Father James Martin: Should we sing patriotic songs at Mass? Probably not.

Yesterday I heard an excellent homily at Mass. The Gospel reading (Mt 10:37-42) had Jesus telling his followers, with the uncompromising language he often used, that nothing comes before God. God comes first, and everything else is secondary—even the love for a mother and a father. In a line that undoubtedly shocked listeners in first-century Palestine and still has the power to shock, he said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”

As the homilist told the congregation this Sunday, everything must be subordinated to God. Agreed.

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That is why it was so jarring to hear the Communion meditation just a few minutes later. It was a song, which I had not heard before, in which the singer pledged her heart to America. Not to Jesus but to the United States of America.

God comes first, and everything else is secondary—even the love for a mother and a father.

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised. It was the Sunday before the Fourth of July, and I have come to expect patriotic songs in Catholic churches in the United States, around that time of year, as well as around Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.

But it was hard not to think: Isn’t this the opposite of what Jesus said in the Gospel? Surely we should all be good Americans and love and honor our country. But especially during the Mass, shouldn’t our hearts be pledged to something, or someone else?

Before we go further, a disclaimer: I am as patriotic as the next person. I love my country. I love saying the Pledge of Allegiance (which I knew before the Act of Contrition). I enjoy singing all manner of patriotic songs, especially “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America,” and when I lived in Kenya for two years and heard the National Anthem at a U.S. Embassy Fourth of July picnic I couldn’t believe how moved I was.

Some of the patriotic songs sung during Masses subordinate the Sacrifice of the Mass to the United States of America.

But we’re not talking about a U.S. Embassy picnic or a Fourth of July parade or a baseball game. We’re talking about the Mass. That is why I have a problem with some of the patriotic songs sung during Masses in this country. It subordinates the Sacrifice of the Mass to the United States of America. Some of the songs make it sound like we are at a Fourth of July picnic.

Typically, these songs are used as entrance hymns or recessional hymns, the two times when Catholics are most likely to join in the singing, which lends them added weight. (During the Offertory Hymns, parishioners are often scouting around for cash for the collection, and during the Communion meditation are either on their way up to or coming back from the Communion line.) Often the entrance hymn is “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and the recessional “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless America.”

Our country is not our savior. Our country did not rise from the dead.

It sometimes rankles. It’s as if the Fourth of July is more important than the Sacrifice of the Mass. As if the signing of the Declaration of Independence is more important than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

And let me be clear: It is not. Our country is not our savior. Our country did not rise from the dead. What’s more, our country is not going to be judging us in the afterlife. I always think of the lines from the Book of Isaiah:

Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket,/ and are accounted as dust on the scales…. All the nations are as nothing before him;/ they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness (Is 40:15-17).

Much of this is subjective. Some Catholics love these songs. They appreciate, as do I, being able to ask God to bless our country, being able to give thanks for our country, and, as one Catholic told me a few years ago, “At least they’re songs that I know!”

Some patriotic songs don’t bother me when sung during the Mass, particularly those you might call quasi-patriotic. “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” is a song that is often sung in military functions, which I love. (Also called the “Navy Hymn” it was a favorite of one of my heroes, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was sung at his funeral.) But it’s quite clearly directed to God.

“My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” on the other hand, is quite clearly about “my country.” It doesn’t get around to mentioning God until the fourth and final verse. Likewise, despite how many times it invokes God, “America the Beautiful” is not about how beautiful God is but how beautiful America is.

“America the Beautiful” is not about how beautiful God is but how beautiful America is.

One of the upsides of singing patriotic hymns is that they often remind us that it is God who is helping us along in whatever good we are trying to do in our nation. “America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw/ Confirm thy soul in self-control/ Thy liberty in law.” That’s an important insight. One of the downsides, however, is that it may encourage a kind of American exceptionalism. That is, isn’t God mending the flaws of other countries? Why not? Does God bless other countries? You can see the problem.

I asked John Baldovin, S.J., professor of historical and liturgical theology at Boston College what he thought of all this. “Frankly, I do not favor patriotic songs like ‘America the Beautiful’ at liturgy,” he wrote in an email today. “My reason is that they are addressed to the nation and not to God. There are patriotic hymns, e.g., ‘God of Our Fathers,’ ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save,’ ‘This is My Song’—all of these are addressed to God. I presided in two parishes this past weekend, and both had ‘America the Beautiful’ as a recessional hymn.”

