Or: Why it would be very difficult being a proper Conservative in Germany.
On two week-days, Holy Mass is celebrated in the chapel of a Catholic Hospital close to my place of work. Whenever I can, I attend Mass there. Usually, (after the sisters left, but that is another story), there is a congregation of some seven to twelve, and you know the majority of them by sight at least. Today, however, I was in for a surprise.
I was a wee bit late (mea culpa), and was struck, on entering, by seeing two sets of equally, but differently, colourfully dressed of young men standing to the left and to the right of the altar, three each side, and one each holding a big flag.
One side looked like this:
The other more like that:
Additionally, there were some 15 young men in dark suits in the pews (left and right).
Now, I will admit to some partiality towards young(ish) men in suits, or kilts, or historical uniforms. That instinctive reaction, however, was tempered, in roughly equal parts, by the GNT* reaction to anything even remotely military, and by my background knowledge, and very, very ambivalent position about/regarding Studentenverbindungen.
Them being the top adversaries of far-left student groups, they would, (a) enjoy my pre-conversion automatic disapproval, and (b) my post-conversion advance of goodwill (because most things hated by the far left are not as bad as the media make us see them).
Actually, when Communist-Germany I started to study at a western German university, meeting actually existing real-time Burschenschaftler was an experience akin to meeting actually existing real-time knights: History come alive, and you hardly believe it.
For this reason, I do not have the instinctive aversion to them that, let us say, Magdalena has. In fact, I took part in a number of activities of one particular fraternity, distinguished by having female active members (Is this a particularly bad thing, in this context, or an attenuating circumstance? At this time of the day I get confused by double-negatives.)
Still, for a ‘normal’ contemporary German (and probably anyone else), they are weird, to say the least.
Coming, at last, to the liturgical question.
These people seem to regard themselves as soldiers in gala uniform. Now we, in Germany, are neither predominantly Catholic, nor exactly demonstratively militaristic, at the moment. There are therefore no Masses with military prominently present (aka Remembrance day, etc.), here.
Now even admitting that these Studentenverbindungen have an equal position for that purpose: What should their role in the liturgy be?
German me says:
Simply kneeling/standing in the pew like everyone else, full stop. (Would be quite efficient as well, maybe, to have ostentatiously uniformed men kneeling in front of Our Lord, in Germany, today.)
What they did, however was:
Keep their more or less stupid hats on, all the time.
Most of them (the disciplined left side, anyway) staring straight ahead, not at the altar.
At the words of consecration, the left side, at least (those with the particularly silly hats), did this: The flagbearer lowered the flag, and the other two saluted. (No-one knelt.)
At recession, the priest stood for a while, ad orientem, while these chaps saluted/lowered the flag, and left before the priest.
How should this have been done (if done at all)? (Real question to the liturgists!)
At least, at 30+, I am finally mature enough to charitably think ‘Bless their little hearts!’ and smile at them (leaving the not really quite suppressible grin for when they have left), and appreciate that at least they go to Mass (and, some of them, dress well) before getting, probably, hideously drunk.
*GNT: German National Trauma