(Memorial Day Mass with the Knights of Columbus this morning allowed me to sing more than one verse of two wonderful songs of patriotism–“America the Beautiful” and “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” When you go more deeply into the songs and their messages, you find God explicitly present. This inspired me to reprint this blog post as published in “OnWord” 2013. Overlook the reference to July 4; it was great today to remember the inspiring lyrics–along with the inspiring men and women of America’s military services–even earlier in the year than I did back then.)
I was blessed to start out this 4th of July with Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, a Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin Rhoades to mark the end of the Fortnight for Freedom. Especially in light of the Bishop’s remarks about the need for America to respect religious liberty, it was a powerful after-Mass meditation to think about God’s presence in the patriotic songs we sing on days like today.
I knew about America the Beautiful, Battle Hymn of the Republic, God Bless America, etc., but the hymnal in the pew also contained The Star Spangled Banner, and this one surprised me. Most Americans only know the first stanza, if that. Did you know that the stanza that was third in the hymnal–and fourth in the Wikipedia article about the anthem–is another powerful statement of gratitude to God? Here it is, as provided by Wikipedia:
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
GK Chesterton once said that he pitied the atheist who was thankful but had no one to thank. Many expressions of our patriotism are seamlessly connected to religious values. As long as we sing these songs about America, we’ll be remembering and reaffirming the values of past generations who saw a connection between the blessings of this country and the One who blesses.