Today we gather to celebrate our Annual Blue Mass to honor our first responders: law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency personnel. The Blue Mass began many years ago when first responders gathered together once a year to remember their fallen comrades and to pray for the safety of their members. This Remembrance Day has been traditionally celebrated on the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel.
Angels are given names in Scripture to denote the roles they perform. Michael – which means “who is like God” – is to act and do the work of God. He is not an ordinary angel but an archangel; in the book of Daniel he is referred to as Archangel Michael because of his important role. Artists portray Michael as a protector with a sword and a shield with the emblem of a cross. The various first responder agencies each do special work and each one has its own shield and motto. The Archangel Michael’s role is to establish peace and justice, to defend and protect, to help and assist, and to lead and guide the people of God. This is what you do every day.
Michael the Archangel triumphed over evil with God help. It is fitting that the Archangel Michael has become the patron of all first responders. All you first responders play an important role in the lives of the people and our communities. You, like the Archangel Michael, have been given the role as guardians of our communities. When someone needs help, you are there to help. Michael the Archangel was sent by God to help others in need. You, our first responders, are sent out every day to help others when faced with danger or difficulties. Your training, your commitment, your service and your sacrifice are on display daily.
We the people recognize your professionalism, your bravery, and your good work 24/7/365 and offer you our prayers and gratitude; always there to do your duty. So, we come today to recognize your good work with our prayers for you and your families.
Recently the priests of St. James Cathedral and I attended a 9/11 Memorial Service at the City of Orlando Fire Station No.1. where Fr. Mychal Judge and all the first responders who gave their lives in the line of duty on September 11, 2001 were remembered. We lit 343 candles for the number of firefighters who lost their lives and 71 candles for the police officers who died. The ceremony paid tribute to those who gave their lives in the line of duty. Today we come to remember all those who lost their lives and paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in the line of duty. We remember them especially and their families today. May God sent His Archangel Michael to be with them now and forever and may our prayers be a source of consolation.
Father Mychal Judge was the first victim of terrorist attacks on 9/11 while serving as a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. In a homily the day before he died, he said, “Good days. Bad days. Up days. Down days. Sad days. Happy days. But never a boring day on this job. You do what God has called you to do, you show up. You put one foot in front of another. You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job — which is a mystery and a surprise. You have no idea when you get on that rig. No matter how big the call. No matter how small. You have no idea what God is calling you to. But he needs you. He needs all of us.” May I add we too need all of you every day and we are ever grateful to know you are there 24/7/365.
The day you graduated from the academy you raised your right hand to take the oath of office and pledged to do your job to the best of your ability. I am sure you have faced many difficulties that you never would or could have never imagined in the line of duty. Those difficult times which you will never forget; the horrors and tragedies of life – this is the stuff that we never see in the evening news. But remember that it is your families, your friends, your fellow workers and your mentors – these are the people you live for and who accompany you daily on your journey of life. It is these people and God who are always there for you to strengthen and encourage you. Today we are reminded that God sends His Archangel Michael to strengthen you with courage and peace to guide you each day and bring you safely home to your families at the end of every shift. Let us thank God today for each one of you. We pray for you, for your fellow workers, for your families and all who help and support you in your daily tasks of serving God and all our sisters and brothers in their needs.
God, let us pray:
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend you in your daily battles.
Be your defense against the wickedness and snares of the evil in our world.
May God rebuke that evil, we humbly pray,
and may you O Lord, Prince of the Heavenly Hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about our world
seeking to ruin or destroy of our sisters and brothers. Amen
St. James Cathedral, Orlando
September 27, 2019