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by Max Douglas  •  •  December 6, 2016

LA CROSSE, Wis. ( – Cardinal Raymond Burke, former head of the highest court in the Vatican, will be celebrating a Pontifical High Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.

December 10 will be the first Pontifical High Mass celebrated at the Shrine since Cardinal Burke founded it as then-Bishop of Lacrosse. The reason behind the founding of the shrine was to serve the spiritual needs of those who suffer poverty in body and soul.

A Pontifical High Mass is the highest Mass celebrated without the Pope in the Traditional Rite. In the Novus Ordo Rite there are no distinctions among Masses.

Elements in a Low Mass include the following:

  • no music for the ordinary or propers of the Mass
  • no deacon or subdeacon
  • two candles are lit on the altar
  • no incense
  • one or two servers

A Pontifical High Mass is typified by the following:

  • musically the same as a Missa Cantata
  • incense is used
  • Deacon and subdeacon present
  • Celebrated by bishop
  • six candles lit
  • subdeacon chants epistle; deacon chants Gospel
  • the ceremonial passing of the Kiss of Peace is present in the ceremonial
  • acolytes, thurifer, torchbearers used
  • Rite of Asperges may be done

Speaking on the merit of the Mass, Fr. Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P, a traditional scholar, says, “At a Solemn High Mass the external display is richer and more brilliant than at a low Mass; for at a solemn celebration the Church, in order to elevate the dignity of the Sacrifice, manifests greater pomp, and God is more glorified thereby.” Thus, the Mass itself has more merit in the eyes of God.

Cardinal Burke has been an outspoken advocate of the Traditional Mass, recently correcting the Holy Father in his claims about the Usus antiquior.

Pope Benedict’s universal indult for the Usus antiquior was, according to Pope Francis, a “fair and magnanimous gesture to meet a certain mentality of some groups and people who had nostalgia. … But it is an exception.”

Cardinal Burke responded shortly afterward, clarifying that the Extraordinary Form “is no exception.”

“It is the Mass of the Church of all ages and thus it cannot be overturned and has equal dignity,” His Eminence clarified. “For the rest, the motu proprio of Pope Benedict XVI is sufficient. It is unambiguous.”

Cardinal Burke, along with three other cardinals, recently sent a set of “dubia” to Pope Francis with regard to ambiguities in “Amoris Laetitia,” the Pope’s apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family. Titled “Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in ‘Amoris Laetitia,'” the letter notes “a grave disorientation and great confusion” among the faithful over “contrasting interpretations” of “Amoris Laetitia.”

Father Ripperger continues, “The general contention among many who offer the new rite of Mass is that since it is valid it is just as meritorious as the old rite. Intrinsically, it must be conceded that this is true, and it is also true with respect to certain extrinsic aspects of merit.”

“However, with respect to the ritual itself,” he clarifies, “it is possible that one ritual may be more meritorious than another.”


Maxwell Douglas is a member of the PAUSE Program and a staff writer for