ASK FATHER: Patriotic songs at Mass



From a reader…


Fr. Martin recently wrote an article about how patriotic songs should not be sung during mass. His argument is essentially that most national hymns address the nation rather than God. In all honesty, I think he may be right. It would seem more appropriate to me for songs like America the Beautiful [NOT the magazine] to be sung before or after mass rather than during. However, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Perhaps he needs a safe space, free from these triggers and aggressions.

If Jesuit James Martin is against them, then let’s all be for them.

The other day after ordinations in the Diocese of Madison, the Extraordinary Ordinary lead us all in singing both the Salve Regina (also not directed to God), and God Bless America (not the magazine). Nobody foamed at the mouth or fainted from shock.

Let’s all sing – after Mass – the Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory, Glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

You can see why a song like this might make certain men nervous and uncomfortable.

Notice that the song says “As He did to make men holy…”.

For the LATIN of the Battle Hymn go HERE (good summer reading tip there, too).  And there’s this!  HERE

It’s okay to have patriotic flags in churches, though they should be placed discreetly at the sides. It is okay to have a patriotic songs on certain national holidays.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Lighter fare, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Imrahil says:

    During? No.

    After? Depends on the anthem.

    I was at a Primice last Sunday where we sang, after Mass, before Holy God we praise Thy Name, the Anthem May the Lord save thee, Bavaria with an additional stanza pleading the Blessed Virgin Patroness for intercession. No complaints there.

    But what’s the question about? I doubt anyone would sing a patriotic song during, as opposed to after, Mass at all.*

    [* Unless it’s the song Now thank we all our God as Communion thanksgiving or so, which does not contain any reference to the Nation at all, but which is considered among particularly some Protestants a patriotic hymn because the Prussians once sung it after defeating the Austrians at Leuthen.]

    (That’s also a custom for Corpus Christi processions, for the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Patroness, and similar occasions.)

  2. Eliane says:

    For those of us in the United States who distance ourselves from nation’s unending military entanglements against countries that pose no threat, patriotic songs are very painful to witness. At my Rotary club, when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, I place a hand over my heart for civility’s sake while hating the experience, but do not recite the words. I would not want to be imposed upon that way at Mass. I have no allegiance toward gratuitous warfare, internal meddling in insurgencies, “regime change,” and all the rest of the New World Order activities. Such activities clearly also include the promotion of sodomy, which brings us full circle to Fr. Martin and why he might get all gooey over the red-white-and-blue and want it crammed down Catholic throats. I feel blessed to be able to be part of a Catholic community that keeps secularist propaganda out. Regardless of the political views of any parishioner, I can’t imagine being subjected to pseudo-patriotism at Mass. I only hope it lasts.

  3. Red_Shirt_Hero says:

    Here in the U.K., we have ‘Jerusalem’ which does speaks of both God and Satan, but is essentially a hymn to England. We also have ‘I Vow to Thee my Country’, which does not mention God at all, but is about virtuous service to our earthly kingdom and then the heavenly kingdom.

  4. Cantor says:

    In the two military choirs in which I sang, we always finished Battle Hymn with an enormous AMEN just in case people forgot it was a prayer. A blessed Fourth to all.

  5. APX says:

    Just his past Sunday after Mass we sang O Canada (which is partially directed towards God…for now. The liberals are in the process of changing it, and God Save the Queen.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    @Eliane: I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve never been a fan of pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth.

    From a liturgical standpoint, I do not think national or patriotic songs of any kind are appropriate in the Roman liturgy. It is bad enough we have the “four hymn sandwich”. We need to pray and sing the Mass, i.e., the proper entrance, offertory, and communion antiphons, with some verses from the appropriate psalm, if necessary.

    I suppose there are some “national hymns”, such as “God of our Fathers” or “Eternal Father Strong to Save” (it’s what they sang in Cameron’s “Titanic” film) that could be used for the recessional hymn, which itself allows for great flexibility, as there is no proper “recessional antiphon”. “God Save the Queen” is a true hymn / prayer, though obviously not something that would concern Americans.

    I also dislike national flags being on display in the sanctuary or off to the side. The new Benedictine liturgical movement is about having beautiful, awe-inspiring liturgies that turn us toward heaven and away from the world. Keep the songs of the world out, whether it’s “Jazz Masses”, “Folk Masses”, or nationalistic / political “hymns”.

