Monday, February 19, 2007

America the Beautiful

One thing about Our Lady of Victory is the fractious nature of the parishioners. There are few residents of the area. Most of the people who attend are commuters. But the people who show up on weekends, who apparently are mostly residents, are typically Lower-Manhattan-aloof. It really doesn't feel like a community. I have a couple of friends there, but I've been attending this church for nearly 2 years.

Anyway, something interesting happened at Sunday Mass. I mean, something other than the fact that God himself was present in under the veil of bread and wine. The singer -- what, is she a "worship leader?" -- the one with that incredible voice, but the unhappy countenance, announced the recessional hymn: God Bless America.

This is one of my all time favorites. I'll never forget the day I realized that singing patriotic songs made my eyes water and my voice break. I was singing the National Anthem to myself one morning -- in fact, it was a Sunday -- many years ago. I began weeping and couldn't go on. This was curious to me; I concluded that I must really love America. Funny. It's not like I was raised to be patriotic. I grew up in the liberal sixties and the desolate, VietNam propaganda-tainted '70's. But there I was, somehow endowed with patriotism.

So, imagine how the hair on my neck reacted when the entire congregation, normally aloof and certainly not any model of "unity," drew a collective deep breath and sang, from the very first note with voices loud and sure and full of heart, these words -- every magnificent one of them:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.
-- Katherine Lee Bates, America The Beautiful.

You know, even the singer seemed to beam as she strode off the platform while we were leaving.


Post a Comment

<< Home