Cardinal Raymond Burke gives thanks for events of consistory

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ROME — What would a consistory be without a moment of thanksgiving to God for the blessings Cardinal Raymond Burke has received?

That's exactly what the new cardinal did with more than 500 family and friends at a Mass of thanksgiving Nov. 22, the feast of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr, at the Pontifical North American College.

The morning Mass was celebrated in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, a place that Cardinal Burke has been to many times as a former student there.

The Mass, in the ordinary form, was celebrated primarily in English, with a number of prayers sung in Latin. The music was led by the schola from the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in Gricigliano, Italy, and students at the North American College. The Mass was concelebrated by more than 100 priests, bishops and one other cardinal — Cardinal John Patrick Foley, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

In his homily, Cardinal Burke spoke about the life of St. Cecilia, a Roman who along with her husband, Valerian, who were martyred in the third century.

"We know little about her life, but from tradition we know the essence of her heroic holiness," he said. "She developed so strongly in her love of the Lord ... she resolved to offer her virginity to the Lord as a special gift." She eventually was married to Valerian, a pagan who eventually converted to the faith. He also came to have a great respect for her virginal consecration. They both accepted martyrdom in the name of their faith.

"In the life of St. Cecilia, we see fulfilled in a most striking manner, the promise of our Lord's immeasurable and ceaseless love for all men without exception," he said. "Our Lord called St. Cecilia to espouse him in love." Likewise, we are called to unite ourselves with the Lord through His calling for each one of us.

The saint's feast day, said Cardinal Burke, coincides with a special day of thanksgiving for the consistory and the new members of the College of Cardinals.

Through the scarlet color of the cardinal's vestments and his cardinalitial biretta, the cardinal shows himself to be "intrepid, even in shedding of his blood for the building up of the Christian faith for the peace and harmony of the people of God, and the freedom and extension of the Holy Roman Church."

Cardinal Burke said he can personally testify, as a new cardinal, to the change that comes with the changing of the color of a priest's vestments. "There comes an increased responsibility to Christ for the life of the Church, which is bonding."

Among the special guests at the Mass were members of Cardinal Burke's family from Cullen, in County Cork, Ireland. Cardinal Burke's late grandmother, Hannah Catherine O'Keefe, was from Cullen.

The cardinal's second cousins, Hannah O'Connor and Betty Kelly, presented the gifts at the Offertory.

Hannah O'Connor's daughter, Mary O'Connor Davern, said the family first met the cardinal last year, when he celebrated a Mass in Cullen. She said the family was honored to be present for the consistory and to spend some time with their cousin.

"Maybe next week well have time to sit and think" about what they had just experienced. While not many people form Cullen knew about Cardinal Burke's elevation, Davern was sure that the news will have spread by the time they return.

"He's a wonderful man," she said. "Really lovely."

Another special guest, Eduardo Verastegui, actor who starred in the movie, "Bella," called the events of the consistory "heaven on earth."

"I have never been (to) a consistory before. To be with the Holy Father and with the cardinals ... the Church is so alive, especially at these moments. In this broken world, it's very inspiring for Catholics to have such amazing role models like Cardinal Burke, who is a wonderful role model and teacher of the faith."

After the Mass, friends and family of Cardinal Burke and the other 23 new cardinals attended Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience at Paul VI Auditorium in the Vatican. The pope addressed nearly 3,000 people in various languages, and the cardinals and presented special guests to the Holy Father. Cardinal Burke introduced his brother-in-law Charles Louis, and his wife, Marilyn, to the pope. Charles' first wife, Rita (Cardinal Burke's sister), died in 1992. 


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