  7. AnnTherese says:

    I don’t think they belong, but appropriate songs about God’s care, blessing, and peace would work.

    Announcements after Communion and before (or after) blessing don’t belong, either. If we don’t allow family members to give a eulogy at a funeral Mass because it’s considered irreverent, then why is talking about dunk tanks, funnel cakes, and beer tents at the parish festival okay at Mass? That’s what bulletins are for. If people don’t bother to read it, too bad. There.

  8. Hans says:

    Ah, The Battle Hymn of the Republic was sung after the dismissal at St. Francis Xavier in Gettysburg on Sunday. It seemed particularly appropriate.

  9. gdweber says:

    Sometimes an ‘e’ makes a big difference: ‘Notice that the song says “As He di[e]d to make men holy…”.’

  10. CradleRevert says:

    This is probably the one time where I agree with Fr. Martin. Nothing against patriotic songs, but Mass is about giving honor to God. I love my wife, but I would never suggest that we sing “Happy Birthday” to her during Mass.

  11. Elizabeth D says:

    Besides God Bless America at the ordination, at Bishop Morlino’s cathedral church (without the bishop being present) we sang My Country ‘Tis of Thee as the recessional this past Sunday. Technically the recessional is after Mass. I would have enjoyed the Battle Hymn of the Republic much more!

    I went to that ordination with two people who had never been to an ordination before, one a devout lady older than me and one a young man who had been fallen-away for some while and still somewhat shaky in his faith. I sat between these two. When the Bishop started singing Salve Regina the devout lady was trying to ask me, what is this? She was so baffled how everyone (well, many) seemingly knew this Latin song. The young man told me later i sang very well (Fr Z knows better) and how enthralled he was by the music at this Mass. But the devout lady’s confusion was more striking to me and made me sad how impoverished Catholics are that someone like her who loved the Faith so much had apparently rarely been exposed to the Salve Regina. She asked me again later and I told her it is Salve Regina, the Hail Holy Queen.

  12. capchoirgirl says:

    I miss singing “Battle Hymn” on national holidays. My old parish did it. New one doesn’t.
    I can’t believe how many people get so upset about this on twitter. Patriotism is, after all, a virtue.

  13. Lynn Diane says:

    Today at the beginning of Mass we sang the national hymn, which is included in the Ignatius Press Adoremus Hymnal:
    “God of our fathers, whose almighty hand,
    Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
    Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
    Our grateful songs before thy throne arise.”
    The second verse asks God to be our ruler, the third asks that He deliver us from wars and pestilence, the fourth praises Him. What is the objection to our national hymn?

  14. JustaSinner says:

    I’m sure Jesuit James is only upset if you sing pro-American songs. After all, America is responsible for all of the ills of the world, and the election of Donald Trump as President proves it. One question. How would Jesuit James and his gang fare under global Islamic domination? Well, me thinks we’ve seen the videos from ISIS already…

  15. Broggi66 says:

    We sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic after Mass on Sunday. In fact, every 4th of July. It’s always a rousing rendition!

  16. Phil_NL says:

    This is one of those things that is easily solved with a bit of common sense.

    And as that’s usually in very short supply these days, brace for a hornet’s nest. Let’s explore a few intellectually entertaining aspects:

    – It matters for which country the patriotism is, and how that relates to the Church. For example, the US has historically a positive relation with Christianity. Singing “God bless America” at Mass doesn”t seem out of place; America [no, not the magazine] has historically sought God’s blessing, as have its citizens. However, imagine a French church where the congregation is asked to sing “La Marseillaise” (or, something less formal like “La caramagnole”). While the text itself is merely patriotic and not anti-Catholic, it was born of a very anti-Catholic revolution. Just ask mesdames et messieurs in the Vendée, for example.
    Even more interesting would be Hadyn’s Hob.XXVIa:43 played instrumentally. In Germany, that’s the melody for the national anthem. However, if someone would sing the lines from the original first stanza of the Deutschlandlied (“Deutschland, Deutscland über alles”) in Church, I wouldn’t blame the priest if he then calls the bishop to reconsecrate the church. Yet just across the border, in Austria, that same melody used to be the anthem as well, with a different text: “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser”. Which given the Habsburg links gives an entirely different connotation; in fact it was played and sung during the requiem for Otto von Habsburg in the Wiener Dom a few years ago.
    – It matters when it is sung in Church. As dear Imrahil already mentioned, during Mass is different from after Mass. But even there, we have gradations. Again, ‘God bless America’ during Mass, I’d be OK with that. “The stars and stripes forever” afterwards as a recessional? Nah, bad idea, unless everyone present is over 85 and can’t move to the tune anyway.
    – It matters how big the variation in political outlook is among the attendants. It might range from a troop of USMC veterans (who’d probably jump at the chance to sing the last stanza to the Marine Corps Hymn, and rightly so””And if the army and the navy – ever look on Heaven’s scenes – they will find the streets are guarded – by United States Marines!”), to people with pacifist or leftist tendencies – or those views as described by Elaine above. As it is foremost Mass, one shouldn’t do anything if that’s at the same time alien to the Mass itself, not needed and known to be a major distraction*. But that depends mightily on who’s there.

    * But outside Mass, things change again. Maybe it’s lacking in Christian charity, but I must confess a certain fondness for the idea of having “Hail to Chief” sung in LA Cathedral; outside Mass would do just fine, tyvm. I reckon one youtube movie with that would halve the attendance at a certain annual conference organized by that diocese and regularly described as “Three days of darkness” on this site)

  17. joekstl says:

    We sing our National Anthem on Federal holidays after the recessional song when we are requested to remain. The US flag and the Papal flag are displayed in the narthex.

  18. Ipsitilla says:

    In his column, Fr. Martin writes, “Indeed, in liturgy, to whom are we singing: to God or to ourselves?” That’s a great question – obviously, there are important exceptions, (like Salve Regina as mentioned by Fr. Z), but has Fr. Martin been equally critical of laterally-focused songs like “All Are Welcome” or “Sing A New Church”? I’m genuinely curious…

  19. JTH says:

    Patriotism is a natural consequence of gratitude to God for all his favors, including the gift of our beloved homeland.- Father John Higgins

    Pope John Paul II had a great love for his country, Poland.

    Fr. Higgins and St. John Paul II have it right.

  20. The Masked Chicken says:

    Ah, but you haven’t really heard, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, until you’ve heard it in the original Klingon.

    The Chicken

  21. hwriggles4 says:


    Thanks for mentioning and participating in a military choir. When I worked in Colorado Springs years ago I would attended public Mass twice a month at the United States Air Force Academy. Oftentimes at the end of Mass, the choir would sing:

    Lord guard and guide us in this flight
    Through the great spaces across the sky
    Be with them traversing the air
    In darkening storms or sunshine fair.

    I always liked that song.

  22. Gerhard says:

    I loved your “And there’s this! HERE”. Hopefully we can sing this during next year’s Paris to Chartres “walk” (ND de Chretiente please, please add it to the booklet!)
    The Battle Hymn of the Republic duly reminds us to be the Church Militant. My only problem is that there’s another version blistered 35 years ago onto my sub-conscience, beginning with the words “He was just a rookie trooper …”. The British adapted version, which mentions bayonets and bullets in the chorus, is somewhat more sanguine than your US “clean” version.

  23. If people bothered to read the history of the Battle Hymn of the Republic (which Oregon catholic Press has changed the title of to “My Eyes Have Seen the Glory” (and neutered it in the process…no surprise), they would, instead of an emotional anti-reaction to singing it after Mass, would (may?) appreciate both the sentiments as well as the images which drove its composition. As a recessional or postlude, I’m of the opinion it IS appropriate on a national holiday such as this. Especially the last verse:

    “In the beauty of the lillies Christ was born across the sea,
    With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
    As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
    While God is marching on.”

    (you can see why OCP would have the vapors over that verse)

    600,000 Americans did just that. Either that or “On Eagle’s Wings” or some other showtune? I’ll take the Hymn.

    Flags IN the Sanctuary? Nah. On the side at the front of the nave? Is it that important or a hill to die on because it’s not perfect for a Catholic church structure in the US? There are bigger issues to worry about.

  24. Sliwka says:

    Mr APX,
    I honestly don’t care too much if they change the anthem because it has been changed in the past (prior to official adoption as our anthem). The “thy sons” was a recruiting line at the outset of the Great War if I’m not mistaken. Honestly, if we had a real translation of the original French, written for the Québécois celebration of St John the Baptist, I’d be pleased.

