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Book Club – Journal of a Soul (Week 7 of 12)

October 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Journal of a Soul


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Patriotism vs. Nationalism

“Patriotism, which is right and may be holy, but may also degenerate into nationalism, which in my case would be most detrimental to the dignity of my episcopal ministry, must be kept above all nationalistic disputes. The world is poisoned with morbid nationalism, built up on the basis of race and blood,in contradiction to the Gospel. In this matter especially, which is of burning topical interest, ‘deliver me from men of blood, O God”. Here fits in most aptly the invocation: ‘God of my salvation’: Jesus our Savior died for all nations, without distinction of race or blood, and became the first brother of the new human family, built on him and his Gospel.” – Journal of a Soul, pg. 251

In honor of Monday night’s final presidential debate on the subject of foreign policy, I thought I this was the perfect passage to discuss. As this is a spiritual website, I promise not to talk politics. But I thought it would be interesting to discuss something that I imagine many of us don’t think about very often, i.e. the difference between patriotism and nationalism.

Incidentally, I heard a well-known political pundit use these two terms interchangeably when commenting on Monday night’s debate. I think it would be safe to say that, in the United States, there has been a blurring of the terms patriotism and nationalism. I won’t go into why I think that might be; but regardless, given that Pope John XXIII points out that patriotism is virtuous – even holy – while nationalism is a dangerous vice , I thought it might be valuable to distinguish between the two, for our spiritual good if not for the good of our nations(s).

According to George Orwell in his essay, Notes on Nationalism,

“Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”

Orwell’s well-known contempt for Catholics aside, his distinctions here resonate with Pope John XXIII’s comments above. Pope John XXIII witnessed firsthand the evils of Nationalism, as Nazi aggression was in full swing by 1940, when the above passage was written. German Nationalism from that period gives a rather tragic illustration of the “morbidness” of nationalism.

So are we are country full of patriots? Or to we tend to be nationalistic? For those of you from other countries, where do you fall on the spectrum?

And where is the connection between these terms and our spiritual lives?

Personally, I have always considered myself to be a Patriot. I take after my mother in that respect. I get goosebumps every time I hear the national anthem at a public event, and I cry when I hear songs like Lee Greenwood’s I’m Proud to be an American. As a patriot, I don’t think our country is perfect. But I liken the love I feel for my country to the devotion I feel for my children (figuratively) in that, while they are not perfect, they are mine, I love them with all my heart, and I would do anything in my power to protect them from harm.

But a nationalist? At first glance, I would say no. I certainly don’t subscribe to the notion of indoctrinating other countries with American values. Leading with moral character, yes, but manipulation and control, No. On the other hand, If pressed, I must admit that secretly I would love it if the whole world were like our country. Conflicts within our country notwithstanding, I’d love it if foreigners didn’t hate us because we’re, well, American. Now, please don’t send me hate mail. I’ve had lots of friends who were from foreign countries. But I don’t like confrontation, and therefore, I think I might feel safer it if we all shared similar cultures and experiences. It would make foreign policy so much easier. In this light, I may not think I’m nationalistic, but perhaps on some emotional level I am.

Spiritually, what’s the point? Well, I see this notion of nationalism is a macrocosm of personal relationships. Am I devoted to my own values while I love others for what they are? Or do I secretly hope to convince them to share my perspective?

This seems inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. But please, bear with me. I have a tendency to want everyone to share my beliefs. After all, I wouldn’t have them if I didn’t think they were right, would I? For instance, I love our Holy Mother Church, and I’d be overwhelmed with joy if the whole world were Catholic. That said, would I force my beliefs on others? Never. But I have been known to “debate” religious issues with friends and family members. The bottom line is that at some level, won’t those “nationalistic tendencies” in my beliefs affect the sincerity of the charity I demonstrate toward my brothers and sisters in Christ? Mahatma Gandhi thinks so. He is famously quoted as saying:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about the judgment of the nations, telling us that we will be judged according to how we treat others. When that time comes, He will say, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me” (Matthew 25:40). Whether I’m referring to every country I encounter, or every person I meet, am I not to see them all as souls created by God? Souls that I, through my love and sacrifice should treat, in my thoughts, words and actions, as I would treat Christ himself?

