| By Bishop Steven J. Raica

‘We honor your courage, your dedication, your conviction’ Bishop Raica Honors First Responders at Blue Masses

My dear friends,

It is my joy to welcome you to this Blue Mass honoring and surrounding in prayer the mission of law enforcement and first responders: all those engaged in the very important mission of civil protection in our communities….

My gratitude today goes to each of you and your families. We gather today to pray for you, to support you on the important endeavor to build bridges of solidarity with our local communities and neighborhoods so that we may live in ever greater peace and security.

On behalf of everyone here today, parishioners from various parishes throughout our greater…metro areas, and especially with the wider faith communities here, I express my own gratitude to each of you.  In the various agencies that you represent, we know how important it is to cooperate to achieve the highest professionalism to sustain good public order.

There is no doubt that we face all kinds of challenges today. How I wish it weren’t so! Your calling – a true vocation – steps right in to allow the widest possible legitimate expression of individual and communitarian civil rights as you seek to keep the wider community safe and secure.  While you are on the front lines, we in ministry - in our vocation, often work behind the scenes with individuals, families, and groups to find pragmatic solutions to the many issues facing our communities every day, especially among those who may be ill or disadvantaged. It’s true that we see the first responders spring into action when called. Oftentimes, we see people flee a perilous situation as you run right toward the danger. Reviewing and studying the high-profile cases we see how we can all do our work better. At the same time, I’m also aware that there are many acts of law enforcement and first responders that are known only to you.  The acts of rescue, of finding a wandering child, an adolescent at risk, or a lost elderly person on the street and returning them to their families or homes. It is a great act of charity. We know God sees it and rewards it as something done to the least among us.

Today, we see new challenges and ever-increasing complexities as an ongoing battle with public opinion oscillates like a syne wave – up and down – especially when mistakes are made or good is achieved. With ever greater pressures, the support that we, as faith communities provide, can help alleviate the stress to you and your families, knowing that whatever contributions, large or small, we can make go for the greater good. There is nothing more your families want except that you return home safely after your shift.

Here in the state of Alabama, we are ever mindful of the complex historical realities that overshadow and impact everything we do today. It is important that we continue our conversations and dialogues in order to understand each other, to listen to the struggles we face and to begin to know each other, not by some reductive feature such as color or ethnicity or religion, but rather as our faith teaches - as brothers and sisters – part of one human family imbued with a sublime dignity and as one whose heart seeks after truth, justice, freedom and happiness.

Nevertheless, we know there are conflicts, there is violence in parts of our cities that reduce the quality of life and spread fear. We read about them in our newspapers or online and hear about them on the evening news. It disquiets the soul keeping people from going out and enjoying the splendid opportunities our community offers. Past memories continue to blur our thinking and make us hesitate to form relationships, to listen to one another, and build bridges of trust and hope that can make our communities strong exceptional places to live and raise our families.

So today we honor your courage, your dedication, your conviction to maintain a good order in our communities.

In addition, during this Blue Mass, we also lift up and commend to the Lord’s mercy, those officers and first responders who have lost their lives and paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. May Christ, the merciful one, welcome them with joy. They gave their lives for us and our freedoms. May we vividly recall their sacrifice and incorporate their fortitude in bolstering our vocation to selfless, generous service in our community. You give daily witness to those who are working for justice and peace. They are the true peace makers.

This year we gather…surrounded by the community that supports the vital work you do – protecting us while risking your own lives. Daily we understand how easy it is to see what is wrong or went wrong, what is evil, what is broke and what contemporary society can’t seem to fix with all their creativity. Beyond the infractions of the law, there are also individuals who are wounded and broken, whose lives seem irreparably damaged. Still, there is a small voice crying out for attention, a voice that is searching for something, oftentimes searching to be found and to be loved.

In a few months, we will commemorate Christmas again. Christ came as an infant – weak and dependent on those around Him. Yet, He was a presence we needed and, indeed, still need today – our Prince of Peace. He demonstrated His love right up to the very end.

As you carry out your salutary mission, I pray that our dream can be fulfilled, that we can build a community of life and love as promoters of solidarity toward the weakest and most defenseless and the lost and confused; to be guardians of the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. After all, each person is loved immensely by God; each person is His creation for a definite purpose; each person deserves welcome and respect. Through the embrace of our prayer and the ineffable grace of this event, may your spirit be renewed as you dedicate yourselves to your noble profession lived out with towering generosity and love of neighbor.

Once again, I express my deep gratitude to each of you for your important work in our community and wish you the abundance of the Lord’s blessings and protection.