PALM BEACH GARDENS | The archangels — Michael, Gabriel and Raphael — are known by their names as protector, messenger and healer, respectively. And, as Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito said during the annual Blue Mass Sept. 29, law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency personnel embody the qualities of all three archangels when they do their jobs well.
The liturgy, held on the archangels’ feast day at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola, is called “blue” because of the color of uniforms traditionally worn by police, firefighters, correctional officers, emergency medical personnel and others working as first responders. The Mass is a way to remember and thank people serving in public safety and remember those who have died in the line of duty.
The bishop said it was an honor to greet the officials in attendance “for all that you do on a daily basis, in protecting us and our community, giving us an example that we need, and being within our society those who stand for what the true meaning of life is all about. We are deeply, deeply grateful to you.”
“Yours is not an easy job. We know that. But you do it in a way that makes such a difference that it raises us all up,” he added.
Explaining in his homily the three qualities of service by first responders, Bishop Barbarito said the archangels stand as special examples. Perhaps the best-known archangel is St. Michael, who went into battle with Satan, as described in the Book of Revelation. It’s a battle with evil that continues to this day, he said.
“As we look to our sheriff’s office and police officers, our firefighters, we realize that they fight with evil — human evil and natural evil, with fires — and they are the ones who put their lives on the line each and every day to protect us from that evil,” the bishop said. “They are the ones who remind us that human nature is corrupted by evil.”
St. Gabriel, who gave Mary the message that she would give birth to the Messiah (see Luke’s Gospel), trusted the archangel. The message carried by today’s public safety officers is that humans are created in the image and likeness of God and are, therefore, worthy of being defended from harm.
“These men and women in public service remind us of the dignity that we all have,” Bishop Barbarito said. “They send a message to all of society that human nature is good. They send a message that we are worth who we are because we come from God.”
Police and emergency workers are present as healers when tragedy strikes, similar to the role of St. Raphael in the Old Testament Book of Tobit. In the act of giving comfort to victims, first responders give of themselves for the betterment of all.
“You heal us because we know you’re there,” the bishop said. “We know in a difficult situation that we can call you. We know in a difficult situation you’re looking out for us. We know in a difficult situation that you’re putting the goodness of humanity before the evil that can exist in our society.
“May God continue to bless you and fill you with his love and protection as you carry out your mission in a concrete way each and every day. It is greatly, greatly appreciated,” Bishop Barbarito said.
The Mass, which ended by praying the St. Michael prayer, was followed by a reception with food in the cathedral’s Family Life Center.
For more information on upcoming events in the Diocese of Palm Beach, visit www.diocesepb.org/news/.