“A Christian should try to be a good Christian, a Muslim should try to be a good Muslim, a Hindu should try to be a good Hindu.” This is one of my favorite quotes by Mother Teresa. Why? Because it taught me something significant. Mother Teresa did not set out to change those around her. She set out to love them.

I learned a similar lesson from Pope John Paul II. Of all the great things I’ve learned about him, I was most moved by the fact that his best friend was a Jew, and yet JPII never tried to convert him. From his example, I discerned that I should stop trying to convert my family members and friends. With God’s grace, my love will move more hearts than my words ever will.


Discussion Questions:

1. Deep down, do you love others as God created them? Or are you hoping to get them to share your point of view?

2. Open forum – comment on any of the reading for this past week.


Reading Assignment:

Week 8: 1945 – End of 1958 (pg. 264-297)

Happy Reading!


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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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  • Carmenpilargonzalo

    Love others as I have loved you!,  If someone had not told me about to get myself down to confession I would not have done this and theferfore would not have started a journey back into the church,  I will do for others what this lady did with me and I won’t stop because of fears that I am trying to convert them.     

    • Vicki

      I’m so thrilled that God’s grace reached you through the lady you mentioned! Please don’t misunderstand my intention in my post.  I would never say that we shouldn’t practice the spiritual works of mercy – admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant and counsel the doubtful (among other things).  My intention was only to note the fine line between loving our country or at a more personal level, our faith,  and expecting or pressing others to believe or practice as we do.  I’ve been guilty of pressing, even innocently, because I’ve been so excited about my Faith.  I was very moved to note that many people, whom I strongly admire, influenced others by their love rather than their words.  I hope to emulate their examples, rather than the enthusiasm I expressed when I first converted (18 years ago).  When I think of how many people I probably turned away from the Catholic church because of my passion (which most certainly was lacking holiness), I am actually ashamed. God bless you and welcome back!!

      • Carmenpilargonzalo

        How do you know Vicki whether you turned these people away with your passion? How do you know if 5, 10, or 15 years later maybe one of them will remember something of what you said to them at a difficult moment in their lives or when God gives them the grace to start enquiring for them selves. Maybe you planted a seed….

        • Vicki

          I pray that that is true.  

    • And if a lady had not told me about the Divine Mercy Devotion five years ago, I would not  to-day be the devoted Eucharistic Apostle of the Divine Mercy I am.  God works through us all the time, Carmenpilargonzalo, and you met Him through that Lady.

  • Robert Kraus

    I have tried to love others as God creates them…I mainly have difficulty in loving myself and holding myself up as an example to others. I don’t usually worry too much about converting others…

    • Vicki

      I wish I’d always shared your perspective.  I spent the first five years after my conversion wanting to convert everyone I met!  I’m sure you’re a much better example than you think – humility goes a long way!

      • Robert Kraus

         I’m not sure its true humility as much as a distinct lack of self-confidence, but thank you…:)

        • Oh, Robert, stop beating yourself up!!!!! We can read you like a letter in a sealed enveloped.  You can never disguise the Virtue of Humility. It radiates to all those who meet you, in person on this our beloved Website, too

  • abandon56

    I love St. Therese’s approach: “I feel that the more the fire of love will inflame my heart, the more I will say “Draw me,” the more also souls will come close to me, and the more those souls will run quickly toward the fragrance of the perfumes of their Beloved.” 
    I love her simplicity and truth.

  • Jackie

    What I learned from the readings based on his chapter on Psalm 51 (the Miserere):
    I have learned:

    To as Pope John XXIII says to “blot out, wash and cleanse”
    my soul. To really forgive is to want to
    purify the soul in order to receive the graces God extends to us as His
    ultimate gift here on earth.