    Mr JTH,
    How much of patriotism in should be tied to the land vs the State? Clearly P. S. John Paul II had no affection for the Communist State. If an anthem is a signifies for the unjust or heretical modern liberal or even a Socialist/Communist State should a Catholic express his patriotism by joining in?

  25. Momoffour says:

    I agree with most of the comments here, our parish had “God Bless America” as the recessional hymn this Sunday which was not on July Fourth. So I didn’t care for it as it was premature, but otherwise yes a patriotic hymn that Revere’s Our Lord such as Battle Hymn is lovely.

  26. Sword40 says:

    In the “olden days” when I went to the N.O. Mass we used to sing all sorts of stuff on the 4th of July.
    during the All Saints day Mass we used to sing “when the Saints go marching in”.

    For several years now I have been Blessed with the Traditional Mass and all the music is in Latin with the occasional exception of “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” .

    I can appreciate patriotic music but not during Mass.

  27. Imrahil says:

    Dear Phil_NL,

    just as a brief parenthesis: you do realize that while the old Deutschland, Deutschland über alles stanza does display a remarkably un-German and slightly un-Catholic spirit of centralism and anti-federalism, still the next line makes sure to precisate: in der Welt, that is, it is to be taken just above all worldly things and not anything else…

    When that melody is heard in Church, though, the obvious choice of text is:
    |: Tantum ergo sacramehentum
    veneremur cernuhui :|
    et antiquum documehentum
    novo cedat rituhui;
    |: praestet fihides supplemehentum
    sensuuhum dehefectuhui. :|

  28. Imrahil says:

    By the way,

    I also think it is okay to have patriotic flags in Church (if there is no other principle involved that would make this impossible*). In principle.

    But: Not in the presbytery; not at a general flagpole visible from more or less far away, and – and here I guess I have to disagree with our reverend host – not all the time. On patriotic holidays, yes. Displaying the flags of both involved countries of a foreign visit to the parish, yes. Anything that makes the Church look as sticking to the virtue of patriotism for the Country it happens to be in, as one virtue among other virtues, yes. But anything that makes the Church look as an institution where, when all is said and done, integration into the greater body of The Nation is what matters, no: and hence, I should say, the tradition to permanently put a flag to (even, say) a side-altar is a wrong one.

    (By coincidence, as far as I know it is ever the Stars and Stripes that are displayed here, and the place does not suffice to display the State flag if we don’t want to totally dominate the place with secular flags. But I guess this preferral of the Federation flag not only on top of, but entirely instead of, the State flag is problematic even on purely secular grounds, federalism-wise.)

    [* This means that even when it was the accepted flag of the land, it was intrinsically wrong to Display the swastika flag, as it stood for the false principle of National Socialism. This coincidentally also means that even if people may have mixed and not altogether negative Feelings about the defence of their forefathers, there must not be any Confederate flag, ever, as it stands for the false principle of slavery.]

  29. JonPatrick says:

    I have to comment on a couple of the responses above concerning the Pledge of Allegiance (and by extension the whole concept of patriotic songs). Of course we do not literally pledge our allegiance to a piece of cloth. It reminds me of what some people used to say about Eucharistic Adoration (“why are you worshiping a piece of bread?”) Of course the consecrated host in a monstrance for us Catholics is actually the Body and Blood of Christ whereas the flag is not actually the country. However it has strong symbolism – the stars and stripes representing the individual states and reminding us that the country is a Republic with a balance of power between a Federal Government and the individual states and by extension the cities, towns, and individuals that make it up. Important to remember this as the liberals and establishment types try to whittle away as much as possible any power outside of the Federal bureaucracy. The source of those individual rights is our creation in the image and likeness of God, as alluded to in our Declaration of Independence. Hopefully as we sing our songs and recite the pledge we recall these facts and remember who it is that is the basis of our freedoms.

  30. Gerard Plourde says:

    As the Church always wisely instructs us, intent is key. If patriotic songs are sung as the recessional, I would hope that the choice would be in the vein of “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless America” as both of these contain invocations that God’s guidance and grace may assist us to conform to His will. (I particularly like the second and third refrains in which we ask that God mend our flaws and we echo the First Letter of St. Peter, asking to refine our “gold” to nobleness.)

