not know if that age is ending, or is over. And I don’t know if the multi-lateral age, or global age, which will succeed this “Anglo-American age” will be morally and culturally and spiritually better, or worse, or just a development and extension of, this “American age.”

The gross national product of America has fallen to about 22% of the gross world product, and the nation is increasingly indebted.

For this reason, the present world system seems to be nearing an inflection point, and this suggests that what will come will be profoundly different from what has been.

At precisely this moment, an American, Burke, has celebrated this Mass, the symbolic reaffirmation of our connection with our past — with Rome, with Athens, with Jerusalem — and with all those who celebrated this liturgy over the centuries.

The West can only come through this return to an embrace of our cultural roots.

And almost alone in the Vatican, an American, product of a country which has done much to sever the connection of the modern world from its past, has stepped forward to lift high this fallen standard.

And it is not just the standard of “reaction” or of “restoration.”

For this Wisconsin farm boy is no reactionary. He is a profoundly “liberal” man, in the best sense of the word.

Burke is a product of the great forgotten heartland of America, and is concerned with justice, the poor, the weak, the exploited, as well as with the old liturgy.


Memories of the Mass

What is a Mass?

I don’t want to give a definition from a handbook. I want to know what it is — and why many are concerned about how it is celebrated, whether in the old rite or the new, whether in Latin or in the vernacular, whether in silence and great solemnity, or with singing and dancing, whether in twenty minutes or in four hours.

What is the essence of it?

The essence of it is that it mediates life.

And not just any life, but eternal life.

According to the Christian faith, that life is Christ.

The Mass, then, is that “mysterious tapestry of texts and actions,” as Ratzinger put it, which mediates true life to men and women, which allows men and women to share in the eternal life of Christ.

That is what the Catholic Mass is.

In essence, the Mass is located at the point of crisis between life and death.

At the point of choice between two ways, the way of life, and the way of death.

At the point of recognition, of recognition that sin will lead to unhappiness, to death, and that only holiness will lead to happiness, to blessedness, to true life.

Wherever the Mass is celebrated, what we are celebrating is this mystery, a mystery at once very simple and very complex: the mystery of life and death, the mystery of sin and forgiveness, the mystery of sickness and of healing, the mystery of irrationality and of reason, the mystery of chaos and of the Logos, the mystery of the Fall and of redemption, the mystery of sacrifice and of atonement, the mystery of Israel and of the Promised Land.

Whenever the Mass is celebrated, it is the re-enactment of the great dramatic moments in the history of salvation. It is the Exodus from the slavery of Egypt, through the Passover; it is the Last Supper of Jesus, when he was betrayed as he celebrated the Passover meal; it it the crucifixion, when he went like a lamb to his death, becoming himself the Passover sacrifice; it is the Resurrection, when that sacrifice shatters the bonds of sin and death, and flames out into eternal life, and eternal joy, eternal glory; it is the meal in Emmaus, when the disciples recognized the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread; it is the sharing in the manna in the desert, which fed the people on their wandering journey, which is the Eucharist bread shared at communion, the bread of thanksgiving that death and sin have been defeated, so that there may be life, and true love, in holiness.


The Latin Language

And the desire to celebrate the Mass according to the old rite is not about the Latin.

It is about the words themselves, whatever language they were in.

And, in fact, the Latin Mass is not Latin!

It is Latin, but also Greek (Kyrie eleison, “Lord have mercy,” is not Latin, it is Greek)… and also Hebrew (Amen, “so be it,” is not Latin, it is Hebrew; Alleluia, “all hail to him who is,” is Hebrew; Hosannah is Hebrew).

The Latin Mass is not the Latin Mass.

It is a “three-language Mass.”

It is the Mass of the three languages of the ancient world.

The three languages which were probably spoken by Jesus himself…

(Some may object that we don’t know that Jesus knew Latin, or spoke Latin, or even that he knew Greek and spoke in Greek. But there is considerable evidence that he knew and spoke Hebrew and Greek, and some scholars argue that he knew Latin as well. Here is one among hundreds of possible links on the matter; I do not vouch for the accuracy of this article, but I found it interesting and a good beginning point to depart from for a deeper study of this question: https://www.answer-islam.org/Jesusspoke.html)

And so, to “participate” with Jesus, to “share” with Jesus, in his thought and in his words — as the Second Vatican Council asked — nothing could be closer than to use the languages Jesus himself used.


From the Spoken Word to the Shared Word

When I was a little boy, my parents baptized me into the Catholic Church.

And when I learned to speak and to read, in my language, which is English, at about the age of three, I began to notice that the Mass which we attended on Sunday mornings without fail, in the 1950s, was in a different language.

The language we used each day was not the language we used on Sundays.

That was mysterious to me.

There was a gap, a difference, a wall, a barrier, a hurdle, something which I had to get over, or across, or through, in order to understand, and to participate, and to share, and to be part of, this ritual, this celebration… this sacrifice.

And so I learned, as best I could, to repeat the words in Latin, which the priest spoke, Sunday after Sunday, in my little town in Connecticut (St. James Church in Danielson), and then, even, to understand the meaning of the words…

Because it wasn’t the “Latin-ness” of the words which fascinated and drew and enfolded me, but their inner meaning.

And what happens to words when they are understood is that they are shared.

They are shared between the speaker and the hearer.

And, being shared between speaker and hearer, they come alive.

They become living words.

Life-giving words.

Because they are shared.

And it began with “Introibo ad altare dei” (“I will go up to the altar of God”).

And it continued with “Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam” (“To God who gives joy to my youth”).


An Italian Poll

On September 24 through the 27 a survey was taken among 1001 Italians over the age of 15 by the Doxa Institute, a founding member of Gallup which the leads the field in surveys in Italy and is noted for its scientific rigor. The following results were published on Saturday in the French Paix Liturgique:

Question 1: Are Italian Catholics aware of the existence of the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” by which Benedict XVI approved the celebration of the two forms of the Roman rite?

Yes, say 64% of practicing Catholics (attending Mass at least once a month) as opposed to 36% who know nothing about it. Considering all Catholics, practicing or not, 58% are aware and 42% unaware of its existence.

Question 2: Would you find it normal to have both forms of the rite celebrated in your parish?

Tied: 71% of practicing Catholics as well as 71% of all Catholics are in favor of the coexistence of both forms in their churches.

Question 3: If a Mass in the extraordinary form were celebrated in your parish would you attend?

63% of Italians who practice their faith say they would attend at least once a month (33% for all Catholics). The figure breaks down as follows: 40% would attend weekly and 23% at least once a month.

(Source: https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/)


More about Archbishop Burke

Ordained to the priesthood in 1975, the 61-year-old prelate was ordained Bishop of La Crosse (Wisconsin) in 1995 and installed as Archbishop of St. Louis in 2004. Pope Benedict appointed him to his present position in June 2008.

Pope Benedict also recently named Burke to the membership of the Congregation for Bishops, giving him a seat at the dicastery’s Thursday meetings, where votes are cast for prospective bishop candidates to recommend to the Pope.

As a result, Burke is likely to have an influence over the choice of Catholic bishops for the next two decades, until he turns 80.

(For some further comment on this nomination, see: https://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/)

Here are some key documents and a question and answer section regarding the old Mass and how it compares to the new Mass of Pope Paul VI.



Here is a list of all the scripture readings according to the old rite:


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