Blue Mass honors law enforcement, firefighters and emergency responders

Blue uniforms and badges dotted the rows of pews at the Blue Mass for police, firefighters and emergency responders Sept. 29, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — The 9 a.m. Mass Sept. 30 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception not only celebrated the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, but also law enforcement, first responders and firefighters in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. When looking over the attendance, you could see dotted here and there the blue uniforms of Kansas City, Mo., police officers with their families. Firefighters, emergency responders and their families also attended the Mass celebrated by Father Paul Turner, pastor of the Cathedral. He was assisted by Dean Jim Olshefski.

The Blue Mass dates to Sept. 29, 1934, when Fr. Thomas Dade, then assistant pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., initiated the service as part of his duties with the Catholic Police and Fireman’s Society. The service was timed to coincide with Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, the patron military saint of police officers and military, and one of the three archangels honored on Sept. 29. That first Blue Mass has grown to a nationwide celebration.

In this diocese, the Blue Mass is celebrated annually on the Sunday closest to the Sept. 29 Feast of the Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Rafael.

In his homily, Fr. Turner referenced books of both the Old and the New Testaments: The Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. He said, “in the Book of Daniel, Michael is the guardian of the people in times of distress. In the Book of Revelation, when his angels fight the devil’s angels, Michael conquers.

“The Catholic Church,” he continued, “names Michael as saint for those who protect us from danger, the patron of police officers, firefighters and emergency responders…St. Michael and his forces of good overpowered the forces of evil.” He glanced around the church. “You also conquer evil. Bad people prowl our streets. Accidents happen in our homes. You put your lives at risk every day for our sakes. You possess special equipment to protect us. You also have something more: Love for the law.”

Explaining why love for the law is important for community safety, Fr. Turner said law is good, whether natural, civil or ecclesial. Laws help people respect one another. Human beings sometimes feel that laws curtail personal freedom, but they exist for the safety of a community and to protect the rights of others.

In Psalm 19, the psalmist reminds us that “The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.” Fr. Turner expanded on that, saying that true joy comes from not eluding the law, but obeying the law, which develops respect and foster peace.
“We need a police force,” he said, “a fire department and emergency responders because people don’t always follow the law. Sometimes we fail to take care of our own health and safety, not putting limits onto our own selfish desires. By not following even the common laws of courtesy and character, we put ourselves and others at risk. Other times we sin through a serious disrespect for people we think stand in the way of our joy. But, true joy comes from living in a community that respects rights.”

Sometimes people, by not obeying the laws, or disrespecting those who put their lives at risk every day for their community, harm those who work to protect others. In fact, the records since 1879 indicate that 166 law enforcement officers in Kansas City, St. Joseph and other towns and communities in the diocese have ended their watch — died — while on duty, predominately violently. One police dog also died. The first officer killed in the line of duty back in 1879 is buried at Mount St. Mary’s Cemetery in Kansas City.

Fr. Turner spoke of building up a peaceful society through fairness. “We may disagree on how laws should look, but we can agree that we need them. When we deal in fairness with those with whom we disagree, we stitch a strong fabric in our society, a protective tent that will ease the work of our public servants.”

In conclusion, Fr. Turner said, “Sometimes our fight is with the devil’s angels and in our distress we need a guardian like St. Michael. Other times we simply lack joy. We shout, push bully or break the law just to get our way, even in the face of a legitimate alternative way. There is common ground. We will find it among the precepts of the Lord. They give joy to the heart.”

The Mass continued, with prayers for police, emergency responders and firefighters. When it ended, Fr. Turner greeted many of the officers, firefighters and responders and their families in front of the Cathedral.

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Tuesday
October 16, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph