It’s Fourth of July Weekend: Will Your Parish Sing Patriotic Hymns?

It’s Fourth of July Weekend: Will Your Parish Sing Patriotic Hymns? July 4, 2015

Will your parish include patriotic songs in the liturgy this weekend? I’m talking about the old “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” sort of tunes.

US Flag - backlitI read a discussion about this sticky issue over on Reddit:  Some very reasonable Catholics take exception to the practice of interrupting the sacred liturgy with a celebration of a secular holiday–in this case the Fourth of July. The Redditor who complained over on /r/Catholicism said,

We have Christ — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — in our midst, and you’re going to sing songs to some 240-year old nation?!

Others pointed to the Catholic Church’s history and her destiny, noting that Christ’s Church has survived Napoleon, the British Empire, Hitler and Stalin, and we know that it will survive long after this nation has fallen.

Some said that they are irritated when anything except sacred chant is sung. Patriotic ditties should not, they say, trump spiritual classics.

These are excellent points.

On the other hand, some felt that celebrating our nation’s heritage at a Mass was entirely appropriate.

And one beleaguered music director stepped in to point out that you can’t win: Some will be offended if you play secular songs on a holiday; and others will complain if you don’t.

What do you think?

Oh–and here, for your holiday listening pleasure, is the first performance by American contralto Kate Smith of a new song:  “God Bless America.” If you watch closely, you’ll see a very young Ronald Reagan in the film.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Teresa Skelton

    We sang “America the Beautiful” after mass this evening, brought tears to my eyes. When else are there opportunities to sing these songs? Really? With our entire family. And after the words, “the mass is ended,” I don’t think it really matters what the song is. After the final blessing, the rector read the letter from our bishop about the Supreme Court decision. Since the letter stresses freedoms, it was a perfect day to read it.

  • What do you do when the congregation includes refugees and migrants from other nations – some of who do not have legal papers?

    What do you do when the congregation in a university town has international students and professors?

    Are we a universal church or a national church?

    • Ron Turner

      The precious little snowflakes will have to deal with the fact that they are living in the U.S.A.

      • They are not snowflakes. They are made in the image and likeness of God – who is not an American.

  • Will

    We sang “America the Beautiful.” It was good. It would not have happened with our previous pastor.

    Once we were in Canada for Canada Day and they sung “O Canada”. It was different but okay (after all we were visitors).

  • Dante Alighieri

    Personally, I do not think patriotic songs should be sung during Mass in a church. Now, I know my church has done this, and I participated, yes, so I’m not going to raise a fuss about it. But it does grate on me as we are the global Body of Christ, transcendent of national institutions and lasting far longer than they, and, in the Mass, we are celebrating the universal God and that transnational identity He has made for us as citizens of the new heaven and new earth, the New Jerusalem. We are in the world, but not of this present world. To paraphrase what Tertullian said, yes, I will pray for this country, but I just do not like the idea of honoring a temporal country in the liturgy.

  • Ron Turner

    Not at my church this weekend – I suspect it had to with the same-sex pseudo-marriage decision. For the second Sunday in a row, we prayed for the salvation of the Supreme Court justices.

  • Robin Warchol

    My parish did not sing any patriotic hymns but prayers for our country were certainly in the bulletin. I think there always is a balance when it comes to cultural or national celebrations like July 4th, mother and father’s day, thankgiving etc and the focus of the liturgy. Do these things invade and overtake the liturgy or should the Church simply ignore all cultural holiday’s and events? Both ends of the spectrum are extreme.

  • Mickey’O

    Height of hypocrisy tonight. At the foot of the comments is an ad promoting *Planned Parenthood* and asking for donations to attack the Catholic Church about not providing free birth control pills. I know Patheos has to pay the bills, but this is…….insulting.

    As for singing jingoistic songs during Holy Mass, just take three seconds and think about it….. The US Government is pushing on all fronts to make the Catholic Chuch ILLEGAL. And you want to sing songs about it? And fly its flag? Hellooooo.
    We have a flag, it’s yellow and white with a fancy crown on it. Time to fly it, and it alone, on our church’s flagpoles.