A sizeable proportion of our parish headed down to Kingston, Ontario on Mar. 14 during a steady snowfall to hear Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, speak at the St. John Fisher dinner, an annual fundraiser for Catholic Christian Outreach.
Am I ever glad I went.
The Cardinal also spoke at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto on Mar. 12.
When I was checking into the hotel I turned around and he was standing in the lobby. I greeted him, as did another woman who was nearby. He seems to be shy and reserved, even more so than Pope Benedict XVI but he was very warm and gracious.
I had listened to the talk at St. Mike’s via the internet, and I found it almost boring. Not the content so much, but the very slow delivery, read from a text by someone for whom English is not the first language. But I was also thinking “boring is good!” We’ve had a little bit too much of spontaneity, novelty and surprises, thank you very much.
I wonder though, if listening to the talk in Kingston via the internet would have the same effect of being rather slow and almost boring. But you had to be there. And maybe you had to be there at St. Mike’s.
The Silence of God he writes about in his latest book The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise and speaks about clothes Cardinal Sarah and that holy silence of God’s presence permeated the room. All kinds of cliches pop into mind—you could have heard a pin drop, the silence was palpable, he had everyone’s attention riveted. I wish I could come up with something more original, but then maybe it would take too long to write this blog post.
I am glad I chose to stay overnight rather than try to drive home after the dinner. It’s about two hours to Ottawa and I was exhausted. But even better than that, the next day Cardinal Sarah went to Wolfe Island, a short ferry ride from Kingston on Lake Ontario, to dedicate a new altar at Sacred Heart of Mary Parish, home of Fr. Raymond de Souza, who frequently writes for the Catholic Herald and other publications. Fr. de Souza is chaplain of Newman House at Queen’s University, so many of the Catholic students at Queen’s and CCO missionaries attended the Mass.
There, Cardinal Sarah celebrated the Mass, ad orientem of course and used the Roman Canon. An accomplished student schola sang the Gloria and Agnus Dei in Latin. There were many hymns, quite Anglican patrimonial, I might add, to go with the liturgy of dedicating the altar.
It was the most beautiful and reverent Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite I have ever attended. Cardinal Sarah is so recollected and present in God’s silence that my attention hardly wandered—and I have attention-wandering problems.
He reminded me of our former bishop, now Msgr. Robert Mercer and how he used to pray the Mass.
At a reception afterwards, I had another opportunity to speak briefly with Cardinal Sarah, and I told him how much the way he celebrated the Mass reminded me of our Divine Worship liturgy in the Ordinariates for Anglicans in full communion with the Catholic Church. (I used the language he used in the book excerpt I posted earlier).
At the reception, Cardinal Sarah told the students:
“When a priest is in a hurry, he damages the faith of the people of God.”
And when a priest slows down . . . and enters into the liturgy prayerfully . . .amazing.