Patriotic Masses

This is a loaded topic, so please try to focus on Church teaching.

There are plenty of threads with people expressing their opinions about patriotic music during the liturgy, but I’m curious about an entire spectrum of practices including the music - e.g. bringing a flag forward while parishioners place hands on their hearts or asking parishioners to wear red, white, and blue to a liturgy.

Bearing in mind that Catholicism is practiced all over the world, to what extent does the Vatican permit integrating patriotism/nationalism into liturgy? Are there any relevant guidelines as to what is acceptable versus what crosses any boundaries?

We sang America the Beautiful at mass the weekend after the 4th of July.

Not sure how I feel about that…

You should do a thought experiment if you are American and bring to mind the patriotic masses or other religious observances practiced over the years by the dozens of countries with which the USA has been at war. Did God approve of both theirs and yours during the wars? I have also often wondered if the US treatment of the flag during mass meant it was considered a sacramental.

Is it in the GIRM? No. So don’t do it.

What’s in the GIRM is acceptible. What isn’t in the GIRM, isn’t. For example: bringing a flag forward while parishioners place hands on their hearts

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I wish it were that simple. Does the GIRM’s silence on the issue of requesting the patriotic dress of parishioners mean that it’s wrong to pre-arrange patriotic clothing?

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I see that being less of an issue, the girm doesn’t really say what parishioners have to wear to mass in general

Asking people to dress in red white and blue isn’t any different than asking people to wear suits and dresses. You can ask, people can oblige or not. It isn’t actually a part of the liturgy in any way.


I don’t know, but I have to say that I cringe whenever I hear some kind of patriotic hymn at anotherwise very reverent Mass. I’m not exactly a liturgical snob, but I do believe that unless there is something in the order of the Mass, it shouldn’t be done. Now, I’m aware of variations of it all over the world, but that doesn’t change my view. I wouldn’t even mind those patriotic hymns in church, if it was after the Mass had ended or before it started.


It’s a bit different. Suits and dresses are not a political statement.

That’s normally when I hear them.

It seems more appropriate, but they’re going to be song more loudly if they’re openig or closing songs. Most people are too busy fumbling for collection plate checks or lining up for or praying after Eucharist during other hymns.

How is dressing in red, white, and blue a political statement?


Because one party seems to favor that and another party doesn’t?

The Knights of Columbus have four orders, and they correspond to Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. The 4th Degree, which I hold, is the Patriotic degree.


I still don’t follow. Both political parties in the US favor American colors as far as I’m aware.


From pictures I have seen that Catholic Chuches in the USA almost always have an American flag at the front of the Church or on a flagpole outside.

Here in NZ I have never seen a flag at any Catholic Church.

I wish we had the patriotism of the Americans.


Let’s put it this way: if something earthly creeps into the Mass and is a distraction from the Heavenly, then it needs to be removed.

Overt patriotism might have a place somewhere, but the Mass isn’t that place.


I know I’ve been to some Veterans’ Masses at the veterans’ cemetery with the bishop on or around Veterans’ or Memorial Day, where there was a color guard ceremony, and maybe some Scouts Masses where there was a color guard ceremony. I seem to recall the ceremonies were before the Mass started, so no problem. And the people who attend these have always been fine with any “patriotic” aspects. No one is going to drive out to the Veterans’ cemetery and jockey for parking and then complain that the Mass was too patriotic.

I also don’t see how asking people to wear red, white and blue is a problem. Those are the colors of our national flag and not partisan. If somebody wants to wear a different color they are free to do so.

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In Order of Christian Funerals it has:

“132. Any national flags or the flags or insignia of associations to which the deceased belonged are to be removed from the coffin at the entrance of the church. They may be replaced after the coffin has been taken from the church.”

This is from the book “The Rites Volume One” published in 1990, in Collegeville, Minnesota, United States of America, ISBN 0814660150. I do not know if it is part of the original Latin edition.

