Sunday, November 27, 2011

The New Translation & Inspired Leadership

The New Translation & Moral Leadership:
New Catholic Liturgy teaches valuable political lessons

The following post is an article featured in the June edition of the Reflections column at The Edmund Burke Institute website. It also was previously posted on Sky View on November 3rd of 2011. Being that the New Translation of the Mass debuted today, I wanted to post it for new Sky View readers who may have missed it.

In recent years, Americans have become increasingly disillusioned with their political leaders. In April of 2011, a CBS/New York Times poll showed a 16 percent approval rating and 75 percent disapproval rating for Congress. President Barack Obama's ratings are not faring much better; at least for a sitting U.S. President at this juncture. It is news to no one in America that moral leadership is in short supply today; but how is it to be restored?

The truth may be surprising. After several decades of our society relegating religion to the private sphere, the average person would be hard pressed to see that the Catholic Liturgy (or Mass) has any relevance to political leadership. But it does, albeit indirectly.

The New Translation of the Catholic Mass is due to be implemented in Catholic churches throughout the world this Advent in 2011. In short, it is an attempt to reflect more accurately the founding principles of Catholicism. Indeed, more expressions from Scripture and the writings of the early Church Fathers will be used. Pope Benedict XVI maintains that the Church stands and falls with the liturgy. He said, “When the faith no longer appears in its fullness in the Liturgy of the Church, when man’s words, his thoughts, his intentions are suffocating him, then faith will have lost the place where it is expressed and where it dwells.” Unfortunately, in the late 1960s going into the 1970s, that fullness of faith had diminished somewhat with the translation of the Mass from Latin into the vernacular. The New Translation, however, is a return to that fullness of faith which the Liturgy has traditionally expressed.

For example, during the Mass when Catholics make the Profession of Faith by reciting the Nicene Creed, instead of professing, “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty…” etc., the new translation has them saying, “I believer in one God, the Father of Almighty…” This suggests that salvation is not primarily a “collective” obligation of the community, as some proponents of Socialism might have us believe, as it is an obligation of the individual believer.

But any genuine profession of one’s faith presupposes that the Christian takes personal responsibility for his sins and faults. With the New Translation there is a heightened awareness that we are flawed individuals. For instance, the Penitential Act, towards the beginning of the Liturgy, is a prayer or general confession of sins by the congregation. In its current form it states: “I have sinned through my own fault…” However, the New Translation has it say: “I have greatly sinned…through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” The frank acknowledgement of one’s faults is a not only the mark of a good Christian but a good leader as well. To be sure, each penitential act is a rehearsal for life’s greatest challenge: the conquest of oneself!

Before we conquer the world we must first conquer ourselves. Quite naturally, we look to our leaders to help us in this pursuit. The spiritual leader in each Catholic parish is the priest. He is not only an icon of Christ to the congregation but he mediates on their behalf by offering spiritual sacrifices at the altar. With that said, the priest is to be cast in a new light. He greets the congregation of the faithful by saying, “The Lord be with you.” The response by the faithful is currently worded: “And also with you.” The New Translation of the Mass, however, bids us to look at the priest from a more traditional vantage point. It recovers the Jewish and early Christian context in the following Semitic response: “And with your spirit.” “Spirit,” in this expression, does not reference the human spirit of the priest but rather the Holy Spirit who dwells in the priest.

At his ordination the Holy Spirit endows the priest with a unique spiritual leadership. His hands were consecrated to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to bless, to forgive and retain sins, and to cast out evil spirits. Here the congregation acknowledges the priest as the leader under whose leadership they will approach almighty God.

From participating in the Liturgy where faith is strengthened, the Christian is then sent into the world by the priest with the words from the New Translation: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” After having been enlightened by the Word and fed at the altar, Catholics are called to make their faith publicly known as well as to inform the social and political order with the Gospel of Life.

Christianity’s founding principles of the Apostolic and Patristic era (i.e. Church Fathers) inspired great leaders over the centuries. In recent years, there has been a movement to unearth and apply these principles more fully due to their inspired value. And to be sure, it has paid off.

New priests coming out of seminaries are more traditional and socially-conservative than their older counterparts. In a survey that was conducted in 2011 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, it was found that 70 percent of new priests prayed the Rosary and 65 percent took part in Eucharistic adoration before entering the seminary. According to a report by the National Institute for the Renewal of Younger Priests, more of the younger priests agree with everything that the Church teaches as opposed to their predecessors. And finally, another survey found that more priests are coming from traditional backgrounds. “Seventy-seven percent of the new priests come from families with three or more children. In fact, 37 percent come from families with five or more children,” according to the report by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a Georgetown University-based research center. Therefore, with each younger generation, the Catholic Church is harvesting solid leaders who are inspired by principles and are driven by purpose. The New Translation of the Liturgy for all Catholics is but a continuation of what has already begun in the seminaries.

In secular society, however, studies are showing that younger generations and tomorrow’s political leaders are more liberal— especially on social and political issues. But as Catholics have begun the process of returning to the founding principles of Catholicism with favorable results, it suggests that the return to the founding principles of America is the key to its success. As Pope Leo XIII said, "When a society is perishing, the wholesome advice to give to those who would restore it is to call it to the principles from which it sprang...its efforts should be put in motion and inspired by the end and object which originally gave it being. Hence, to fall away from its primal constitution implies disease; to go back to it, recovery." To be sure, this is the template of renewal! Patriotic Americans can learn something here; especially if they want to meet the challenge of moral decay and a breakdown of political leadership in the coming years. Be open to every good enterprise but do not neglect the principles which led to your country's greatness!