The New Mass
In Advent 2011, there may be plenty of surprised Catholics in your parish. The Vatican recently approved the final version of the new English-language translation of the Mass texts after a decades-long, byzantine process. America readers will be familiar with the controversy surrounding the approval (as well as the “What if We Just Said, ‘Wait’?” movement). Overall, the new translation is a word-for-word replication of the approved Latin text rather than one aimed at conveying a more general “sense” of the Latin. A few Catholics will be delighted by the more high-toned language; some will be dismayed at overly fussy words; most will probably miss the “old” Mass (a k a the Novus Ordo), which did not seem to need much tinkering. There are some striking changes. Christ now died not “for all,” but “for many” (the original Latin is pro multis). For a time, then, both priests and the faithful will have their eyes glued on their sacramentaries and missalettes.
In preparation for the introduction of the new texts, the U.S. bishops have announced an ambitious catechetical program. But is this a case of closing the church doors after the liturgical horses have fled? It is unlikely that any catechesis will convince Catholics who think otherwise that the new translations are an improvement over the old. Perhaps the best that the bishops’ program can do is remind Catholics of the centrality of the Eucharist, the “source and summit of the Christian life,” as the Second Vatican Council taught. The Mass is still the place where Catholics meet God in the most profound way. And that is the invitation for all, not just many.
Who Is Not Coming?
A report issued in September by the Pew Hispanic Center, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows that the size of the unauthorized immigrant population has been shrinking since mid-decade and continues to shrink—a marked reversal. The inflow of unauthorized immigrants was nearly two-thirds smaller between March 2007 and March 2009 than it was from 2000 to 2005. As a result experts have lowered their estimate of the total number of unauthorized immigrants living in the country: from 12 million in 2007 to 11.1 million in 2009. The decrease means nearly a million fewer people are living (not to mention working and paying taxes) in the United States. The drop has been most notable in U.S. states along the southeast coast and in the mountain west, especially Arizona, Colorado and Utah.
Who are no longer coming? Mostly they are unauthorized immigrants from Latin America (the Caribbean, Central America and South America), but excluding Mexico. The number from Latin America declined by 22 percent between 2007 and 2009, while the number from Mexico peaked at around 7 million in 2007 and has leveled off.
This report tracks a notable trend reversal but offers no explanation for it. It does not show that increased border security or stronger anti-immigrant laws or fewer job opportunities are responsible. Nor does it suggest why the number of Latin American immigrants, in particular, is declining. Some will find the drop itself a positive development, a big problem shrinking, whatever the reason. Yet few big problems solve themselves. In this case the need for immigration reform at the federal level remains as long as there are millions of unauthorized immigrants among us.
Hunger and starvation continue to afflict the world’s poorest countries, but in some poor nations obesity has also emerged as a growing problem. In the past two decades, rates of obesity have tripled in developing countries that have been adopting a more Western lifestyle in terms of food consumption, according to The New England Journal of Medicine. A study by the United Nations in 1999 found obesity in all developing parts of the world, and it tends to grow as income increases. Even in sub-Saharan Africa, where most of the world’s hungriest people live, an increase in obesity is taking place, especially among urban women. The World Health Organization has pointed out that this pandemic originated in the United States, crossed to Europe and the world’s other rich nations, and then appeared in even the world’s poorest countries, especially in their urban areas.
Dr. Barbara Burlingame, a nutrition officer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, has noted that obesity often leads to micronutrient deficiency, which can lead in turn to such health threats as anemia, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While starvation-level hunger remains one of the world’s most serious food problems, the growing level of obesity in developing nations has created a new challenge that calls for more attention to the quality as well as the quantity of food. Much of the blame can be placed on multinational companies that market cheap, highly refined fats, oils and carbohydrates. The influence of the West, with its penchant for high-calorie and sugary fast foods, is a growing culprit that must be dealt with, along with profit-driven multinational companies.