Thomas Scirghi, S.J., who teaches sacramental theology at Fordham University, agreed, writing: “The patriotic songs should be sung for gatherings which celebrate the nation. For liturgy, though, we should cull the hymnal for appropriate festive hymns, to celebrate that we are ‘one nation under God.’ Indeed, in liturgy, to whom are we singing: to God or to ourselves?”

At a Fourth of July parade, I’m happy to sing to my country. At the Mass, I’d rather sing to my Savior.

Going to an even more authoritative source, the Second Vatican Council’s document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, is of the same mind: “Therefore sacred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites.” That is, the songs should be connected to the Mass.

Father Scirghi posed another question about one of the most popular patriotic hymns. “What do we mean when we sing ‘God Bless America’? Are we stating that ‘God has blessed America’ (as in, ‘Aren’t we great!’) Or are we commanding God to bless this land (‘We earned it!’)? Or are we asking or pleading for God to bless us (so that we may fulfill our destiny)? If it is the third, then we need to ask, ‘And what will we do in return for this blessing?’”

As I said, the question of which patriotic songs should be sung during the Mass may be subjective. And I don’t think it troubled too many of people in the parish yesterday to listen to that Communion meditation about pledging our hearts to America.

For me, however, it’s a question of priorities, and as the homilist pointed out yesterday, what comes first. At a Fourth of July parade, I’m happy to sing to my country. At the Mass, I’d rather sing to my Savior.

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Tony Cotter
4 months 3 weeks ago

Yesterday, we sang a traditional recessional hymn, then God Bless America. I interpreted the singing of the patriotic song as both a recognition of the upcoming holiday, but also a plea to God for His blessing upon our nation at a time when as a nation we are polarized and in desperate need of His guidance. Nonetheless, I can live without the patriotic songs during or after mass, and stick to praying for this country as I recite the Rosary.

Eva Marie Betts
4 months 3 weeks ago

We did Battle Hymn of the Republic. The lyrics are about glorifying God with the last verse highlighting Christ and how the Crucifixion transfigures us. This hymn is about Our Savior and I feel very appropriate for the 4th.

Kathleen O'Hagan
4 months 3 weeks ago

If you think American the Beautiful or God Bless America are odd choices for mass near the 4th of July, I have a better one. How about the Battle Hymn of the Republic? A song that was penned during the Civil War and is strongly associated with only one side, the Union. That was the recessional at mass on Sunday at my parish.

Robert Killoren
4 months 3 weeks ago

Point taken. It does recount a terrible time of war. However it was written by an abolitionist calling for soldiers to be strong and brave in fighting to free the slaves. Only one side had that desire but not even every Yankee shared that feeling. As a former music minister I know that there is tremendous pressure to sing a patriotic song. I never wanted to face the resulting ire if I hadn't included one at the end of Mass. I'm a cowardly patriot I guess.

Mary Katherine Theis
4 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you for saying what I've been thinking all these years. I dislike the idea that our civic observances/holidays
become in practice quasi religious 'holy days'.
At Mass this is most often expressed through the hymns.

Nothing against praying for our country; God knows we need prayer!

Beth Cioffoletti
4 months 3 weeks ago

Please, don't put a flag in my Church either. I love my country, but singing patriotic songs and waving flags in Church is getting close to jingoism. Our God is the God of all of us.

One Pentecost, which also was Memorial Day weekend, I was attending Mass at the Abby of Gethsemani with the Trappist monks. During the prayers of the faithful, the monk invoked: Let us pray for all who have died in wars, both those for us and against us. That sounded right to me.

Ann Johnson
4 months 3 weeks ago

I agree with this 100%.

James MacGregor
4 months 3 weeks ago

Agree!!! I haven't heard prayers for the terrorists lately. I proposed that once in a Christian forum. The response was "What's he talking about."

J Cosgrove
4 months 3 weeks ago

The cornerstone of the Church where I went on Sunday was engraved

For God and country

We sang "God Bless America" at the end probably louder than any hymn I heard there in the last few months since Easter. I cannot believe anyone would object and instead insert some boring hymn that no one would sing. We also have a military Mass once a year where the bag pipes are brought in and near Memorial Day and Veterans day those in the pews who ere veterans are asked to stand.