    I do have to confess some wariness when the attitude we assume pridefully casts our nation as somehow especially chosen by God to enact His Will on Earth. The example of the history and tribulations experienced by the Jewish people prior to the Incarnation (and let’s not forget the Book of Job) should caution us as to the true cost and meaning of discipleship.

  31. DisturbedMary says:

    Since 2008 I could not sing the words of America the Beautiful or God Bless America or any other song referencing God’s grace on our country, especially at Mass. We elected a proud Democrat representing a party that did not want even one mention of God in its platform. We elected a golden calf who hung Mao ornaments on the nation’s Christmas tree, left out “under God”, omitted “endowed by their Creator” when speaking of our inalienable rights, and probably didn’t even know the Pledge of Allegiance. To even look at the flag and think of God’s grace brought only tears and choking grief.

    That was then. This is now. 2017. A President who declares: ‘In America we don’t worship government, we worship God’. America being called from the Democrat grave. Hope that America as a nation will once again ask for Divine guidance, protection and grace. For that I will sing my heart out at Mass in grateful appreciation for God’s kindness in giving us a chance to redeem ourselves.

  32. marthawrites says:

    On Memorial Day we sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as we approached to receive the Eucharist! I wrote to the Music Minister that I was appalled at his choice of ‘hymns” during the Mass. For the Fourth we sang “Eat This Bread” during Communion and our recessional was “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Our Entrance Hymn was “America the Beautiful.” In the past, Masses on patriotic holidays concluded with “The Battle Hymn…” or “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” I like patriotic songs before and after Mass because everyone sings them –in a spirit of thanksgiving I assume. Being from a military family I would choose “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” in a heartbeat as a recessional.

  33. In response to Elaine and Geoffrey, patriotism, to a certain extent, needs to love the whole nation regardless of its past or present faults. Otherwise, it gets yanked to and fro based on daily occurrences and is never actually love of country. CS Lewis in his Four Loves put it masterfully:

    “The actual history of every country is full of shabby and even shameful doings…. It [loving the nation only when it is good] is like loving your children only ‘if they’re good’, your wife only while she keeps her looks, your husband only so long as he is famous and successful. ‘No man,’ said one of the Greeks, ‘loves his city because it is great, but because it is his.’ A man who really loves his country will love her in her ruin and degeneration–‘England, with all thy faults, I love thee still.’ She will be to him ‘a poor thing but mine own’. He may think her good and great, when she is not, because he loves her; the delusion is up to a point pardonable.”

    So, love your nation deeply, work for her betterment and protection with eyes open to the truth about her, but love her still.

  34. bushboar says:

    I have no issue with an appropriate patriotic song, such as the Battle Hymn or God Bless America being sung, nor do I think it’s inappropriate to acknowledge the national holiday, so long as it does not rise to the level of idolatry as here:

  35. MWindsor says:

    Believe it or not, there are still a lot of southerners that have problems with this hymn. They’ll say, “long live the Republic!” with heartfelt gusto, but this particular hymn is tied to the War of Northern Aggression.

    I know plenty of people that would never sing it, and would walk away if it started playing, even if they agreed with every word and sentiment.

  36. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Great commentary here.

    In general, I am not a fan of patriotic music at all in the Mass. Not because I am not patriotic, but because the prayer of the holy sacrifice of the Mass is by definition universal, for the whole Church. (For this reason as well, I am also not a fan of having lots of congregation-specific intercessions inserted into the general intercessions, which should at any rate be mercifully short).

    While it is something in principle, the distinction of having the patriotic hymn “after Mass” is almost a distinction without a difference, because, in the average OF parish with the unfortunate 4-hymn sandwich, the perception by John and Jane Pewsitter is that all of they hymnody (including the ‘recessional hymn’ [I hate that contrived term]) is all “part of the Mass.”

    Having said all that, singing “God bless America” or “America the Beautiful” immediately after Mass on 4th of July is not the worst of liturgical abuses. Battle hymns are more questionable, because can be perceived as glorifying violence. Granted, war is sometimes justified and even necessary given fallen humanity’s condition, but this is a very slippery slope and a distraction to many Catholics, including solid ones, not just liberals and “snowflakes.”

  37. Imrahil says:

    Dear GerardPlourde,

    I do have to confess some wariness when the attitude we assume pridefully casts our nation as somehow especially chosen by God to enact His Will on Earth.

    As you have said it, I may partly agree.

