The most important thing I ever learned about Cardinal Raymond L. Burke wasn’t about canon law, but about the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The American in Rome, often a figure of controversy in the news, cares deeply about the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Early in his priesthood, visiting Catholic homes, he realized that this devotion was no longer as frequent a presence in family life as he once knew it to be (along with a crucifix on a wall or an image of Mary). He realized that morning prayer and family Rosary seemed to be relics as well.
In a talk in 2011, he recalled: “I grew up in a home and in a parish with a rich and varied devotional life which fostered in me a strong sense of the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in my life, of my communion with the saints and with the souls in purgatory, and of the sacred liturgy as the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and, at the same time, the fount from which all her power flows.”
If you’ve spent any kind of time in prayer with the cardinal, you know the Sacred Heart is a love of his, foundational to his priesthood. Cardinal Burke points to Church documents and saintly witnesses about the power of the devotional life, “inspired by the mysteries of faith encountered directly in the sacred liturgy,” which “keeps those mysteries before our eyes throughout the day.”
If we want to be with God, see him, know him, love him, show him to others, we have to keep looking back at him. How else will we ever have a shot at overflowing with his love to others — to everyone we encounter?
When I see interplay between supposed conservatives and supposed liberals in the Church — and obviously, we’re human and that exists — I often think about: a) how multifaceted we are and b) what if the two “wings” got to know one another better through the eyes and heart of Christ.
Cardinal Burke had talked about John Paul II’s concern that we renew our faith in the Eucharist, so closely tied to knowledge of and love for the Sacred Heart. Quoting John Paul: “It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the beloved disciple (cf. Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart ... how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the most holy sacrament? How often, dear brothers and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!”
Cardinal Burke closes that speech “placing all of my reflections within the context of the call which God gives to each of us to pour out his life, with Christ, in selfless love of God and neighbor. In a certain sense, everything in our Christian life is directed to knowledge of God’s plan for each of us and our following of God’s call with an undivided heart. Our vocation in life is our way to salvation and our principal way of working with Christ for the salvation of the world.”
I read Cardinal Burke, and I hear the words of Pope Francis and popes before him. I hear a reminder about who we are as baptized Christians. I often remember hearing Pope Benedict XVI call out Catholic leaders from the Americas, emphasizing the essential nature of having a real, prayerful, constant encounter with Christ. Without that relationship of love, a participation in the life of the Trinity, we are doomed to failure. Go to him. That’s not political. That’s not divisive. That’s where we can all meet and move and grow — whatever is in the headlines.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).