Cardinal Burke Post-Traditionis Custodes
Above: Cardinal Burke celebrates the Latin Mass in Tampa, Florida, for the feast of Christ the King.
One fateful day, I heard through whispered breath a claim that Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke would be visiting Tampa. Through some digging, I found out he’d be visiting the Epiphany of Our Lord parish. Before making the long, four hour drive to Tampa, I called and asked the pastor, Fr. Edwin Palka, how he felt about the His eminence’s visit to his parish, to which he answered “Are you kidding? The Cardinal is coming to visit! It is a great honor to host the Cardinal.”
In the early light of a beautiful Floridian Sunday morning, I arrived to the parish, and even though I had arrived two hours before the 10:30am Pontifical Solemn High Mass, I saw a line outside the parish that winded around the church. Hundreds of people had arrived to celebrate the Feast of Christ the King with Cardinal Burke. I was taken aback by the attendance, as this mass was not widely advertised, this was all through word of mouth alone. Yet there were innumerable families, people young and old, and all here for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I entered the church, and saw a simple, sweet and modest parish, with a very ornate and beautiful high altar. Slowly, the people began to enter the parish, the pews quickly filling up and the laity dotted with veils, babies and suit jackets. The church couldn’t fit everyone that had arrived and so there were people sitting in overflow areas, or standing where they could fit. Although hundreds had arrived, the air was still in anticipation of the honored guest. The tension was palatable. Suddenly, the Schola began to chant, breaking the stillness, and the acolytes, deacons, priests and finally, the Cardinal himself, processed into the church. In an instant, this humble parish, built in 1962, saw its first ever Pontifical High Mass.
I had never seen so many dedicated men in the sanctuary, all there to assist His Eminence during the highly ornate and regal celebration of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Young men were torchbearers, there were multiple priests in attendance, and the Cardinal wore ornate vestments as the Schola chanted complex polyphonic chants and the incense rose before the tabernacle and up to heaven.
His Eminence, Cardinal Burke spoke from the seat during his homily, his head covered by a gold-colored Mitre, and holding his Crosier in his hand, a symbol of the Bishop as a shepherd for his flock, echoing the Great Commission that Jesus Christ gave to his apostles. One can’t help but contemplate on Our Lord telling Peter to “go and feed my sheep.”
“Our Lord did not deny his kingship” Cardinal Burke preached, referring to when the Logos incarnate was questioned by Pilate. “It is the reign freeing all mankind from slavery to the deceptions by which Satan would lead us into sin and eternal death.” He spoke about how Christ reigns from the Cross, with His most Sacred and royal heart, and how He is and testifies to the Truth. Christ is the King that brings order to the disordered world in which we live. His Eminence spoke about the divine mystery of the Kingship of Jesus Christ, but how crucial it is to contemplate it and its profound importance for our lives. He quoted Pope Pius XI’s writings to the bishops of the world, in which he explained his motivations for writing the encyclical Quas Primas, by which he established the Feast of Christ the King, “to see that sermons are preached to the people in every parish to teach them the meaning and importance of this feast, that they may so order their lives as to be worthy as faithful and obedient subjects of the Divine King.”
After the Pontifical Mass, the people exited the church and went to spend time together in the yard of the parish, where the Troops of St George had gathered to make food and serve beverages for the pilgrims. At the same time, the Cardinal set up in one of the parish’s rooms, preparing to greet any and all laity who wanted to greet him personally. Once again, the line was immense, and I was shocked that Cardinal Burke was prepared and willing to dedicate so much time to meet all of the faithful. It was truly a sight to behold!
I felt very grateful when I was given the opportunity to ask His Eminence a question on behalf of OnePeterFive:
OnePeterFive: “I wanted to ask if you have any statements about the Church post-Traditionis Custodes?”
Cardinal Raymond Burke: “Simply that the More Ancient Usage of the Roman Rite is a great treasure in the Church, going back to the time of Pope Saint Gregory the Great and even before. It must be fostered and continued in the Church.
The interpretation of the present legislation that would limit the faithful from having access to this most beautiful form of the Roman Rite must be corrected. I am confident that Our Lord will have that come about. The lay faithful and the priests should not be discouraged, because Our Lord will not permit that this most beautiful form of the Roman Rite be lost. In reality, it is clear that it is desired as the form of our most perfect encounter with Our Lord sacramentally. And it will continue to nurture the faithful spiritually, as you can see here today, with the participation of so many lay faithful –with their families, young people, old people. It’s just beautiful. [You can see] their deep love for the Church, and for the Sacred Liturgy.”
As I left the room, I was grateful to have spoken to Cardinal Burke. He spoke with a soft voice and kind eyes, far from the caricature that is woven by his detractors. I went to go eat a hamburger and I had the pleasure to speak to the choir director Bergmann, who explained to me that Cardinal Burke had learned about the small parish, which is Tampa’s center for the Traditional Latin Mass, when he had come to visit and speak at an event in Tampa for at Legatus (which is a Catholic business professionals organization). Bergmann told the story, “Burke spoke to us about the shrine that he had built in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.”
Pope Saint John Paul II named Raymond Leo Burke as Bishop of the diocese of LaCrosse in Wisconsin from 1995 to 2004, his first diocese that he ever had to serve as a Bishop. In the last year of his post before getting reassigned, then Bishop Burke seemed to leave a parting gift to his diocese by making a beautiful and ornate Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. He would later return in 2008 to dedicate the shrine. Now it is a much loved pilgrimage location in Wisconsin. This episode in the ministry of Cardinal Burke speaks volumes about the dedication he has to his flock, and the lasting and meaningful changes he attempts to make wherever he goes for the betterment of the faithful.
Apparently, while Cardinal Burke was in Tampa speaking about the shrine to the young professionals, he visited the Epiphany parish and liked it so much that he wanted to celebrate a mass there! Another parishioner explained to me that all of the event was possible because “Our relationship with Bishop Parkes has been excellent and should continue to be so.”
As we began to leave the parish, one long-time parishioner and Knight of Columbus remarked, “I don’t understand Latin, but this is the best parish I’ve ever been able to be a part of!”
Adrian Alvarado is a writer, voice actor, photographer, videographer and Catholic apologist. He has a B.A. in Communication from Florida Atlantic University, and is an MBA candidate with Ave Maria University. A lifelong lover of history and art, he dedicates his time to learning and teaching about the faith. You can find more about him on his YouTube Channel.