    I have learned:

    Though I have forgiven much, I still harbor that unforgotten
    memory of this or that which holds a grip on my soul causing fermentation that
    bubbles to the surface when recalled through an experience in the form of unkind
    words, a particular passage in a book or letter from a friend conjuring thoughts
    once believed to have been long buried deep within the recesses of my
    soul. “What is happening in the world on
    a grand scale is reproduced on a small scale in every man’s soul, is reproduced
    in mine”. (Pope John XXIII)

    I have learned:

    That I must “know thyself” and understand that God’s
    forgiveness extends to me. That in
    taking up the cross and drinking from the cup (taken from Sunday’s Gospel
    lesson), it is a realization of just what it means to be totally dependent on
    the graces of God. “When we consider how
    many graces are poured into the sinner’s soul along with God’s forgiveness, we
    feel ashamed”. (Pope John XXIII)  I am

    I have learned:

    “Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right sprit
    within me”. Psalm 51:12 In order to have that clean heart and right spirit I
    must learn to trust in God’s forgiveness. 
    As Pope John XXIII says “The heart is the will and the spirit is the
    understanding. So we need a purified
    will and a renewed understanding”. In
    returning to the church, I have had to come to a complete and renewed
    understanding of just what God’s forgiveness entails. It is not just some kind words spoken in a
    sermon on a Sunday morning to make me feel good as evidenced in a previous non-Catholic
    church experience but a true giving of oneself over to His love, selflessly,
    wholly, totally and completely without reservation.

    I have learned:

    That as St. Jerome said: “joy of thy Jesus’, instead of joy
    of salvation” (Pope John XXIII) will come once I give myself over to His
    love. One cannot expect to make up for
    45 years away from the church in a short period of a year and a half but this
    is my ultimate goal; to have “joy of thy Jesus, instead of joy of salvation”. It is as John XXX says: “This is a true joy
    of a forgiven soul, the first fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to feel
    numbered with the elect”.   This is my

    This section profoundly impacted me and took me deeply into the soul of Pope John XXIII.

    • Vicki

      Sounds like you’ve had an amazing year and a half – your insights are beautiful.  Thank you for sharing them.

    • Jackie, your words are words from the mouth of the “Holy Spirit”.  I did state from the start that on this Post, I shall open my heart to learn from yours Responses.  And this one beats them all, thus far.  Thank you, Jackie, and God bless you

  • This reflection reminds me of last week with the Indigenous People, the Mangyans. They are Catholic but still practice their culture, traditional songs, laws, customs, nipa houses and way of life. They are modern in the sense that they wear shirts, shorts, dresses and send their children to public school and even until college if given a scholarship.  

    My fellow interns and I struggled with was looking for the dividing line between alleviating human rights abuse, poverty and protecting their culture.Their hygiene wasn’t what we were used to. It was so easy for people in the lowlands to think adding solar panels would improve their lives. But in another tribe, the solar panel got destroyed because they did not know how to use it. A local official was glad we were there to make them more “civilized.” What they needed most was protection from land grabbers and land titles to ancestral lands. I’m sorry if this is getting off-topic…

    But honestly, they were among the most generous people I’ve ever known! Our foster father and his 11 year old son spent a whole afternoon making us a “toilet” by digging a hole in the ground and enclosing it with large palm leaf walls. They also enclosed their small water pipe with walls for our baths. Although rice was was a precious commodity for them, they gave my partner and I large servings of rice at every meal! And fresh fruits for snacks in between. They even bought a live chicken and cooked it for our dinner. They gave us their daughter’s room to sleep in. Though their house only had four rooms. On the return trip, our foster father drove us into town on his motorcycle himself. even though we had money to pay for a ride from someone else. They also sent us home a plastic bag each of uncooked rice they harvested themselves. 

    Yet so many lowlanders discriminated them. They thought my partner and had to be Mangyan to live with them. They could not stand staying with the Mangyans and could not understand how we could. 

    What struck me most was when he said he was sure we would do the same for him if they visited us. I could not help but wonder would we? Would I? When I look at how much they gave us and how little they had… How much we give our guests and how much we have… It humbles me to remember their selfless generosity. It so easy to want to convert them to share our modern way life. But in truth, while we were there, I think they were the ones who converted me. I don’t know if I could ever do for random strangers who lived in my house for a week, what they did for us.

    Sorry this post is so long but thought this might be opportunity to share…because the reflection reminded me of them. 