    Partly, though. When a colonial war is started with the stated aim to “bring Christianity to the Philippines” at a time the Philippines were already safely Catholic, that was (let’s use the word:) problematic.

    But for all problematicisms, I don’t know how History can be read in any other manner than leading to a very probable speculation that God actually did especially choose the United States of America to lead the crusades against the heresies of Nazism and Communism. Neither does it seem without significance that the first village freed actually had the name Saint Mère Église.

  38. First let’s state what should be obvious, but alas, is not: why are we having hymns — at all?

    Hymns came into Mass as a substitute for the assigned, chanted prayers that are meant to accompany processions: the introit, the offertory and the communion; i.e., the “propers” for Mass. This custom long predates the Second Vatican Council, and continued after it. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal reflects the mind of the Council in pushing the use of the propers, either of the day, or seasonal propers. Hymns, strictly speaking, aren’t even called for, but come in under the rubric of “another suitable chant” or some language of that sort. These proper chants are Scripture based; they can be sung either in Latin or in the vernacular; but one hardly encounters them.

    So…if there must be hymns, then it depends on what patriotic hymns one has in mind. “God Bless America” is hardly a hymn at all. It is a popular song and as far as I know, was never intended in any way for worship. It’s sentiments are bland. “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” has better substance, but to me, it’s more directed to the country than to God; and I can’t help noticing it’s just “God Save the Queen” with different words. Not bad; just distracting. “America the Beautiful” seems to me the most prayerful of the best known songs, but I think in that case, all four verses ought to be sung, as the final one completes the thought of the whole poem. I love our national anthem, but I think it is entirely inappropriate for worship.

    “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” really is a hymn, as far as I know; but I detest its sentiments. It is an offensive combination of jingoism, arrogance and millenarianism — that is to say, it reflects the mindset of the most radical abolitionists. Because they rightly detested slavery, we tend not to see the other ways they were odious. This song brings it out. They saw the Civil War in apocalyptic terms, which is gratifying if you are deemed among the children of light, but not so nice if you are determined to be servants of the Beast.

    If you don’t know this, the song isn’t so bad; but to me, it’s in the same category as the Internationale, which I hope to God is not sung at Holy Mass anywhere.

  39. Semper Gumby says:

    Great post Father Z. Many great comments from Phil_NL, JTH, capchoirgirl, Elizabeth D, et al. Gerald Plourde and Coast Caritas make an excellent point, if I could sum it up as: love your nation- but without making it an idol out of pride.

    I guess, though, it was bound to happen on the 4th of July. Someone was bound to bring up the Litany of Liberal Laments, and Eliane and Geoffrey did not disappoint.

    Off we go: “I have no allegiance toward gratuitous warfare, internal meddling in insurgencies, “regime change,” and all the rest of the New World Order activities. Such activities clearly also include the promotion of sodomy…” Well, that was an odd non-sequiter. (Hmm… Islamists throw homosexuals off of buildings. Therefore, defeating Islamist regimes and groups should end the execution of homosexuals and thereby “promote sodomy.” But surely Eliane and Geoffrey are not intending to advance a “keep the Islamists in power and thus kill all the sodomites” argument here. But I digress.)

    Let’s move on. As JonPatrick points out to Geoffrey: “Of course we do not literally pledge our allegiance to a piece of cloth. It reminds me of what some used to say about Eucharistic Adoration (“why are you worshiping a piece of bread?”).”

    Indeed. This brings to mind a tale from the West’s struggle with godless Communism during the Cold War. If I could Fr. Z, a longish excerpt from a speech by Medal of Honor winner Col. Leo Thorsness USAF.

    Col. Thorsness:

    “…it reminds me of an incident from my confinement in North Vietnam at the Hao Lo POW Camp, or the Hanoi Hilton, as it became known. Then a major in the U.S. Air Force, I had been captured and imprisoned from 1967-73. Our treatment had been frequently brutal. After three years, however, the beatings and torture became less frequent.

    During the last year, we were allowed outside most days for a couple of minutes to bathe. We showered by drawing water from a concrete tank with a homemade bucket. One day as we all stood by the tank stripped of our clothes, a young naval aviator named Mike Christian found the remnants of a handkerchief in a gutter that ran under the prison wall. Mike managed to sneak the grimy rag into our cell and began fashioning it into a flag.

