From the Pastor: What a Weekend!
Who would have ever thought that Epiphany parish would host a Cardinal for a Pontifical Mass? Who would have ever thought that the Cardinal would stay for a few hours afterwards to greet the people? Who? Not me, that’s for sure! While there may be some relatively small number of people who see Cardinals on a regular basis, for instance, if they happen to live in close proximity to one, most people, I would guess, will never meet one in person. After all, if my count is correct there are only seven (arch)dioceses in the US headed up by a Cardinal. Chicago (Cupich), Galveston-Houston (Di Nardo), New York (Dolan), Washington, DC (Gregory), San Diego (McElroy), Boston (O’Malley), and Newark (Tobin). There are also a couple of retired US Cardinals and those who, like Cardinal Burke, hold jobs other than running an (arch)diocese. The Catholics in those big cities headed by a Cardinal may occasionally get a glimpse of their Cardinal but I would guess that even in those cities only a few ever really see him face to face, or lips to ring! I am going to go out on a limb here and guess further than none of the other Cardinals celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Vernable Old Rite, so even those Catholics who may attend a Mass with any of the other Cardinals would not get to experience what we just did. The new Rite just doesn’t seem to want to make a “big thing” out of a priest being a Bishop or Cardinal, so most of the ceremonial aspects of the Pontifical Mass were never made a part of the new Ordinary Form of the Mass. Remember that this sprang out of the 1960’s mentality of “authority bad, tradition bad, sameness (in the name of individualism!) good.”
After seeing the difference between the two rituals, though, with a period of many decades separating them for the most part, it is easy enough to see why the “simplification” (or “dumbing down”) of the Pontifical Mass took place: for ease and speed. I have mentioned before that until I started celebrating the TLM I never knew that there were specific prayers for the priest to say as he washed his hands and then put on the vestmentsfor Mass. A washing unto purity? A helmet of salvation to overcome the devil? A cleansed heart? A girdle of purity? All of those vesting prayers as well as the rest were just dropped. Not so in the TLM, except when the church is built with the sacristy in the social hall and people interrupt the prayers because “the priest isn’t doing anything right now, anyway.” But I digress. Before we made the procession into the church, the Cardinal prayed his vesting prayers (and he wears more vestments than ordinary priests do), not as he grabbed his stuff out of a drawer, but rather as the servers ceremoniously brought the vestments to him with bows, genuflections, and a great sense of reverence for His Eminence, and then his deacons assisted in vesting him. This ceremony took practice. It took space. It took attention to details. Getting rid of such “nonsense” as we have done in the new Rite certainly speeds things up and makes it easier to be an altar boy or assisting cleric. But the old ceremony gave more than it took. It gave each of us a sense that we really were in the presence of a Prince of the Church, not simply “You can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, but you doesn’t hasta call me Cardinal” Burke. It must also be a reminder to him that his vocational calling is, indeed, special. He is not simply an ordinary Bishop or priest, let alone an ordinary man. People today, especially clergy and those who work in chanceries, may grimace at such a statement but it is nonetheless true. It is the college of Cardinals that elects a Pope when needed. That alone is a huge responsibility, as they each must do due diligence in “checking out” the other Cardinals’ spiritual and “practical” qualifications. They must also remember that they, too, might be chosen to be the successor to Peter, so they must always remain faithful to God, which includes being both faithful in prayer and faithful in defending Tradition. They are to be strict imitators of Christ, and lead by serving as He did, by giving all they are for the Glory of God. The vesting ceremony in itself brings that out quite clearly.
And then there were the ceremonial parts of the Mass, mostly dropped in the new Rite, that, again, took a lot of practice, space (we even had to enlarge our sanctuary!), and attention. Although many of the signs and symbols used in the Mass, as well as the reasons why some things were done might not be clear to the average person without explanation, what would be obvious to all is that this Mass was special, dare I say, more important, than even the most elaborate Mass they have ever seen their parish priest celebrate, and that the celebrant of the Mass must be someone very, very special. Nobody would walk away from a Pontifical Mass yawning and saying, “I’m never coming back here again. I didn’t get a thing out of it.” This is the type of Mass which brings sinners to repentance, which brings grown men to tears, which reinforces the faith of the pious and instills the seeds of faith in the degenerate. Yes, it was a lot of work. It took a lot of preparation. But it was worth it. God bless Raymond Cardinal Burke for all he did for Epiphany of Our Lord Parish!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka