LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke celebrated his first public Mass this weekend since his hospitalization for COVID-19 in August, marking the beginning of his return to public ministry.
Cardinal Burke celebrated a livestreamed Traditional Latin Mass on Saturday at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, which he founded in 2008. He announced earlier this month that he would also be offering Sunday Mass on December 12 and Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe the following day, both at the shrine. Burke greeted pilgrims after Mass on Saturday at the crypt of the shrine.
“Although my rehabilitation remains an ongoing process, my health has improved enough to return to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” he wrote in a December 1 message. “However much I desire for these public liturgies to mark the return to my usual pastoral activities, my rehabilitation must proceed for the foreseeable future.”
In his homily on Saturday, the 73-year-old cardinal credited God, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Joseph, and the prayers of the saints and “countless faithful” for his recovery from COVID.
“My heart is filled with deepest gratitude to Almighty God Who from August 10th last has brought me through a great suffering, which seemingly would have ended in death, to offer today the Pontifical Holy Mass of Our Lady on Saturday in Advent,” he said.
“In thanking God for having conserved me in life, I also thank Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Virgin Mother of God, and Saint Joseph, Her True and Most Chaste Spouse, and the company of Saints who interceded so powerfully for me during my time of trial.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Cardinal Burke added, was “constantly holding me in Her arms” during the nine days he spent placed on a ventilator while in intensive care.
“When I regained consciousness after spending nine critical days on a ventilator I was filled with the knowledge that Our Lady of Guadalupe had been constantly holding me in Her arms and keeping me one in heart with the glorious pierced Heart of her Divine Son, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,” he said.
“I also became immediately aware of the countless faithful who were praying and offering sufferings to Our Lord during the time of my illness and recovery asking Him to heal me and give me strength,” he continued. “While I was blessed to have excellent medical care, which I will never forget in my grateful prayers, it was God Who answered those many prayers and accepted those many sufferings keeping me in life and helping me to recover my strength.”
“Clearly, if Our Lord has kept me in life He desires me to be ever more faithful, generous, and pure in working with Him for the salvation of souls.”
The cardinal and prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura was diagnosed with COVID-19 in August and hospitalized for nearly a month before spending three months in rehabilitation at St. Mary’s Oratory of the Immaculate Conception in Wausau, Wisconsin.
Cardinal Burke thanked the rector, vicar, and staff of St. Mary’s Oratory, which he elevated to a public oratory while Bishop of La Crosse, in his homily. He extended his gratitude to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which oversees the oratory, and Mother Maria Regina, his former secretary and the current Superior of the Daughters of the Work of Mary.
Below is a transcript of Cardinal Burke’s homily for the Votive Mass of Our Lady on Saturday in Advent, December 11, 2021:
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My heart is filled with deepest gratitude to almighty God Who, from August 10th last, has brought me, through a great suffering which seemingly would have ended in death, to offer today the Pontifical Holy Mass of Our Lady on Saturday in Advent, according to the More Ancient Usage of our beloved Roman Rite. In thanking God for having conserved me in life, I also thank Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Virgin Mother of God, and Saint Joseph, her True and Most Chaste Spouse, and the company of saints who interceded so powerfully for me during my time of trial. When I regained consciousness after spending nine critical days on a ventilator, I was filled with the knowledge that Our Lady of Guadalupe had been constantly holding me in her arms and keeping me one in heart with the glorious pierced Heart of her Divine Son, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I also became immediately aware of the countless faithful who were praying and offering sufferings to Our Lord, during the time of my illness and recovery, asking Him to heal me and give me strength. While I was blessed to have excellent medical care, which I will never forget in my grateful prayers, it was God Who answered those many prayers and accepted those many sufferings, keeping me in life and helping me to recover my strength. In thanking God today, I offer grateful prayers for all who implored Our Lord on my behalf, invoking the intercession of Our Lady, Saint Joseph, and all the Saints.