The people all enthusiastically approved. I cannot believe "For God and country" takes away from the celebration of the Mass.

America the Beautiful” is not about how beautiful God is but how beautiful America is.

No, it is about how beautiful God made America and how God will make it better and was composed in a church and published to celebrate the 4th of July.

"God shed His grace on thee,"

An aside: my wife belongs to a popular singing group that performs at assisted living homes and public places such as libraries and hospitals. This spring they did an Irving Berlin repertoire that ended with "God Bless America." The conductor was reluctant about putting "God Bless America" into the concert since these were all secular places. It was the hit of the concert as most stood at the end and placed their hands over their hearts.

So if you follow the recommendation of the OP, one cannot sing such songs in church and you cannot sing them outside of church, will it be forbidden everywhere. Is that where we are headed?

Robert Nagy
4 months 3 weeks ago

If God is in us and we are in God, our sharing God's love with others (mother, father, etc.,) is an act of loving God; and, an act of the other being loved by God in us. It doesn't need to be either/or. It can be both/and as long as our recognition of the other is based on our knowledge of God's presence in the relationship. Loving God is primary; and, loving our neighbor is like loving God. [The first and greatest commandment is to love God. A second is like it: to love your neighbor as yourself.] Expressing one's love for another (including a homeland) does not mean our love is limited only to that other. We shouldn't have to add that we have others whom we love whenever we express our love for another.

Robert Killoren
4 months 3 weeks ago

That is sad, Father. I am sorry you cannot see how America the Beautiful can be like a psalm. The Hebrew people often sang songs about Zion. They believed it was an exceptional place. Behind the psalms is a recognition that we have God to thank. A place like the prairies of America with their Amber fields of grain was and is a symbol to me of God's goodness and bounty. When I sing of their exceptional nature it is because the prairie was one of the places where I first encountered God. It was where my grandfather labored to feed his five children during the depression and struggled on through hardship and trials with a strong faith in God which was passed on to my mom and on to me and my children and grandchildren. Likewise I treasure the freedom that God has made possible for me and my children. How many people around the world pray to God for freedom from oppression. How my great great grandfather must have yearned for that kind of freedom and opportunity during the potato famine in Ireland. I don't worship this country or its flag. I honor them and thank God who made this land. America has too many memories of the terrible way people were treated by our forebears to ever think of worshipping this country. But we would be wrong not to thank God for our country and the opportunity God has given us to make it truly free and just. That's why I sang along with our recessional hymn America the Beautiful yesterday. I sang it to praise God not to boast about how strong and powerful and exceptional we are. That's why I think some so called patriotic songs are good to sing in Church, not at offertory or communion but after the deacon says the Mass is ended 😉

Vincent Gaglione
4 months 3 weeks ago

I agree with Father Martin completely. I am glad that he had the temerity to say it and America Magazine had the guts to print it.

I also agree with Beth Cioffoletti’s comment here about the USA flag on the altar or in the church. Whether many of my co-religionists realize it or not, the Catholic Church is a globalist institution, maybe the original one! Our loyalty and allegiance is to the Catholic Church. One need only to watch the film clips of German Roman Catholic Bishops giving a Nazi salute to realize where all of this nationalism in church has taken us in the not so distant past!

Stuart Meisenzahl
4 months 3 weeks ago

"Temerity" is a fine word for Father Martin's article ....but whereas you meant it as a a compliment I find it appropriate for entirely the opposite reason. It is bizarre and oddly contorted to conclude that it is "liturgically incorrect" or possibly offensive at a Mass to sing/honor/celebrate/remember/thank the hundreds of thousands of dead soldiers and veterans for living out Christ's own admonition : " Greater Love Has No Man Than He Give Up His Life For Another".

