Properly and beautifully celebrated liturgy is essential to a Catholic college education, said Raymond Cardinal Burke, who headlined the June 2 Cardinal Newman Society event at Sacra Liturgia USA 2015 in New York City.
“If in Catholic education the ultimate goal is to know Christ as deeply and as profoundly as possible, then it can’t be otherwise,” he said, recalling the wonderful liturgies on Catholic campuses until recent decades.
On many Catholic campuses, traditional and reverent liturgy has given way to misguided innovations and musical variations that are thought to appeal to younger audiences.
Cardinal Burke, patron of the Order of Malta and ecclesiastical adviser to the Newman Society, led off a panel discussion on the need for liturgical renewal in Catholic higher education and ways that Catholic colleges can contribute to renewal of the liturgy in parishes and schools.
The event was held at St. Catherine of Siena Church in uptown Manhattan as a special part of the Sacra Liturgia conference, which brought hundreds of priests, seminarians, and lay people together to celebrate and promote sacred liturgy.
Cardinal Burke encouraged Catholic colleges to expose students to reverent liturgy including the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. “If this is a form of the Roman Rite it should be accessible to the faithful,” he said.
He recalled his experience when archbishop of St. Louis, Mo., where he instructed the seminary to implement courses on the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and begin celebrating it. “And I believe too, at the universities, that there will be a response [to the Extraordinary Form],” he said.
Even at colleges like Georgetown University, which has had its share of Catholic identity problems, student initiatives to encourage the Extraordinary Form are gathering momentum, Cardinal Burke said. “I have seen this in other universities too,” he added.
Cardinal Burke noted that such initiatives, while good for the Church and students alike, are sometimes opposed. “These are things that may involve some suffering,” he said.
“But the thing is, if we are doing something that is beautiful for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls, we’ll have to persevere in it and not let ourselves be discouraged by people who do not understand or who might be difficult,” said the cardinal. “The Christian liturgy remains the essential source of our understanding of the faith and of its practice in a good and holy life,” he said.
Leading the panel discussion, Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly noted that “truth is both the foundation and the objective of Catholic higher education,” and he related that to the need for reverent liturgy in light of Cardinal Burke’s keynote address to the Sacra Liturgia conference the prior evening.
Cardinal Burke spoke of the unity of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty — with the latter essential to sacred art and sacred liturgy. He lamented that, “precisely because we have lost beauty, we have lost goodness and truth.”
“Since the sacred liturgy is the highest and most perfect expression of our life in Christ, we rightly turn to the sacred rites in order to understand more deeply the holiness of the Christian life in all its aspects,” Cardinal Burke said. Yet, in recent years, the attention to liturgy hasn’t always been what it should have been, he continued.
Cardinal Burke explained:
“The pursuit of truth is a particular challenge in our world, which has in great part lost any sense of truth and of the source of truth in God. The sacred liturgy is the participation on Earth in the heavenly wedding feast of the Lamb who alone conquers evil.
“. . . Beauty is revealed most perfectly in the sacred liturgy. The liturgy is inherently linked to beauty. It is a radiant expression of the Paschal Mystery in which Christ draws us to Himself and calls us to communion. We contemplate beauty and splendor at its source. It enables us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us to our true vocation which is love.
“. . . The time has come to re-propose to all Christians this high standard of ordinary Christian life. Our brothers and sisters will discover the great beauty of their own holy life. That beauty is most evident in our participation in the sacred liturgy.”
Sacra Liturgia USA was organized by Dr. Jennifer Donelson, director of sacred music at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, N.Y., and Fr. Richard Cipolla, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Norwalk, Conn., together with the international coordinator of Sacra Liturgia conferences, Dom Alcuin Reed.
This June 1-4 event followed upon the high-profile Rome conference in 2013, convened by Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon, France. The Cardinal Newman Society also cosponsored that conference and funded scholarships for educators and students from the United States.