    Over time we all loaned him a little soap, and he spent days cleaning the material. We helped by scrounging and stealing bits and pieces of anything he could use. At night, under his mosquito netting, Mike worked on the flag. He made red and blue from ground roof tiles and tiny amounts of ink and painted the colors onto the cloth with watery rice glue. Using thread from his own blanket and a homemade bamboo needle, he sewed on stars.

    Early in the morning a few days later, when the guards were not alert, he whispered loudly from the back of our cell, “Hey gang, look here.” He proudly held up this tattered piece of cloth, waving it as if in a breeze. If you used your imagination, you could tell it was supposed to be an American Flag. When he raised that smudgy fabric, we automatically stood straight and saluted, our chests puffed out, and more than a few eyes had tears.

    About once a week, the guards would strip us, run us outside and go through our clothing. During one of those shakedowns, they found Mike’s flag. We all knew what would happen. That night they came for him.

    Night interrogations were always the worst. They opened the cell door and pulled Mike out. We could hear the beginning of the torture before they even had him in the torture cell. They beat him most of the night.

    About daylight they pushed what was left of him back through the cell door. He was badly broken; even his voice was gone. Within two weeks, despite the danger, Mike scrounged another piece of cloth and began another flag. The Stars and Stripes, our national symbol, was worth the sacrifice to him. Now whenever I see the flag, I think of Mike and the morning he first waved that tattered emblem of a nation. It was then, thousands of miles from home in a lonely prison cell, that he showed us what it is to be truly free.”

    Okay. If patriotic songs have been sung and U.S. flags have been present at Mass on the battlefield or onboard warships- and they have (with decorum)- then perhaps Liberals could make an effort one day a year to refrain from petulance. My prayers are with you.

    To wrap this up. Twenty-six hundred years ago or so the Jews were in exile in Babylon. Jeremiah instructed them: “Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the LORD, for upon its welfare your own depends.” (NABRE from the USCCB website.)

    On Sunday morning Dec. 7, 1941, a Navy chaplain took Jeremiah’s words to heart. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began around 0800- at the time of Mass and Morning Colors onboard the ships in the harbor. A 1942 song later commemorated the words and actions of a Navy chaplain onboard one of those ships that morning.

    True, singing “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” would be rather out of place during the Mass. If I may suggest, those exhortations of Jeremiah and that Navy chaplain should be mentally tucked away for possible future use. Pax.

  40. DisturbedMary says:

    Come to think of it, we sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic as the recessional at our parish July 4th Mass and I noticed that the concelebrant (Franciscan) had the hymnal open but did not sing. I wondered whether it bothered him that the lyrics were not “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me” (which we sang at the offertory) but rather about war and campfires and glorifying God.

    Julia Ward Howe an anti-slavery activist wrote “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” in a single night. It was originally published as a poem in Atlantic Monthly. She was paid four dollars. The song became popular among Union soldiers and, later, among abolitionists. It’s reported that Abraham Lincoln cried the first time he heard it.

  41. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    I heartily agree with your view that our opposition to Nazi atrocities was assisted by the grace of God.

    It’s also noteworthy that that war began for the allied powers when aggression by the Axis could no longer be ignored (the invasion of Poland for France and the British Empire, the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii to fully involve the United States), thus (unconsciously perhaps) comporting with a requirement of the Just War doctrine.

    The principle holds when potential antagonists (current Russia) profess to be Christian once again but move aggressively to restore historic borders and subjugate distinct populations (like Ukrainians) in the process. Applying the principle of subsidiarity would lead to a support of Ukrainian sovereignty.

    Things break down when we begin to ascribe a moral and intellectual superiority to our actions. A belief that we are uniquely God’s ordained instrument dangerously tempts us to the sin of Pride, the gravest of the cardinal sins.

  42. Mary Jane says:

    Patriotic songs during mass? Tacky. Patriotic songs as a postlude or prelude, if the situation seems appropriate? Sure, why not.

  43. Filipino Catholic says:

    While nobody in their right mind here would ever permit the Lupang Hinirang to be sung in a Catholic church here, let alone in the churches of the “born-agains” (our term for Evangelicals), there is an old group called the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (a.k.a. the Aglipayans after their founder), currently in communion with the Episcopalians and therefore with the Anglicans, that actually plays our national anthem during their services.

Comments are closed.