Celebrating the Catholic Church for "globalism" is the creation of a new "Liturgical Correctness" much akin to the "political correctness" that afflicts our schools and institutions today. The Church's mission is undeniably global but the institution as built hardly fits this new mantra of Globalism. The negation by a Jesuit of indigenous patriotism as part of the physical celebration of Mass is peculiarly difficult to accept in the light of their celebrated Xavierian missions which syncretically and intentionally incorporated the traditions, customs , music and beliefs of its converts.
I note that the" globalist Vatican State " not only has ambassadors it calls Nuncios, but also receives ambassadors from other states;has a post office; and has a Secretary of State and an executive council (Curia"), as well as State Schools etc, etc. But more to the Flag critique Vince elicits , there is both a State /Papal Flag in its Churches and a National Anthem which the Vatican quickly tries to disclaim by saying "it is not really a National anthem" ....."it has words and music that speak to the heart of many through out the world who see in Rome the See of St Peter " . It is played whenever the Pope is present (hail to the chief?) and each day when the Swiss Guard raises that Flag! Ah "globalism" !!
It strikes me that if .."...words and music of our own patriotic songs speak to our hearts" of the sacrifice of self that Christ praised in his admonition :"Greater Love..............", then what is good enough for the Pope and Curia ought to be good enough for his Church in America"!
I take some delight in thinking of Father Martin, who is serendipitously moving to Rome, having to rise each morning to the sound of the Vicar of Christ's Vatican anthem being played with the raising of the Papal flag, and hearing those same notes played in St Peters upon the Pope's ceremonial arrival. Not to mention his reporting on "the globalism" displayed by the Papal Flag on the Pope's plane upon its arrival in each new country. I have to add that the lyrics of the Vatican Anthem include the following lines:

The Holy Heir of true and holy Faith
Comfort and refuge of those who believe and fight (!!!!)
Force and Terror will not prevail
But truth and love will reign.

By the way Vince, those saluting "Nazi" Bishops existed under the Reichskonkordat of 1933 negotiated by Cardinal Pacelli, subsequent Pius 12! ( witnessed no less by Cardinal Montini Paul6) Lest you condemn that agreement too quickly, America Magazine describes the Concordat as being necesssary to protect the Church and being ...." ambiguous in its day and still remains so....." ( America Magazine , Sept 1, 2003).
Gotta watch that "globalism brush" it has Tar on both ends!

Vincent Gaglione
4 months 3 weeks ago

Hello Stuart,
We – and I emphasize the “we” because we are complicit in it - are the inheritors of a political establishment accreted by the Bishops of Rome through the centuries. There is nothing in the Gospels or Christian scriptures to give it any basis but a hunger for secular power which many Bishops of Rome possessed in excess. Whatever flags and anthems go along with the Vatican state are that many more embarrassments to the Catholic Christian Faith. A crucifix and the Sign of the Cross serve us well as daily visible icons of our Catholic Faith.

As for the enculturation of Christian beliefs into non-Western societies, I do not presume that Francis Xavier would have expected Japanese Christians to fall into lock step with their emperor-worshipping fellow citizens going into WWII. (The great irony of WWII is that the atomic bombs were aimed at two of the most Christian-populated cities in Japan.)

Finally, America Magazine’s support of the Reichskonkordat of 1933 was just another example of the wide range of opinions that you can find in these pages. I would venture to guess that the approval would be regarded as ill-considered these days. Do I detect a reluctance on your part to affirm the “globalist” label and brand for Catholicism?

A belated happy July 4th!

Vinny

Stuart Meisenzahl
4 months 3 weeks ago

Vince
As I noted the Church has a "global mission"......that certainly does not mean a mission to make us "globalist"
The Vatican Anthem was not established in some long past time....it was officially adopted on 1949 by Pius 12.
The comment about the historic Jesuit Mission methodology of incorporating local customs, traditions and beliefs directly contradicts the thesis set forth by Father Martin: "Don't mix the liturgy with local patriotic music"! There was no suggestion that the Jesuits expected their Christian converts to follow the Japanese emperor Diety into battle or otherwise....that point is a red herring of your manufacture.

As to the long history of Papal excess you reference, the Jesuits were in fact the official Papal Storm Troopers of Counter Reformation and have never been noted critics of the Pope to whom they make a personal vow of loyalty. Whatever you and I might think, the argument Father Martin makes about separating Church and State lies rather uneasily upon the tongue of Jesuit History. As for myself I owe no political allegiance to the Holy See. But I certainly resent a Jesuit who owes just such allegiance by vow suggesting I have a liturgical conflict for celebrating an American Allegience. By the way, focus for a moment on the official name adopted for this very Jesuit Magazine.
Finally let's ask the Editors if America Magazine takes a current position on the 1933 Concordat......should be interesting!

