On Oct. 15, Bishop Richard J. Malone presided over the second-ever Blue Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral, which recognized the work of police officers, firefighters and other first responders who live and work in the Diocese of Buffalo. Although the concept of Blue Mass dates back to 1934, it is a new addition in this diocese, and since 2015, Bishop Malone has been committed to making this an annual tradition here.
In addition to Bishop Malone as celebrant at the Mass, Deacon Dan Golinski, a technical sergeant and communication supervisor for the New York State Police, gave a special homily.
"In a special way, we welcome, we honor and we thank all of you men and women who serve us, day in and day out, serve the common good of our communities in law enforcement, firefighting and any kind of emergency response, first responder work that we do. It is God's work to keep the good order of the community and respond to situations of crisis," Bishop Malone said to the congregation. "We invite you here today in a custom that is only two years old here in Buffalo. It goes to the 1930s in our country. We're a little delayed, but we're going to move forward, so we're grateful for you and grateful you could join us today."
Lectors and petition readers included members of law enforcement, fire and emergency medical service agencies. An honor guard and the Greater Buffalo Firefighters Pipe and Drums also attended. "Blue Mass" refers to the uniforms that police and first responders generally wear. In addition to extending open invitations to first responders' families, the Mass remembered all those who were lost in the line of duty.
In his homily, Deacon Golinski referred to the day's Gospel, in which Jesus told His followers to "pray always without becoming weary." He considered the meaning of this advice in today's society, which makes it difficult to obey this command since people are human and become exhausted by work. He also considered how God worked through Moses to help the Israelites, who kept fighting even through exhaustion.
"Despite his firm resolve, his physical body could no longer maintain his position. What happened next? Backup arrived. He was not alone, and neither are we. When we take to the streets, we have sworn to serve the people of the community that we are in. Whether paid or volunteer, we have a duty to those whose care has been entrusted to us," Deacon Golinski said. "I served for three years as a volunteer firefighter with the Vigilant Fire Company in West Seneca while I was in college. When the alarm rang out for a structure fire, they didn't send just one company. They sent two. If it was a large enough structure, they sent three."
Deacon Golinski recalled how if fire companies were sent to a large fire and all of their resources were tied up at that scene, other neighboring companies would stand by to offer help if another call came. For 28 years, Deacon Golinski worked as a New York state trooper, noting that when police officers are in their patrol cruisers, they are not truly alone and can request additional support and backup if needed.
"While we live our lives of service, and while we live to support one another, we already have a life of prayer, and Christ tells us that this prayer is to be unceasing. When I was in high school preparing for my confirmation, I had to choose my confirmation name. My confirmation name is Michael," Deacon Golinski said, noting while his father's name is Michael, St. Michael is also the patron saint of police officers and many other professions where he is called upon for protection while serving in the line of duty.
"All I knew about St. Michael on the day of my confirmation, really, was that he was an angel. I learned since then God has a sense of humor. St. Michael is the patron saint of the soldier. On May 15, 1987, I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army. St. Michael is the patron saint of the pilot. I flew Army helicopters for 15 years," he added. "St. Michael is the patron saint of the police officer. I eventually got to the point where I went, 'Okay, I hear you. St. Michael is supposed to be part of my life.'"
Since then, Deacon Golinski has developed a "wonderful" relationship with this saint, and whenever he hears a siren, he calls on St. Michael to pray with him. He asks the archangel to pray with him for both those who are responding to emergency and those who will be helped. "I am not alone. He's with me," Deacon Golinski concluded. "Remember this command to 'pray always' is not just yours. It goes out to all of God's people. In our lines of work, we, the first responders, are often answers to someone else's prayers. In the words of St. Teresa of Avila, 'Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours.'"