    • Cecilia

      Thank you for your beautiful witness. To offer the gift of oneself to another in charitable love truly must cancel out the actions of those who “grab w/greed” which does align w/overstepping one’s boundaries.

    • Vicki

      Thanks so much for sharing with us! I’ve been hoping you would come back and tell us how it went!  What a privilege that you were able to have this experience! 

      • God was so present there! Although I wasn’t able to attend Sunday Mass. The Bible came alive in ways that could not have happened anywhere else. I hope its okay if I add one more thing… 

        One of the most humbling for me was this… The Mangyans live up in the mountains. They have to travel several kilometers of rough roads and steep muddy, mucky trails everyday. Not athletic, I was quickly out of breath. They had to guide and support us lest our feet get stuck in the mire. They were so patient with us. What would have been a 15 minute trek for them was practically an hour for us. We were amazed at their stamina and very grateful for their help. We wore hiking sandals, which got really muddy at the end of the day. But they walked through the forest barefoot. 

        I found this so humbling because it reminded me of the Last Supper. Jesus and His disciples daily walked through rough terrain, dusty, dirty roads as well. When I saw my feet and sandals, I understood why washing the feet was reserved for the lowliest servants. It is still slowly dawning upon me, the great humility of our Lord as He washed His apostles’ feet.

        • Vicki

          This is a picture I will not forget – thanks for sharing.  It’s quite different from the cleansing we see on Holy Thursday, and is a new awakening as to the service Christ expects of us.

    • LizEst

      Congratulations on your new Cardinal-designate Luis Antonio Tagle!!

      • Thank you! We are really grateful for it because he was made Archbishop just a year ago. He also graduated from my university, Ateneo (Loyola Schools) 😀

        • LizEst

          He has many very good attributes…and, as I understand, is the youngest of the group of six just named. In fact, one blog said this:

          • Hahaha! Thanks! Future Pope! Been hoping for that myself! Would love to have a Filipino Pope! I’ll be honest… I’ve attended a two of his Masses and a recollection in school, with the hopes of being able to someday say that I’ve met the Pope! 
            But seriously he is a great speaker. Jesuit Communications produces a weekly videos series of him explaining the First Reading, Second Reading and Gospel each Sunday. He was doing even when he was still Bishop of Imus, Cavite. Check it out here! The show is called “The Word Exposed”

          • LizEst

            Thank you, Mary. I will be happy to check it out. God bless you.

            ps. I stand corrected on him being the youngest. Apparently the youngest the major Archbishop of the Trivandrum of the Siro-Malankaresi in India, His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal (he is 53). With all these youthful cardinal designates, I’m feeling my age! Ha! Ha!

          • Hey, Mary, do not take away my choice for the next Pope from me.  This time it will be Cardinal Arinze.  Last time we  placed a bet with a Priest friend of mine at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa who favoured him and I insisted it would be Cardinal Ratzinger and I won.  But Father George went underground and never paid me my One Thousand Shillings!!!!!  I am praying for an African Pope where our Mother Church is growing the fastest.  Be blessed.

          • Alright what about a non-European Pope at least? :)) No offense to the Europeans here but we would want to see our continents represented too!

          • Mary – I was actually pulling for Cardinal Arinze too. However, I have no complaints about our current pope.
            Sent from my iPad

  • Cecilia

    Vicki, thank you for offering this today (a brave lady!) for these 2 words have rather confused me at times. When studying WWII, the word “nationalism” seems to be the word used by those who attacked other nations and “patriotism,” was used by those who defended their borders and internal affairs from the attackers. It seems that at times these two definitions have a tendency to become blurred when we over step our boundaries. We have the right to defend ourselves, our values, our beliefs, our freedoms, our way of life and life itself as gifts from God. We have a responsibility to live and fight for these rights & for these freedoms from those who will attempt to remove them from us either internally or externally from our borders.
    That which I love about the Catholic Church are some of the basic things I love about America, i.e., the diversity of the peoples, their colors, their languages, the basic freedom to express thoughts and understanding in an attempt to embrace and unite into a stronger community/ nation.
    I feel extremely blessed to be both–Catholic and American. However, both come with great responsibilities to others, to the world and to God. I pray that God grants us the courage, the perseverance and the knowledge to speak w/His clarity in Truth on a daily basis.

