Today is Flag Day [in the United States]. It marks the adoption of the flag on June 14, 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.
Americans’ devotion to the flag has always puzzled me somewhat. I may be wrong, but I don’t think India (which is a much younger independent nation) has a similar propensity for displaying its flag everywhere.
And yet flags are important. Having just come from a pilgrimage, I know that I would have gotten lost many times had I not been able to spot our guide’s raised arm holding a red umbrella. [This guidance system worked fine until we got to the Sistine Chapel where there were at least 3 red umbrellas being held aloft!]
One of the most famous meditations in the Spiritual Exercises is called “The Two Standards.” Ignatius talks about the standard (or battle flag) of Satan and the standard of Christ. Ignatius, the former soldier, clearly remembers how, in the chaos of battle, it was important to keep one’s attention fixed on your own flag and to follow it wherever it led you.
For Ignatius, the Standard of Christ leads to a following of Christ in poverty, in contempt and in humility. From these, he argues, we can be led “to all other virtues.”
May we, who follow the flag of the United States of America, be also led to virtue.