Mr. Stevenson seems to indicate he knows where the proper place American flags should be placed in churches. He ended his last letter by saying, “Put the flag back in its proper place, back in front of our church congregation.” (April 16, 2014) Of course, he gives no documentation, as if to say, because he believes this, it must be so.
The origin of the display of the American flag in parishes in the United States appears to have its origins in the offering of prayers for those who served during the Second World War. At that time, many bishops and pastors provided a book of remembrance near the American flag, requesting prayers for loved ones — especially those serving their country in the armed forces — as a way of keeping before the attention of the faithful the needs of military families. This practice has since been confirmed in many places during the Korean, Vietnam and Iraqi conflicts.
The Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy has in the past encouraged pastors not to place the flag within the sanctuary itself, in order to reserve that space for the altar, the ambo, the presidential chair and the tabernacle. Instead, the suggestion has been made that the American flag be placed outside the sanctuary, or in the vestibule of the Church together with a book of prayer requests.
While we honor all of our past and present members of our armed forces, we do no injustice to their memory by placing the American flag in the back of Church or in the vestibule. When we gather for Church, we do so primarily as members of the body of Christ, not as members of a particular nation. Thus, it is the cross of Jesus Christ that offers us communion.
Fr. Mark Miller, C.PP.S.
Pastor of the Catholic Community of Pettis County