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Why don't we sing more patriotic songs?

posted Sep 10, 2017, 12:21 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Sep 10, 2017, 12:21 PM ]
We all love patriotic songs; being able to ask God to bless our country, being able to give thanks for our country, and, “to sing songs we know!”

Fr. James Martin, SJ writes in America: The Jesuit Review this summer, “Mt. 10:37-42 has Jesus telling his followers, with the uncompromising language he often used, that nothing comes before God. Everything else is secondary—‘Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.’ Surely we should be good Americans and love and honor our country. But during the Mass, shouldn’t our hearts be pledged to something, or someone else? Some patriotic songs subordinate the Sacrifice of the Mass to the United States.”

John Baldovin, S.J., professor of historical and liturgical theology at Boston College adds “Frankly, I do not favor patriotic songs at liturgy that 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.”

Thomas Scirghi, S.J., who teaches sacramental theology at Fordham University, agrees: “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?”

I do try to sing most of the patriotic hymns found in our Breaking Bread. And on American holiday weekends, I play others as a postlude, after the recessional hymn, and some people have stayed and sung along. Have you?