Ceremonial of Bishops has:

“824 In the celebration of funerals a dignified simplicity should be observed. The Easter candle should be placed near the coffin. A Book of the Gospels, a bible, or a cross may be placed on the coffin. If the deceased is an ordained minister, insignia of his order may, depending on local custom, be placed on the coffin.”

The Roman Missal approved for Australia has for 25 April “ANZAC Day”. The Prayer After Communion is:

“By our communion with this Sacrament, O Lord,
grant us, we pray, fortitude in the cause of right,
and may our remembrance of those who have died in war
make us ardent defenders of your peace.
Through Christ our Lord.”

[Except from the English translation of the Roman Missal © 2010 nternational Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. Excerpt from the English translation of Order of Christian Funerals , © 1985, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. Excerpt from the English translation of Ceremonial of Bishops © 1989 International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. In next post, excerpt from the English translation of Book of Blessings, an additional blessing for the United States of America, © 1988, United States Catholic Conference, Washington, USA. All rights reserved.]

The Book of Blessings approved for the United States of America includes Chapter 69: “PRAYER ON THE OCCASION OF THE INAUGURATION OF A PUBLIC OFFICIAL”. It is not in the original Latin edition. The introduction to it begins:

“1961 The inauguration of a public official is normally a civic function at which representatives of various religious traditions may be invited to offer public prayers.”

The introduction includes:

“1964 The whole prayer may be used or, in addition to the first and last paragraph, one or more of the three central paragraphs may be selected. Paragraph B is for the president, Paragraph C is for the members of Congress, and Paragraph D is for state governors, legislators, judges, and other civic officials.”

The shortest prayer for a female president is:

Almighty and eternal God,
you have revealed your glory to all nations.
God of power and might, wisdom and justice,
through you authority is rightly administered,
laws are enacted, and judgment is decreed.

Assist with your spirit of counsel and fortitude
the President of these United States,
that her administration may be conducted in righteousness,
and be eminently useful to your people over whom she presides.
May she encourage due respect for virtue and religion.
May she execute the laws with justice and mercy.
May she seek to restrain crime, vice, and immorality.

We likewise commend to your unbounded mercy
all citizens of the United States,
that we may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your holy law.
May we preserved in union and that peace which the world cannot give;
and, after enjoying the blessings of this life,
be admitted to those which are eternal.

We pray to you, who are Lord and God,
for ever and ever.

R. Amen.

The last chapter of the Book of Blessings gives guidance on unacceptable blessings.

In the original Latin these paragraphs are n. 1244-1245.


1984 Since the present rite provides a wide choice of texts, it can be readily adapted for use in various circumstances. The purpose of the rite is to sanctify through the celebration of a blessing those situations in life not explicitly indicated in the rites already given (for example, a gathering of family members or of a group for some special occasion; a collection of contributions for the poor, etc.).

1985 The present order is in no sense meant to violate principles concerning blessings; it is not fitting to turn every object or situation into an occasion for celebrating a blessing (for example, every monument erected no matter what its theme, the installation of military weapons, frivolous events). Rather every celebration must be considered with balanced pastoral judgment, particularly when there is any foreseeable danger of shocking the faithful or other people.”

[Excerpt from the English translation of Book of Blessings © 1987, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.]

In our parish, on patriotic holidays, the patriotic hymn (always one that is in the hymnal, not God Bless America), is sung after the Mass has ended (in other words, the last hymn). So no GIRM violation.

The Bible tells us to pray for our kings (or in our case, our President, Congress, Mayor, etc.). The patriotic hymns in the Gather Hymnal are all prayers.

I always go all out on the organ when I play a patriotic hymn–all the horns, bells, whistles–tutti all the way!! The congregation loves it! I think it’s good for us as part of the family of God to express our love for our country, our thankfulness to our Heavenly Father for allowing us to live in the United States, and request to God, in one voice, to please help us to have “liberty in law.”

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