Yet another beautiful and encouraging letter from His Eminence to faithful Catholics under persecution by civil and religious authorities. These last two letters have really affected me. The prohibition of public Masses during the holiest time of the year is especially hard, and to me, completely inexplicable as currently formulated. One modest idea: Outdoor Masses, even if Holy Communion is not given, and with governmentally- mandated spacing requirements, seems to be a possibility. Such a solution, especially when combined with a dispensation from the obligation to attend for anyone who doesn’t feel safe to go, would protect vulnerable people, and further prevent consciences from the burden of weighing Sunday obligation vs. health. And yet, those who wish to go could go.
And yet, it seems that few places have even this option. MARTYRS THROUGHOUT THE CHURCH’S HISTORY HAVE GIVEN THEIR LIVES FOR THE MASS. This chastisement, and chastisement it is, is very hard to bear. Beautiful graces can be won by obedience and patient suffering. I get that. But the Mass is the most important thing– the only necessary thing– to take place in this guilty world.
At least we have access to sacramental absolution, which in the midst of so much faithlessness among the hierarchy– all the way to the top– is no small thing. For some Bishops in other dioceses to go so far as to deny confession, viaticum, extreme unction and even baptism betrays a lack of faith in the love and sovereignty of God or, even worse, open enmity towards Him. Prohibition of the sacraments by faithless secular authorities could be borne more easily than to see one’s own shepherds do the dirty work for them. No fight. No assertion of the rights of the Church, let alone martyrdom to defend them.
If you are under a stay-at-home order today, may I suggest watching the movie Becket?
Anyway, today as we commemorate Our Lord entering in triumph into Jerusalem– receiving the adoration and glory which was His due and weeping over the faithlessness of the city that killed the prophets and did not know the time of its visitation– we can easily see why Our Lord could wonder whether at His return He would find any faith on earth.
Let us keep that faith, and let no tyrant take it from us.
Well, that was quite a tangent. I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone in writing it, but it comes from the heart. Anyway, some great passages from Cardinal Burke’s message:
Today, we celebrate Palm Sunday, when Christ entered into Jerusalem with the full knowledge of the Passion and Death which awaited Him. He knew how ephemeral was the welcome which He had received, a just welcome for the King of Heaven and Earth, but superficial because those who extended it had only a worldly understanding of the salvation which He came to win for us. They were not ready to be one with Christ in the establishment of His eternal Kingdom through the events of His Passion and Death. After Palm Sunday, each day of Holy Week is rightly called holy because it is part of Christ’s steadfast embrace of His saving mission at its culmination.
Take time today to reflect on the true royal welcome which you have extended to Christ in your heart and in your home. Read again the account of His entrance into Jerusalem and of how, after His triumphant entry, he wept over Jerusalem with the words:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not” (Mt 23, 37).
If you or your home are far from Our Lord, remember how He desires to be close to you, to be the constant guest of your heart and home.
Remain with Christ throughout Holy Week. In a particular way, make Holy Thursday a day of profound thanksgiving for the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood, which Our Lord instituted at the Last Supper. Make Good Friday a quiet day during which you undertake penitential practices, in order to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s Suffering and Dying. On Good Friday, be filled with gratitude for the Sacraments of Penance and of the Anointing of the Sick. On Holy Saturday, keep vigil with Our Lord, praising and thanking Him for the gift of His grace in our souls through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from His glorious pierced Heart. Ponder especially how His grace is within you through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist. During all of these days, reflect upon and thank God for the gift of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and its fruit, the family – the “domestic Church” or little Church of the home – , the first place in which we come to know God, to offer him prayer and worship, and to discipline our lives according to His Law.
If you are unable to participate in the liturgical rites for these holiest of days, which is indeed a great deprivation, for nothing can substitute for the encounter with Christ through the Sacraments during these days, strive in your homes to be at the Sacred Liturgy through your desire to be in the company of Our Lord, especially in the mystery of His saving work. Our Lord does not expect of us the impossible, but he expects that we do the best that we can to be with Him throughout these days of His powerful grace.
There are many wonderful helps for the nourishing of such holy desire. First of all, there is rich treasury of prayer in the Church, for example: the reading of the Holy Scriptures, for instance the Penitential Psalms, especially Psalm 51 , and the account of the Passion of Our Lord in the four Gospels, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, meditation upon the mysteries of our faith through the praying of the Holy Rosary, especially the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Litanies of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin (of Loreto), of Saint Joseph, and of the Saints, the Way of the Cross – which also can be made at home by using the images of the Fourteen Stations depicted in a prayer book or on a sacred object – , the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, visits to shrines, grottos and other places sacred to Our Lord and to the mysteries of the Redemptive Incarnation, and devotion to the saints who have been powerful to help us, especially Saint Roch, Patron against Pestilences.
In our time, too, we are blessed to have access, through the communications media, to the sacred rites and to public devotions as they are being celebrated in certain churches, especially in the churches of monasteries and convents in which the whole religious community is participating. Viewing a sacred rite which is broadcasted is certainly not the same as direct participation in it, but, if it is all that is possible for us, it is surely pleasing to Our Lord Who will never fail to shower us with His grace in response to our humble act of devotion and love.
In any case, Holy Week cannot be for us like any other week but must be marked by the deepest sentiments of faith in Christ Who alone is our salvation. The sentiments of faith during these holiest of days are, likewise, sentiments of deepest gratitude and love. If your gratitude and love cannot have their highest expression through participation in the Sacred Liturgy, let it find expression in the devotion of your hearts and homes. Commemorating, with Christ, His Blessed Mother and all the saints, the events of the Sacred Triduum, we contemplate the mystery of His life within each of us. For all, time spent, each day, in prayer and devotion, meditating upon the Passion of our Lord, will help us to be with our Lord during these holiest of days in the best manner possible at this time. How much the suffering of the present time should teach us about the incomparable gift of the Sacred Liturgy and the Sacraments!
In closing, I assure you that you and your intentions are in my prayers today and will remain in my prayers throughout Holy Week and especially during the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. May we all keep company with Christ with deepest faith, hope and love, as we celebrate these holiest of days on which He suffered, died, and rose from the dead to free us from sin and from every evil, and to win for us eternal life. May our observance of Holy Week, this year, be our strong armament in the ongoing combat against the coronavirus COVID-19. In Christ, the victory will be ours. “Do not fear, only believe” (Mk 5, 36).
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
5 April 2020