Offering the Holy Mass in the Shrine Church, I hasten to express my deepest gratitude to Father Paul Check, the Executive Director, and the staff of the Shrine for all of the encouragement and support given to me and to my family during the most critical days of my illness and recovery. I also express my gratitude to Saint Mary’s Oratory in Wausau and, in particular, to Canon Aaron Huberfeld, the Rector of the Oratory, Canon Heitor Mateus, his Vicar, and the staff of the Oratory for hosting me during the almost three complete months of my rehabilitation. It very much pleases me that the Choir of Saint Mary’s Oratory is providing the Sacred Music for today’s Pontifical Mass and that so many faithful of the Oratory are present.
I am deeply grateful to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest of which Canons Huberfeld and Mateus are members and of which my personal secretary, Canon Stephen Michael Sharpe, is a member for the most faithful and generous assistance given to me in so many ways. Monsignor Gilles Wach, Prior General of the Institute, and Monsignor Michael Schmitz, his Vicar General, spared nothing in providing me the assistance of the Institute. I thank also Mother Maria Regina, my former secretary and now the Superior of the Daughters of the Work of Mary, for all that her Sisters and she have so generously and competently done to assist me. May God abundantly reward all who have assisted me and continue to assist me, so that I may fully return to the active service of Our Lord and of His Mystical Body, the Church.
Clearly, if Our Lord has kept me in life, He desires me to be ever more faithful, generous and pure in working with Him for the salvation of souls. In a particular way, apart from my responsibilities as a Bishop and member of the Sacred College of Cardinals, I want to concentrate my service of Our Lord and His Mystical Body, the Church, at the Shrine here, helping the Shrine to be a beacon of God’s truth and love in a world beset by so many lies and so many hateful actions. With the help of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her saintly messenger, Saint Juan Diego, I want to help pilgrims to the Shrine to have the fullest encounter possible with Our Lord, an encounter which will sustain them as they return to their homes, work and other activities. In a special way, I will dedicate myself to the realization of the Retreat House to be built alongside the Church, so that pilgrims may regularly spend several days with Our Lord here, especially at the most important or critical times in their lives.
After the Pontifical Mass, I will be present in the Crypt of the Shrine Church to greet you. It will please me to greet and thank personally as many of you as possible. To all who are present for the Holy Mass or are joined with us through the communications media, please know that you will remain always in my grateful prayers. Please continue to pray for me.
The Season of Advent and, in a particular way, the Votive Mass of Our Lady on Saturday in Advent, direct us to our fundamental need of a deep and enduring relationship with God. Without God, we are indeed like parched soil which is without life and cannot foster life. At the same time, Advent and the Votive Mass today testify to the presence of God with us in the Church as the incomparable and enduring fruit of the Redemptive Incarnation of God the Son for our salvation. In the Introit of the Holy Mass today, we have prayed: “Drop down dew, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior. Thou hast favored, O Lord, Thy land; Thou hast restored the well-being of Jacob.” Dom Prosper Guéranger, in his commentary on the Season of Advent, prays:
Come, O Jesus, come quickly, and give us of that water, which flows from Thy sacred Heart, … This water is Thy grace; let it rain upon our parched souls, and they too will flourish; let it quench our thirst, and we will run in the way of Thy precepts and examples… No! there shall be no more weak hands, nor feeble knees, nor faint hearts; for we know that it is in love that Thou are coming to us. There is but one thing which makes us sad: our preparation is not complete. We have some ties still to break; help us to do it, O Saviour of mankind!
He exhorts us: “[L]et us ask, together with the Church, for the Dew which will give new life to our hearts, and for the Rain which will make them fruitful.”
How often we experience a lack of purpose and direction in our lives? How often our lives can seem like the dried and parched land which has been without dew or rain? It is then that we should lift up our eyes to behold Our Lord with us in the Church, above all in the Holy Eucharist, and contemplate how He has saved us by His Redemptive Incarnation and how He continues to pour out into our hearts from His glorious pierced Heart the grace which makes our lives fruitful, which makes us a blessing for our neighbor.
It is the Mother of God who helps us to see and to seek from her Divine Son the grace which transforms a life which has become like a desert into a life which gives life and fosters life for others. When King Ahaz refused to turn to Our Lord in a time of imminent death and destruction at the hands of foreign powers, Our Lord, through the Prophet Isaiah, promised: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Our Lord’s promise was definitively fulfilled, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary:
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.
