Flag Day

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

June 21, 2004

 

            The Boy Scouts stepped out in ragged formation. They carried four flags to be raised in our parish Flag Day observance on the big new poles in front of our parish Family Life Center.

            The senior scout commanded the scout detail in a near whisper. “Scouts forward, ” he breathed nervously. When they got to their position he said  Scouts halt.”  Not everybody heard him. The rear of the column continued marching after the front had stopped so they piled up like cars in a highway accident. I bit my lip to keep from smiling.

            The Knights of Columbus snapped to attention in their plumed hats, capes and swords. One little boy asked, “What those pirates doing here?” 

            The Scouts stood at attention the way 11 year old boys do; faces serious, shoulders back, and tummies out. Their shirttails were untucked and a few shoes were untied. But their mothers snapped pictures like paparazzi at a film premier. 

The Scout commander called the boys forward in pairs to the big planter box containing the flagpoles. Each pair raised a flag. First the U.S. flag, then the Maryland, then the Vatican, and finally our county flag. They hoisted them to the top of the pole, then dropped them back down to half-staff, because we were still in the mourning period for President Reagan.

            As the U.S. flag was raised the Knight of Columbus and the scouts saluted. Scouts gave their “two finger” salute. The rest of us put our hands over hearts.

We tried singing the National Anthem by following a CD of a country music singer.  But she was too slow and took off into the stratosphere at the high notes. She didn’t sing it like we do at baseball games. Part way through I motioned to the scoutmaster’s wife to kill the boom box. We did better acappella.

Then we said the Pledge of Allegiance. That very day, the Supreme Court had refused to hear the case challenging the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. I noticed our congregation said “under God” with special emphasis. No matter what the Supreme Court hd said that day, we were saying “under God.”

At the raising of the Maryland flag I read from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans about being obedient to civil authority and paying taxes. It was not a big crowd pleaser. I also explained that the Maryland flag, unique among the 50 states, is only properly displayed when there is a cross at the top of the pole, symbolizing that state authority is below the authority of God. I told them all not to tell the ACLU.

We raised the Vatican flag. I couldn’t find the words to “Long Live the Pope”, so we said the Lord’s Prayer together.

Finally we raised our County flag.  It has a big green tobacco leaf on a background of gold and black checks.

When our county was founded in the 1600s its economy was based on tobacco. Today we know that tobacco is bad for you. Many of our county public schools do not display the flag out of fear it might encourage kids to smoke. Go figure.

 We couldn’t think of anything to say or sing for the county flag, so I just said,  Let’s eat.”  They liked that better than St. Paul.

The men of the parish had made hot dogs, beans, and a big six-foot long sub sandwich. It was a real “men’s club” meal: carbohydrates, grease, and condiments. In parish life you never do anything without eating.

            Anybody who thinks patriotism and reverence are things of the past is not part of small town parish life.  It was a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. I loved it.