Vincent Gaglione
4 months 2 weeks ago

Hey Stuart,

We are far off the original topic, but worth the discussion for sure!

You write: As I noted the Church has a "global mission"......that certainly does not mean a mission to make us "globalist".

I would suggest that you engage in rhetorical sleight of mouth!

Globalist, as an adjective, is defined as “relating to or advocating the operation or planning of economic and foreign policy on a global basis.”

We are a “globalist” church to be sure. We believe in the economic and social well-being of all life, all humankind, not just Catholics, not defined by borders, but shared with all peoples in all nations. (I presume you contribute to Peter’s Pence collections.) Church teachings and papal pronouncements on those issues are pretty clear. The Gospels are even clearer…feed the hungry, etc. We are called to do it not just where we live but for our fellow human beings worldwide.

Your “global mission” of the Church, it is to teach all nations, baptizing them, including them into the Christian community. But whether or not they accept the Faith, we nonetheless preach globalist pro-life policies, including such things as food, clothing, shelter, work, justice, peace, etc. for all humankind.

As for your comments about the political history of the Catholic Church, it is an embarrassment in too many ways and I have no doubt in my mind that all of us as Catholics will be held accountable to the Almighty for our silence to what we should have been really protesting and objecting.

As for Jesuits, their vow of obedience to the Roman Pontiff in no way obstructs or conflicts with their citizenship in any nation, since it is a moral obedience in pursuit of the Church's global mission and its globalist policies. Given the fact that they are human, not “superhuman” as some would characterize them, they can be just as wrong as you and me in figuring out the world.

Vinny

Stuart Meisenzahl
4 months 2 weeks ago

Vince
I won't belabor the point ......you view of Church "globalism" imbues its apostolic mission with political and economic attributes very much like those that got the Church into that sphere during the "great colonial episode" when the Cross was used to imbue people with a better political and economic way of life! We all know where that got us. The Church has no expertise in politics or in economics. It's expertise/mission is to change the hearts and minds of individuals who work in the economic and political areas and those who vote for and abide by those policies.
You are suggesting that instead of "Godless Socialism" we have " God Sponsored Socialism" . The flaw of of course is that it would not be God who designs and implements the operative economic methods and political policies.
Communism " with God" would have impoverished just as many people as "Godless Communism" managed to accomplish. To tie this get back to the topic of Father Martin's article ....patriotic music at Mass........ what you are suggesting under your description of Social Justice Globalism is that "The Internationale" would be the most appropriate patriotic song for Mass. indeed , I note that the often masked street fighters for Social Justice manage A few bars of that song :
"Arise ye toilers of the earth
For reason thunders new creation
'Tis a better world in birth"

rose-ellen caminer
4 months 2 weeks ago

Our enemies give up their lives for their brethren too. That what wars consist of. These patriotic songs sung in churches have the effect of glorifying war which is not what Christians should be doing. We should pray for all soldiers friend and foe alike. That's Christianity.

rose-ellen caminer
4 months 1 week ago

PS We should also pray for the civilians these soldiers kill. They are erased from our nationalistic glorification of war and the military, narratives.

Joseph Galloy
4 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you for listing some sound reasons to doubt this discomforting practice. From the beginning, humans have felt the impulse to place their own ways (and laws) above those of God. Regardless of the reasons for or against, my conscience has always made me feel uncomfortable singing these songs at Mass. For that reason alone I am forced to question the propriety of this custom. Jesus did not say "For God and country" (a very human phrase) but "Render unto Caesar..."

Dave McDonald
4 months 3 weeks ago

We seem incapable of learning the repeated lesson of history. When religion mixes with nationalism, bad things inevitably happen.