    • Vicki

      Well-said!  I think this is an interesting subject.  After I read this quote, I asked my mother (25 year veteran of the Air Force) what she thought the two words meant.  She said patriotism is what she feels.  She loves her country and would be willing to die for it.  Nationalism is what governments sometimes do, and it’s not because of love, it’s because of a desire for power.  I thought she hit the nail on the head.  

      And I agree with you wholeheartedly – part of what makes both our country and our faith great is the diversity – so many different people all sharing a common Faith, or “this great experiment” (which is America).  

  • Neil MacDonald

    Vicki, that is so nicely done. It allowed me to really think about where I stand on these issues. I especially loved the last part where you quoted Ghandi, Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. Being a cradle Catholic that is 73 years old I feel that I’m not only older but wiser in my thinking sharing concerning my faith among others. I really feel as you said that secretly I would love to convert every non-Catholic friend and family member but choose to sit back quietly and listen to them and only offer up ideas when asked. Often I’ve learned much by doing so. I pray for all that just maybe they too will at some time understand why we are who we are. God Bless you for these thoughts.


    • I am where you are, Neil, but just one year older than you……but you far surpass me on this one.  You sit quietly and listen and only offer your  your ideas when asked. There, I fail miserably.  When I believe one is wrong, especially where my Catholic Faith is concerned, I find myself, compelled to put them right. Well, I rationalize with myself that I am bound to practice the Spiritual Work of Mercy of “advising the doubtful”…..or in other words, “correcting those in the wrong” regarding our Faith.  I don’t know what you would call that trait, but try as I could, I always fall flat each time.

  • David Nunez

    I belive that as we grow spiritually we begin to see the world population as our family. It’s similar to what the internet has done for our social life: I can communicate with anyone in the world cause he/she can be my online buddy. The only difference is who/what connects us.

  • Susanvhage

    Q1: My answer would be both. I try and love others for who’s they are, (which took many years to figure out.) But I have to say I want them to share my point of view because I’m right. BOY that sounds awful.-But  what I mean is,(speaking on a purely spiritual note), that ever since my own spiritual life has grown and deepend, I look at people differently.Compassionately.  When I meet someone,I remind myself to  litererally try and see them where they are. How God sees and loves them. But then in doing so , I sometimes get an urgent feeling of how far away they may be from God, and I want them to know what I know. I see people living in such darkness and totally unaware of it. Or worse yet, they think they have it all figured out and are “saved” and need not worry about their eternal  future. Maybe it’s because I meet a lot of people who are grieving. And deal with the subject of death on an almost daily basis. (I work at a florist and people come in to buy their family’s funeral flowers.) Suicides are the worst. We are just a heart beat away from eternity, and I fear for people’s souls. I guess it’s not so much about converting them as it is about enlightening and loving them.
    And the strange thing is, I’ve noticed people,(many times strangers), opening up to me and sharing very personal heart aches. I usually I don’t say much, just listen and look for an opportunity to tell them Jesus is there for them, and that I will keep them in my prayers………..the list is getting long.

    • Reading what you say, Susanvhage, I would say you are a very Compassionate Person. And that is what Jesus asks us to be.

    • LizEst

      What a beautiful ministry you have, Susanvhage. It never occurred to me how much of an opportunity florists have be Christ to others. You are truly that leaven which Jesus meant for us to be in the world. God bless you!

  • Trevor

    I am a patriotic Canadian. I feel this way because of how safe and accepted I feel anywhere I go in my city, province or other parts of the country. It also has encouraged many to emmigrate to our country because the message is out in the world that you will be accepted. Our family has a gym membership at the local Jewish Centre and there are many nationalities and cultures that also use their facilities. They recognize Jewish and Christian holidays, which makes everyone understanding. As your patriotic forefathers stated “Give us your tired, your poor…”, with Christian values, they were accepting everyone who wanted to come to a new land and be who they were, and also accept others in the same way.

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