Although I generally don’t leave my pew until after the final chords of the recessional hymn have faded into silence, I left Mass this morning immediately after the dismissal (“Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life”) and before the recessional and final hymn.
I confess that I have never been comfortable with the frequent practice in Catholic churches of ending Mass on Fourth of July or Memorial Day weekend with American the Beautiful or the Star-Spangled Banner. That the practice has been so common for so many years doesn’t make it sit any easier with me. Sometimes I silently sit through it, but this morning I moved to a back pew upon returning from receiving the Eucharist and slipped out after the final blessing.
I have no objection at all to praying to God to bless us and our country. But uniting the hymn with Mass seems to me to promote the sense that we are somehow uniquely blessed by God – the chosen people of our times.
God doesn’t play favorites among his children. He doesn’t “shed His grace” on America as a country any more so than on any other country.
There is perhaps a place for nationalism. (Perhaps.) But to my way of thinking it is not in our celebration of the Mass.