Ask students to say aloud words or phrases that come immediately to them when you say the word “patriotism.” List the words on the board.

Distribute a handout with the following quotations and questions.  Read the first quotation and have the students write their reflections on the questions that follow. Repeat the format for sections 2 and 3.

Finally, ask the students to answer in writing the two “Final Items.” To conclude, ask the students to share their reflections either in small groups or with the whole class.



“The virtue of patriotism means that as citizens we respect and honor our country, but our very love and loyalty make us examine carefully and regularly its role in world affairs asking that it live up to is full potential as an agent of peace with justice for all people” (U.S. Catholic Bishops, The Challenge of Peace, 1983, #327).

  • What does it mean to “respect and honor our country”? to show “love and loyalty”?
  • How do you do these things concretely?
  • What specifically do you think we should be asking our country to do in order to “live up to its full potential as an agent of peace with justice for all people”?
  • Is this constructive criticism a patriotic or unpatriotic act and why?



 “To teach the ways of peace is not to weaken the nation’s will but to be concerned

for the nation’s soul” (U.S. Catholic Bishops, The Challenge of Peace, 1983, #304).

  • What do you think the bishops mean? Why are they concerned for our nation’s soul?
  • Is it unpatriotic to have such concerns? Why or why not?




Martin Luther King, Jr., was concerned about our nation’s soul at a similar time in our nation’s history (1956-1968). He helped to create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, whose motto was “We have come to redeem the soul of America.” In 1967, he broke his silence about the Vietnam war and boldly proclaimed: “Never again will I be silent on an issue that is destroying the soul of our nation and destroying thousands and thousands of little children in Vietnam. . . . The time has come for a real prophecy, and I’m willing to go that road”(quoted in Road to Redemption).

  • Do you think the soul of our nation is in jeopardy today? Why or why not?


Final Items

  • What do you think you are being called to by these statements and questions?
  • After thinking about all of this, briefly define your own understanding of Christian patriotism: