HE FIRST DAY of Sacra Liturgia 2015 began at about 4:30 PM on Monday afternoon. After a few words of welcome from the organizers, Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport gave a wonderful opening talk. In his typically pastoral way, he called upon us to use our love for the sacred liturgy to promote the necessary work of the New Evangelization amidst the many people who consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious.”
The conference attendees then heard the first keynote address, given by His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.
Even in just a few hours, several important points have been made, and I will share with you just three.
Among the words of introduction, a fine letter was read from the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW), Cardinal Sarah. His Eminence had many good things to convey to us, but one thing especially struck me.
Cardinal Sarah revealed that, when he was appointed to be Prefect of the CDW, he asked Pope Francis what he expected him to do in this new role. The response of the Holy Father, according to Cardinal Sarah’s letter, was twofold:
1. Implement the reforms of the Second Vatican Council
2. Continue the liturgical vision of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Those are remarkable marching orders—orders that one might not have expected Pope Francis to give. At the same time, of course, these two directives are inseparable, since the liturgical movement championed by Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI is fundamentally a call to embrace the true vision of Vatican II.
Another highlight moment from today was the announcement of the next Sacra Liturgia conference, which is being planned for July 2016 in London. No further details have been given, but that is a very significant announcement. This movement is growing and spreading, which is already a sign of the fruit that is being borne.
Finally, allow me to recap a few of the many excellent points introduced by Cardinal Burke during his keynote address, entitled Beauty in the Sacred Liturgy and the Beauty of a Holy Life.
The cardinal spoke a bit about the nature & significance of the Transcendentals: Truth, Goodness, & Beauty. He paid special attention to their interconnectedness. Notably, beauty is a prerequisite for truth and goodness. Cardinal Burke observed: “Precisely because we have lost beauty, we have lost also goodness and truth.”
His Eminence also made the point that, in our modern world, “beauty is suspect.” By this, he meant that beautiful things, especially within the sacred liturgy (e.g., art, architecture, music, gesture, vestments, ars celebrandi, etc.), are commonly disregarded as frivolous, shallow, and “superficial.” I have often witnessed this suspicion at play, and I was very pleased that the cardinal encouraged us to challenge this charge of superficiality.
In the middle of his presentation, Cardinal Burke gave a heartwarming reflection on the Gospel passage wherein Mary of Bethany anoints the feet of Jesus with expensive spikenard. In our own day, many people make the same charge that Judas made: that the money lavished upon divine worship could have been better used in feeding the poor. Cardinal Burke responded firmly & gently to this objection, saying that Christian poverty is a thing most essentially of the spirit. Those whose poverty is physical/financial are those who, most of all, need true beauty in their lives. “The poverty to which we are called as Christians calls not for what is ugly, but for the most beautiful celebration of which we are capable.”
Tuesday will bring several more talks and exquisite liturgies. I will attempt to recap some of the highlights as the conference continues to unfold.
REMINDER FROM FR. DAVID FRIEL : Any quotations I give in the course of my reporting on this conference should be understood to be inexact, as I am only taking notes during the live presentation. Nevertheless, I shall endeavor to be as exact as possible.