Our Blessed Mother, chosen vessel in which God the Son took our human nature, uniting it to His divine nature, in order to save us from sin and to save us for eternal life, is, in her maternal love for us, constantly drawing us to lift up our eyes and see the salvation which Our Lord is working in our midst.
Today, so many give way to discouragement or even abandon Our Lord in the Church, seeking Him elsewhere. The temptation to discouragement or even to abandonment of Our Lord is understandable, from a purely human point of view. If all that we are and have is solely of this earth, then we have no cause for hope. But our Blessed Mother draws our eyes upward, lest we see only the earthly and passing world around us and fail to see our eternal destiny. With her help, we not only accept but even embrace with joy the suffering of the present time because it permits us to share in Christ’s own sufferings for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of the world.
With Saint Paul, we rejoice to complete in our bodies the suffering of Christ for the sake of eternal life, for the sake of the “mystery, which is Christ in [us], the hope of glory.” Our only concern must be that we give our hearts more completely to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that we, as individuals and in our homes, live in Christ. Let us daily recall the words of Saint Paul who wrote to us as his “little children,” describing himself “in travail until Christ be formed in [us]” :
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
May the observance of the holy Season of Advent and of today’s Votive Mass of Our Lady in Advent bring us the grace to know always who we are in Christ and to live in Christ, with our eyes fixed on the destination of our earthly pilgrimage: eternal life with God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – , in the company of the angels, in the Communion of Saints.
The beauty of today’s Sacred Liturgy is a foretaste of the eternal beauty of the “new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells,” which Our Lord will definitively establish at His Final Coming and which is the destiny of our earthly pilgrimage. Drawing us to enter into the Sacred Liturgy with all our heart, our Blessed Mother teaches us to consider everything life under the aspect of eternity, to look at everything on this earth in the context of the Mystery of Faith, in which we participate most perfectly through the Holy Mass until we partake forever in “the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
Uniting our hearts with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, let us lift them up to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus. He is ever ready to receive our hearts, to heal them in His immeasurable and unceasing mercy, and to inflame them with His pure and selfless love. May Christ, through the intercession of His Virgin Mother, shower upon our hearts the Dew and the Rain of His grace, which makes them new, which makes them fruitful for our neighbor and for our world.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
 “Rorate, caeli, desuper, et nubes pluant iustum: aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem. Ps. 84,2 Benedixisti, Domine, terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Iacob.” Missale Romanum, Missa de Sancta Maria in Sabbato, I, Tempore Adventus, Antiphona ad Introitum.
 “O Sauveur ! venez vite nous donner de cette Eau dont votre Cœur est la source, … Cette Eau est votre Grâce ; qu’elle arrose notre aridité, et nous fleurirons aussi ; qu’elle désaltère notre soif, et nous courrons la voie de vos préceptes et de vos exemples, … Non, désormais nos bras ne sont plus abattus ; nos genoux ne tremblent plus ; nous savons que c’est dans l’amour que vous venez. Une seule chose nous attriste : c’est de voir que notre préparation n’est pas parfaite. Nous avons encore des liens à rompre ; aidez-nous, ô Sauveur des hommes !” Prosper Guéranger, L’Année liturgique, L’Avent, 21ème éd. (Tours: Maison Alfred Mame et Fils, 1926), p. 250. [Guéranger]. English translation : Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Advent, tr. Laurence Shepherd (Great Falls, MT: St. Bonaventure Publications, 2000), pp. 235-236. [GuérangerEng].
 “[D]emandons, avec la sainte Église, la rosée qui rafraîchira notre cœur, la pluie qui le rendra fécond.” Guéranger, p. 251. English translation: GuérangerEng, p. 236.
 Is 7, 14.
 Lk 1, 31-33.
 Col 1, 27.
 Gal 4, 19.
 Col 3, 2-4.
 2 Pet 3, 13; cf. Rev 21, 1-8.
 Rev 19, 9.