I noticed a stark contrast at two of my previous parishes: At both, the 8th graders had the responsibility of raising and lowering the US Flag each school day. At one school, the students reverently unfolded and folded the flag each day as part of the responsibility, following all the proper protocols. At the other, the flag was casually draped over the shoulder or haphazardly rolled up when carried. I wonder how my grandfathers, both of whom served in WWII, would have responded to the latter.
Just a few days ago, we rightly celebrated Independence Day, our nation’s greatest civic holiday. We often celebrate it with activities such as parades, fairs, fireworks and family gatherings (with delicious BBQ). At the heart of it, though, is a living out of the great virtue of patriotism, where we give due honor and respect to one’s country, with a willingness to serve.
Is our nation perfect? No. But at a time when so many focus only on the negative, it is all the more crucial to be intentional about recognizing what good there is, and whence it came: The sacrifices of so many men and women, of time and energy, even their lives. The security and freedoms we have. The wealth and advances we enjoy. The great natural beauty within our boundaries. The beautiful expressions of culture, art, and literature. The services and amenities that we so often presume. I could go on.
These gifts we benefit from because we have bound together as a nation. But they require stewardship, a willingness to serve, in order that they might be preserved. How might we best do this? There are many things we can do, but I think at the forefront is to ensure that God is at the foundation. Our na-tion is imperfect, because it is founded by and populated by imperfect people. Only God is perfect, and so He must be our guide and strength. The founders of our nation understood this. Do we? Sadly, this is often swept under the rug.
So, as we celebrate our nation with patriotic parades, fireworks, and BBQ, let’s serve the ‘land that we love’ by living out our faith in the public sphere. If I might be so bold, perhaps the most patriotic hymn of all is ‘God Bless America’. Let’s sing it, full throated, as we love and celebrate our nation!