This is a full transcript, in the original English, of Cardinal Raymond Burke's interview to my colleague Aura Miguel. The interview took place during the presentation of the Portuguese edition of his book "Divine Love Made Flesh".
Why did you write this book?
In the USA, where I was a bishop, there was a great crisis in Eucharistic faith and also a great crisis in the participation of Catholics in the Holy Mas. Pope St. John Paul II, at the end of his pontificate, directed himself in a very strong way to the whole difficulty of the loss of Eucharistic faith and abuse of the Sacred Liturgy, and then he convoked a Synod in 2005, on the Eucharist, to address this, but he himself was not able to preside at the synod, because he died in April of 2005. But then Pope Benedict XVI succeeded him, and he wrote Sacramentum Caritatis.
So I decided for the faithful in my care – I was bishop first in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, then in St. Louis, Missouri – that I would write a careful commentary on the encyclical of John Paul II Ecclesia de Eucharistia, and on the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis. And so I wrote those commentaries over a two year period, in the diocesan newspaper and then people encouraged me to put them together into a book.
So I did that also with the encouragement of Catholic Action for Faith and Family, an apostolate in the USA, they actually published the book, it is run by Thomas McKenna, who is with me as I am presenting the book.
People have told me they find the book very helpful to understand more deeply the objective reality of the Holy Eucharist, and that it helps them to love more the Holy Eucharist and Our Lord as he gives himself to us in the Holy Eucharist.
How do you explain the crisis in mass attendance and confession?
The crisis came about, I believe, through a crisis of the Sacred Liturgy. After Vatican II, and contrary to the teaching of the Vatican II, there was a liturgical renewal which damaged greatly the expression of the transcendent nature of the Sacred Liturgy, in other words, that Christ himself acts in the sacraments to sanctify us.
And there developed the idea that the Holy Mass and the other liturgical rites were human activities, and people began to experiment and to do things which eventually distanced the contemporary rites from those rites which had been in the church for centuries, basically the rite of the mass from the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great, and in a very particular way since the Council of Trent.
That, I believe is at the heart of the loss of Eucharistic faith and practice. What can we do? What we need to do, and that is the purpose of the book, to start to study again the great gift of the Holy Eucharist as it has been handed down to us in the Church through the centuries. The doctrine, but also the beauty of the Sacred liturgy. There, regarding the beauty of the sacred liturgy, Benedict XVI had a very strong idea of the need to celebrate freely both the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and the Ordinary Form, so that people would see the continuity of the two forms, and there would be this mutual enrichment, as he called it, and that the ordinary form of the Roman Rite would be celebrated with a deeper, stronger sense of the divine reality present, which he often referred to the Holy Mass as the meeting of Heaven and Earth.
What do you say to those who consider the recovery of the Traditional mass a little bit strange?
The reason why people would consider it strange is because they don't know it. When we don't know and understand something it can seem strange to us, and so we need to help all Catholics to understand the nature of the Sacred Liturgy itself as the action of Christ in our midst, through the ministry of the Priest, who is consecrated to act in the person of Christ in the celebration of the mass, in the ministration of the other sacraments, and then to help them to see the great beauty of the way the mass has been celebrated along the centuries.
It seems very striking to me that so many young people, especially young families with many children, but also young university students, are attracted to the Extraordinary Form of the mass, and I believe the reason for that is that they see there is something very deep, very profound, and they want to know it better and understand it better and enter into the action of the mass.
Do you think there is a risk of routine, of people just going to mass without thinking about the essence?
What happened, I think, is that in the reform of the rite which took place after Vatican II – contrary really to the teaching of the council – the rite was radically diminished, stripped of many of its elements, rendered very simple, and there is the danger, with that, that it becomes ordinary and every day, especially if it is celebrated by the priest in a way that doesn't reflect faith in the action of Christ, if the mass becomes very familiar, then people cease to understand why they should go there and do that. It becomes every day, it seems childish, it seems unimportant, so they go away from the mass.
What about access to the Eucharist. There are lots of divisions about who should access the Eucharist, some consider it a right... How do you see this?
None of us has the right to receive any sacrament. God's love for us, as it is expressed most perfectly in the sacramental life and especially in the Holy Eucharist is His free gift to us. And for our part, when we recognize by Faith the gift, then we dispose ourselves in a proper way to receive it.
I am not always free to present myself to receive the Holy Eucharist, for instance, if I am not prepared in the sense of reflecting on the reality of the Holy Eucharist, or also if I am in a state of mortal sin, or if I am living in some public scandal, then I am not disposed to receive the Holy Eucharist and I must refrain from doing so until once again my soul is in a state to receive the body and the blood of Christ.
Saint Paul confronted this situation in the early days of the Church, in Corinth. We hear the account of it in Chapter 11 of his first letter to the Corinthians. The people were eating, drinking and even becoming inebriated in the kind of meal they would have at the same time as the Holy Eucharist and he rebuked them strongly, and told them that nobody should approach to receive the Holy Eucharist without reflecting upon the truth, the reality of the Holy Eucharist, lest they eat and drink condemnation of themselves, not recognizing the Body and Blood of Christ.
The shepherds of Fátima had a deep love of the Eucharist, even though they were very small.
It is clear from the preparatory visions that the Angel of Portugal to the Shepherd children… Central to those apparitions was the apparition when the angel with the chalice and the host suspended in the air, communicated the blessed sacrament to the little children.
And then the apparitions themselves, our Blessed Mother also emphasizes with the children the mercy which then calls forth from us prayer and penance in order to be disposed to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and in reparation for the many ways in which Our Lord is offended, especially in the Blessed Sacrament.
Today I visited the Carmel in Coimbra, and in the chapel there are two beautiful statues, one of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the other of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Both are stunning and both, I found out when speaking to the mother of the Carmel, were designed according to instructions from Sister Lucia. But in the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Sacred Heart is holding a chalice in which the blood from His Sacred Heart is flowing into the chalice and He has the host in his hand.
And so we see that the love of God for us is most perfectly represented in the pierced heart of Jesus. When He died for us upon the Cross, he permitted that the Roman soldier to pierce his heart as a sign of his never failing, immense love, that would continue to flow from his heart. That love of God for us is most perfectly given to us in the Holy Eucharist, and so the whole message is centered around the Eucharist and the praying of the Holy Rosary – Our blessed mother was constantly telling the children to pray the Holy Rosary – is a fundamentally a meditation on the mystery of faith which we celebrate in the Holy Eucharist.
Is this why Our Lady said that in Portugal the dogma of the faith would remain?
Yes, I believe that very strongly, and I have a very strong sense that Portugal has an important mission to the whole world, and its preservation of the dogma of the faith, and its presentation of the apparitions and message of Fátima to the whole world.
The shrine at Fátima is so important... I was just there for two days, and there are pilgrims from the whole world. The Mother Superior of the Carmel told me that Lucia received thousands and thousands of letters from all over the world, and that she had a map of the World and she would say: “see, Our Lady's message is reaching all these places”.