PALM BEACH GARDENS | Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito welcomed law enforcement and emergency personnel to the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola on Oct. 4, for the annual Blue Mass, thanking them for their selfless service to local communities.
“We know that many of you could not be present with us this morning because you are doing what you do,” he said. “So many of you are on the west coast of Florida assisting in the hurricane relief.”
In fact, Hurricane Ian was why the Blue Mass was postponed from Sept. 29, the feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, to Oct. 4, a day honoring St. Francis of Assisi. In his homily at the liturgy, Bishop Barbarito acknowledged that there would seem to be a contrast between St. Michael the archangel, patron of police and people in the military, and St. Francis.
“St. Francis of Assisi is known for being a man of great peace,” he said. “St. Francis of Assisi is known for his work for the poor. St. Francis of Assisi is known for his love of nature, for his love of animals. Blessings of animals take place today. St. Francis of Assisi is known for the Nativity, creating a Nativity creche.”
Many may not be aware, the bishop said, that there are several connections between St. Francis and the archangel.
One of those ties was St. Francis’ strong devotion to angels, he said. The church to which Francis had the greatest attachment was the Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, which he rebuilt after being prompted by God to “rebuild my church.” Even though the Lord was speaking about building up the universal church and not a physical building, Francis restored the little chapel that he loved, Bishop Barbarito said.
A further connection between Francis and Michael, the bishop said, is a devotion begun by Francis called St. Michael’s Lent, which started every year on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption, and lasted 40 days (not including Sundays) until St. Michael’s feast, Sept. 29.
“During those 40 days, which was a preparation for the feast of St. Michael the archangel, St. Francis and his brothers would pray, they would fast, they would join together in communion,” he said. “It was during that St. Michael’s Lent, on one occasion, in 1224, on Sept. 17, when an angel appeared to Francis of Assisi.”
The angel presented to Francis “that for which St. Francis is so well known for — the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, which he bore,” Bishop Barbarito said.
“St. Francis had a devotion to Michael the archangel because he knew the power of the angels. He knew that Michael the archangel is the one to protect us against evil,” he said, adding that it was fitting to honor local first responders on a day that recalls the life of St. Francis.
“On this feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a man of such tremendous goodness who changed the course of the world and changed the course of the church,” the bishop said, we honor him who was devoted to St. Michael and ask that we are guided to become instruments of God’s peace.
The annual Blue Mass is so called because blue relates to the color of the uniform traditionally worn by police, firefighters, correctional officers, emergency medical personnel and others working as first responders. The liturgy expresses gratitude to those who have died in the line of duty and people currently serving in public safety. It is an opportunity for the community to thank them and their families.
For more information on upcoming events in the Diocese of Palm Beach, visit https://www.diocesepb.org/news/.