Joseph Ciliberto
4 months 3 weeks ago

I agree with you Father. All the songs you mentioned, except the Navy Hymn which I leaned in the Navy, I learned in Catholic grammar school. In the Gospel, you mentioned, it ends with Jesus reminding us to give the drink of water to the child. It ends with a duty - mercy. The homilist reminded us of two kinds of merit. Merit from our works that can only come through the grace of God, that the merit is His, and a second kind of merit that I gathered for us for doing his will. And what of American merit? Everyday America inhales and exhales through the abundant graces God gives us. We rise, labor, rest and enjoy an amazing abundance of libation and liberty that we believe has become uniquely ours. Then, who is the child to whom we offer water? I find it emotionally difficult to sing God Bless America (and I'm a Flyers fan). We are caught up in our pride. As one comment points out "for God and Country" - pro Dei et patria. This expression has wrung hallow since I came to understand our history. My patriotism has not been diminished, I love and appreciate my country. Like you I am well traveled and like you, hearing the National Anthem on some foreign shore is a moving event. But as Catholics, we need to focus not on prideful emotion but how we have, in our lifetimes stood silent, as I have voted as I have, took up arms as I have, and looked the other way, as I have, and sang patriotic song as I do, while we do not offer that drink. Christ said, if your son asked for a fish would you offer a snake? What snake or scorpion are we offering instead of that drink to that child? We destroy their homes, we bomb them, we shoot them in their mothers' arms, we provide the means for other to do the same. When they have no place to go they hear our singing, they understand our the lyrics, and they run to us, they swim , they sail, they fly, they drown, they collapse, they arrive, are turned away, are sent back and they die trying with their last breath, their hope, tear and heartbeat to come get the American Catholic's drink, that we do not offer. We close our doors, turn away, and remark how dangerous they are to us. Our young come home changed, broken, damaged, in boxes, in pieces, wiht no end in sight, and we sing at Mass, God Bless America, land that I love, Stand beside her, and guide her..... I request permission to relive the helm.

Mary Fran Cherry
4 months 3 weeks ago

Well, if Father Martin thinks singing patriotic songs at Mass is a bad Idea, I am all for singing patriotic songs then. I can't think of anything Fr. Martin thinks that I agree with. We sang America the Beautiful this morning. Our country, with all its sins, many of which Fr. Martin supports, need all the help we can get from Almighty God.

Ann Johnson
4 months 3 weeks ago

I suppose one could then ask why do you read his columns since you agree with nothing he says and indicate that he supports our many sins. You might be happier reading The Wanderer or First Things.

Henry George
4 months 2 weeks ago

Ann,

I would hope you read articles that do more than just agree with what you said.
The suggestion, or is it an admonition to read the Wanderer or First Things seems uncalled for,
though I might suggest you add them to your reading list.

Lisa Weber
4 months 3 weeks ago

I would not want more than one patriotic song at Mass and it is best if it is the recessional hymn, after "The Mass is ended." Placed at the end, a patriotic song acknowledges the holiday and the lives we are soon to resume. Church is always embedded in a particular time and place. I find it helpful to be reminded of that, though I agree that patriotic songs are not appropriate at communion.

Henry George
4 months 3 weeks ago

I am rather befuddled why "God Bless America" would offend anyone.

What befuddles me more, if we follow the reasoning of Fr. Martin and the
"Spirit of Vatican II", is that most of the songs, they don't seem to qualify
as hymns, forced upon us at Mass, are not inspiring. They often have more to do about humans than God, and are not sung by the congregation, if at all, with any enthusiasm. If you add on that folk group is now at the front of the church, that their singing dominates the Mass, and that they are performing not worshipping, one can only wonder why "God Bless America" so offends save that the Congregation does not need a song leader to sing it and they sing it as it should be sung, not all dressed up with awful arrangements.

While questioning the Patriotic Hymns that created a speck in your eye,
Father Martin, you seem to have missed the logs in ours.

Jacqueline Daniel
4 months 3 weeks ago

Thanks Fr. James for pointing out this. I totally agree with you.
I am not American but I lived and studied in the US for four years and all the time I kept wondering ... has the Catholic church changed in this part of the world where Christians sing patriotic songs during celebrations of the Holy Mass?
During the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, all our concentration should be centered at worshiping our creator but not at celebrating the events of our country. Everything at its proper time.
"America, the beautiful......." is totally a patriotic song. This is very different from singing "We thank you God for the gift of our country......." (if such a song exists).

Vince Killoran
4 months 3 weeks ago

I think Fr. Martin makes a compelling argument. While we are at it, we should ditch "Danny Boy" and other sentimental favorites at funerals, St. Patrick's Day masses, etc.

John Walton
4 months 3 weeks ago

While you're at it, cleanse the musical syllabus of that gaia-worshipping "Sing to the mountains, sing to the sea...", a musically offensive piece if one was ever written.

Robert Killoren
4 months 3 weeks ago

I agree. Get rid of all the gaia-worshipping tree-hugger songs like "Sing out, heavens, and rejoice, earth, break forth into song, you mountains." And "Sing a new song. Shout with joy all the earth; break into song. Let the rivers clap their hands, the mountains shout with them for joy." And "Mountains and hills shall break out in song before you, all trees of the field shall clap their hands." Sounds like a bunch of pagans.

Ann Johnson
4 months 3 weeks ago

Presume you're being ironic! Sounds like the psalms to me.

Dave Bollinger
4 months 3 weeks ago

Father James Martin, SJ, thank you for such a direct and straight forward article regarding patriotic hymns sung in church. As is typical of your thinking and writing, you are spot on once again.

GREGORY GUITERAS MR
4 months 3 weeks ago

I believe that patriotic songs with some religious reference are proper for the Recessional after "The Mass has ended."

BARBARA LEE
4 months 3 weeks ago

One more reason why "My Country 'Tis of Thee" doesn't evoke prayer: at Mass this morning one of my Creighton CSP classmates from Australia asked why the (instrumental) music was "God Save the Queen." On a more serious note, I do agree with the sentiments expressed in the article, but I still remember how comforting it was to sing "America the Beautiful" at Mass in the days right after 9/11.

James Olson
4 months 3 weeks ago

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw...

j kevin colligan
4 months 3 weeks ago

Like Fr. Jim, I also heard a patriotic song closing Mass on Sunday, in my case, "America The Beautiful", so there wasn't exactly the conflict Fr. Jim saw... but given our current propensity to reject and suppress minorities, foreigners, other religions, the poor and sick, etc., I did have to wonder if anyone was actually *listening* to the words of that song. Brotherhood, etc. Either live the words of that song, or don't sing it. Particularly at Mass.

Margi Sirovatka
4 months 3 weeks ago

I am beginning to think that America magazine puts forth provocative articles merely to elicit numerous reader responses to validate readership. Instead of attending embassy parties in developing countries to feel patriotism, I like to go to Mass on the 4th and sing...to thank God for the times I was in developing countries and vulnerable to governments not "under God". I get a sick feeling when spoiled individuals pontificate.

Michael Seredick
4 months 3 weeks ago

Writing as a retired organist/director - I especially loved playing Mass on Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and July 4th. People who attended Mass did so without being told they had to attend. It was always a sparse congregation but the singing was wonderful. I wouldn't use a patriotic setting during Mass, but remember - Ite Missa Est means the Mass is over. The final hymn does not close the Mass. I think a patriotic song is most appropriate on July 4th and reading the stream of comments indicates others feel the same. It is good to have this discussion and Fr. Martin is basically correct, but I'm not sure he meant his comments for July 4, a non obligatory Mass. Of greater concern to me, a career musician, is the abundant non-musical junk found in common Catholic Hymnals. That's a topic for another day.

lurline jennings
4 months 3 weeks ago

You are so right. The best hymns can be found in the Anglo-Catholic hymnals. Surely there are enough academic musicians in the Vatican to get a decent hymnal out to be used by both small and large congregations. We have frequently used hymns from the above-mentioned source.
The Anglicans have the Latin Rite stopped in their tracks. Time for good hymns where the congregants can join and really sing. Check out the Lutheran churches. Everyone sings there.

Michael Seredick
4 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you Lurline. I sub at many Protestant churches where the singing is always fabulous. In my experience, when it is time to sing in a Protestant Church, everyone sings, especially the Pastor. Not the same in my observations with priests. They often enter and leave with no hymnal in hand and no intention to participate. At Offertory, they are prepping wine and water. I'll never understand why clergy expect people to sing at Communion. Oftentimes they want an inane, repetitive phrase that challenges patience from a person of musical intelligence. I consider this reply as a therapy session for me personally, and for you, a person I don't know, but feels the same. Best to all who choose to worship God, regardless of denomination.

lurline jennings
4 months 3 weeks ago

Fr. Matin, I feel you are far off course. Patriotism is so entwined with the history of this church in America that it can not be ignored on its special days. I played Eternal Father for my fathers and my
husbands funeral Masses. Since they were not only religious Masses but Military services they deserved both. Both had requested the Battle Hymn of the Republic as the recessional. This was done over and over through the years for many services and nary a word of criticism was heard from, priests, monsignors nor bishops. During times of great national stress, these hymns need to be sung and it does NOT detract from the sanctity of the Mass. It brings to mind the blessings of a God who finds us in all places and all conditions under all circumstances. God Bless America!

