Yesterday Benedict Ambrose and I got on our very knees and prayed for Cardinal Burke's recovery. Normally we are pray-while-lying-in-bed kind of people. Sometimes we might go on a Rosary walk. Sometimes we might pray from our armchairs. But on special occasions we get right down on our knees. I got right down on my knees when a social media call went out to all relatives, friends and acquaintances for information on a young British mariner, lost at sea. (He turned up the next morning. Whew!)
Everyone I know who actually knows Cardinal Burke is writing about what a kind, warm, accommodating man he is, and it's true. B.A. and I met him last October at the church given to the FSSP in Rome, Santissima Trinità. It was one of those meetings that stay with you for life.
I had been sent by work with a message for His Eminence, and I wasted a goodly amount of time lurking outside his apartment building before concluding I could just speak to him after the Pontifical High Mass he was going to celebrate for the Una Voce pilgrims. My message was an important one, and so I was rather nervous about it. I was also nervous about taking photos of Cardinal Burke at Mass because it was, you know, Mass. (I can't remember now why I felt I should take these photos, but I'm glad I did.)
Anyway, after Mass, we saw people slipping into the warren of rooms behind the sanctuary and perceived that Cardinal Burke was receiving visitors. Therefore, we hastily made our way to the hallway outside the sacristy where, I believe, I was addressed by a Seraphic Singles fan. That was totally unexpected and very pleasant.
Anyway, when it was our turn to go in, we went in and Cardinal Burke was sitting in a chair. Being old school, B.A. plunked down on his knees, and so I did, too, and then B.A. kissed Cardinal Burke's ring, so I did, too. B.A. made rapid introductions and a sort of speech of gratitude to His Eminence and after what seemed like an age mentioned that I wrote for LSN. At this the Cardinal turned to me, a picture of wifely silence under my black veil, and asked me what my name was again.
Before I could say anything, B.A. told him my name again, this time pronouncing all three elements with care, and--no word of a lie--the Cardinal's face lit up.
"I know who you are," said the Cardinal, or words to that effect. "I always read your articles."
His Eminence admitted to not reading all LSN articles (and what the hey, neither do I), but mine he did read.
So that was very nice, and I delivered my message, and listened very carefully to what His Eminence had to say in reply, and that was that. We got up, probably still assuring H.E. of our very great devotion and gratitude, and toddled back out the sacristy door. I felt stunned, like we had won the lottery. Then we went to St. Peter's Square to interview Alexander Tschugguel and a journalist from a rival organization elbowed me hard in the ribs. (Ribs here is a euphemism.)
It may sound funny that we had our whole meeting with Cardinal Burke on our knees, but it was either that or tower over him, which would have felt very wrong. He was clearly tired---the word is all the clobber cardinals have to wear if they celebrate a TLM is very heavy and he only wears the weighty cappa magna to make liturgy nerds happy. When else would we see the cappa magna, eh? I don't think he wore it on that occasion, but I think did when he said a TLM in Glasgow back in 2017, and we were all "Squee!"
Naturally Catholics who want to sing a new church into being have written poison pen posts online about Cardinal Burke and the cappa magna, and they may be the same people who are writing poison pen posts now about his illness. However, the cappa magna, which represents martyrdom and the office of cardinal, really is a good symbol for Cardinal Burke because he refused to violate his conscience by taking a COVID-19 vaccine and yet he still put his health at risk by travelling back and forth, doing his duties as a cardinal. On this subject, I highly recommend reading this heartfelt post by my colleague in France, who spoke to Cardinal Burke many times.
I know Catholics who have a very high bar for determining which Cardinals are real believing Catholics who would die for the Faith like St. John Fisher. Nobody I know doubts that Cardinal Burke is the real deal. I remember reporting on a homily His Eminence gave at the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin. If I remember correctly, he encouraged all families to have images of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart in their homes, and now B.A. and I do.
Suddenly I feel very sad, so I will stop and just ask those of you who pray to stop reading now and say a prayer for Cardinal Burke. Tens of thousands of Catholics want him to recover completely and carry on being a good shepherd to us. Presumably he would rather go to the Lord sooner rather than later, but we know he will shoulder the heavy cappa magna for our sake, so we hope the Lord will let him continue to do so for at least a few years more.