“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of
mankind.” – Albert Einstein
Having been born and raised Catholic in India, a spiritual yet secular
and pluralistic society, I am appalled at how often the Catholic Church
in America tends to confound spirituality with nationalism.
The latest case in point (reference our discussion about the Stars and
Stripes being placed on the high altar, next to the tabernacle, for the
Latin Mass in St. Boniface), happened yesterday at St. Paul Cathedral. I
went to daily Mass (the 12.05) as is my wont, fully cognizant that it
was the 4th of July, and as such the homily would be around that theme.
And my expectations were not belied… the celebrant inter alia spoke
about heroes like JFK, Martin Luther King Jr, and Sandra Day O’Connor.
What I did not expect, and what thoroughly upset me, was that the
celebrant (not one of the Cathedral residents), after the homily, lead
the congregation in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. I almost
walked out of the church in disgust.
And then, less unexpected, but more ironic, bordering on the ridiculous,
the celebrant leads off the congregation with not a recessional hymn,
but a patriotic song, sung to the tune of “God Save the
King!”. On the day that commemorates American independence from the
British, the British national anthem is being sung, albeit with
I left St. Paul’s unsure whether to chuckle or rant. And if this is the
situation in the conservative seat of a conservative diocese, I shudder
to think what the situation must be like in other “more
liberal” parts of the country. “Auld Lang Syne” at
funeral masses? The picture of George W. Bush on the altar?
If the clergy themselves reduce catholic Catholic spirituality to the
level of petty nationalism, what hope is there for the poor sheep and
the Church as a whole?