Mary Catherine Bateson
4 months 3 weeks ago

Of course our allegiance to God comes first, but much of what we owe to God can only be achieved through supporting and influencing a democratic government, for which we can be grateful. I believe that voting and paying taxes are ways in which we express our concerns for peace and social justice, and that we should pray for our country to be a force for good in the world and press for ever better policies, including welcoming those in need. July 4 is a time to be aware that we can focus on the need to pray for our leaders to do justice and for our neighbors as well.

Leon Podles
4 months 3 weeks ago

The replies demonstrate what Father Martin was objecting to.

But the process of “inculturation” of the liturgy has been widely understood to allow, even to require, popular secular elements in the mass. Some popular hymns are grossly heretical: “Ashes,” with its “we create ourselves anew.” Polka masses, jazz masses, clown masses, football masses, funeral liturgies that celebrate the hobbies and vices of the deceased.
Even the liturgy has dubious language: the preface for Thanksgiving which sees the Pilgrim Fathers as a fulfillment of Salvation History: “What the prophets pledged was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, your Son and our saving Lord. It has come to pass in every generation for all men who have believed that Jesus by his death and resurrection gave them a new freedom in his Spirit. It happened to our fathers, who came to this land as if out of the desert into a place of promise and hope.” I always through that Native Americans might have a different take on that event.

The liturgy should always point people to the transcendent events of salvation. It should do so in a way that is comprehensible, but it should not wallow in popular sentiment and strive to be entertaining. But that seems to be the order of the day.

Stuart Meisenzahl
4 months 3 weeks ago

Father Martin states he especially dislikes patriotic songs as part of the entrance or recessional because that is when the congregation is most likely to sing. But he notes parenthically that is because at the Offertory Hymn the congregation ...."is often scouting around for cash for the collection......"
One would have thought that Father Martin would have been more concerned with the distraction caused by this accepted /integral collection process .......Mammon in the pews.... than with the possible distraction of patriotic songs. But it seems that his liturgy prefers the sounds of rummaging through purses; of jingled coins; or the swish of "quiet money" to the sounds of a patriotic Hymn that turns our hearts and minds to thankfulness for those " .....who have given up their lives for others". YIKES!!

Mercedes Michalski
4 months 2 weeks ago

Christ Among Us

Christ has no money now on earth...but ours.
Our dime is to be His dime; our check is to be His check;
Our Ben Franklin is now His Ben Franklin.
Christ has no currency now on earth...but ours.

by David Haas
w/ parody & apologies by me :)

Mike Anderson
4 months 3 weeks ago

I love patriotic songs in church (much better than the "have pity on me Jesus" songs), and I love a Christmas tree on the White House lawn.

Mike Evans
4 months 3 weeks ago

Too strict. Let the people celebrate and thank God for the blessing of just living in America. Is once a year too much? People are rightly proud of America and praising God for his goodness to us seems natural and proper.

Mercedes Michalski
4 months 3 weeks ago

Our final hymn was the National Anthem...and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air!!! A glorious stirring of cognitive dissonance much? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...

JOSEPH FORMICA
4 months 2 weeks ago

I agree with Fr. Martin's premise that patriotic songs that are not directed to God for the well-being of our country are not appropriate at Mass. I also feel that a patriotic song that is directed to God should occur as the closing hymn, not taking anything away from the Sacrifice of the Mass. Having said that, I do agree with all of the comments that it is most important and appropriate that we express our prayers of thanksgiving and petition for our country on these national holidays. After all, the Church provides an optional Mass setting for Independence Day, encouraging us to incorporate our love of country in the context of offering the Sacrifice of the Mass, including the Eucharistic prayer for that Mass.
While I do understand Fr. Martin's concern that our patriotic songs encouraging American exceptionalism, I find it a bit negative that singing "God mend thine every flaw" could likely translate into a person only caring about America and no other country. Rather, it might just encourage those singing that line to correct that very flaw that Fr. Martin is concerned about.

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