Hundreds of people donned their navy blue, sky blue, royal blue and other uniform colors as part of the first diocesan Blue Mass, dedicated in honor of local EMS, fire and law enforcement departments of all faiths. Bishop Richard J. Malone thanked all those who served the community during his homily Sunday morning at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo.
"You have been called to noble and much needed work for the common good," he said. "I'm here today to testify that you do that work very, very well. In the name of the Catholic community of Western New York, with my brother priests and deacons, to thank you sincerely for who you are and your service to the community.
The Blue Mass, named in honor of the color of many of the uniforms and shirts first responders wear, has been a Catholic Church tradition for more than 80 years. While the diocese has celebrated various memorial Masses in tribute to certain professions and organizations, this is the first time all first responders were honored specifically.
Bishop Malone called police, fire and EMS workers as protectors of shalom, the Hebrew word for peace.
"Shalom is God's will for all of the world and humankind," he said. "Shalom will never be total in this world, because as you all well know better than most, our world is imperfect, as beautiful as it is. It's flawed (and) we are too.
"Things go wrong. People do bad things. Folks fall ill. Emergencies happen. In a thousand small ways, and sometimes, tragically in large ways, life's brokenness keeps showing its pained face. When any one of us is thus afflicted by this brokenness, we cry out for help ... and you are there. You are there to keep human society safe and human relations civil. You are there to save lives, enforce the law and work for justice. You are there to confront the destructive force of fire and challenge life-threatening illness and trauma. You face every day with a willingness to give your best selves, even in times to risk your lives for the sake of others. We have profound reason to say, 'Thank you.'"
In Bishop Malone's eyes, police, fire and EMS workers and volunteers are cooperators with God, and he challenged them to grow their relationship with the Lord and His faith.
"You are about bringing order out of chaos and protecting us," the bishop said. "We need to make sure in our regular lives that we make time for God, through regular prayer and worship, whatever your tradition. Also be sure that you share your frustrations, your worries, (and) your pain with someone you trust. All of us are called to a high standard and the people expect a lot of us, and they should, and often, we may feel taken for granted. And sadly, sometimes members of our profession fail - mine and yours. We know that; it's a sad thing and we need to own that, but we also need to maintain a strong and healthy pride in who we are and in what we do.
"Please know that we love you, and that you are always in our prayers."
In addition to attending the Mass, several first responders participated with the service. An honor guard procession, comprised of police, sheriff and state police officers, began the ceremony, while members of local police, EMS and fire companies served as lectors. The Greater Buffalo Fire Fighters Pipe and Drums Corps played processional and recessional music.
Watch Bishop Malone's homily below: