by Joseph F. Naumann
On Sunday, Sept. 12, the day after the commemoration of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, I had the privilege to celebrate a Blue Mass at St. Pius X Parish in Mission.
A Blue Mass is a popular title for a Eucharist that is offered for the intentions of firefighters, other emergency service personnel and their families. During a Blue Mass, we pray in a particular way for safety and God’s blessing upon those who, on a daily basis, risk their lives to keep our communities safe and to assist individuals and families at moments of crisis.
This past year Shawnee firefighter John Glaser lost his life during a search and rescue mission at a burning building. During the Mass, we prayed especially for him, his widow Amber, their two children — Brecken and Emma, his parents Arvon and Patty, his family and his many friends who continue to mourn his tragic death.
I was told at the Mass that Glaser had switched responsibilities with another firefighter who, earlier in the day, had been involved in a rescue and resuscitation effort for a young child who had drowned. Realizing the trauma his fellow firefighter had been through already that day, Glaser volunteered to assume the more stressful and dangerous position at the scene of the fire.
It is easy to take for granted those men and women who every day are willing to place their health, safety and life on the line in order to protect and save us. Similarly, we often take for granted the families who support and encourage our firefighters and emergency service personnel in their essential work for our community.
During the homily at the Blue Mass, I pointed out some of the parallels between the mission of Jesus and that of firefighters. Jesus came into this world on the greatest and most important search and rescue mission in human history. Our Lord came to seek and to save those who were lost. Eternal life apart from God (hell) is often described in the imagery of being tortured by unquenchable flames.
At each Mass, we actually touch the ultimate act of heroism and self-sacrifice — the crucified Jesus submitting Himself to the most painful and cruel death in order that we might know the depth of his Father’s love for us — in order that we might open our hearts to de- sire, seek and accept God’s mercy. Jesus came to resuscitate us, who through sin, were dead to the abundant and eternal life that God desires for us.
Before he entered the seminary, Father Gary Pennings, one of our vicars general, was a director for emergency services in Johnson County. His former profession trained him well for his current responsibilities. Father Pennings learned how to remain calm in crisis and under a lot of pressure. More importantly, he learned to dedicate his life in trying to help others.
Each of us as a baptized, confirmed Catholic are called to inform our work or profession with the principles and the truths of the Gospel. We are called to be witnesses of Jesus Christ, drawing others to him — not principally by our words, but by the character of our lives. Others should see in us a goodness and joy that they find attractive.
If we live the Gospel with fidelity, we should prompt others to ask us: Why do we care so deeply about others? Why do we have such joy in the midst of the same difficulties and struggles that they experience? Our answers to these and similar questions should always point others to Jesus and the gift of our Catholic faith.
I encourage you in your prayers this week to give thanks for our firefighters and other emergency service personnel. Ask the Lord to bless them and their families. Ask the Lord to watch over and protect them, just as they watch over and protect us and our communities. If you know a firefighter or encounter one this week, thank him or her for their service to our community.
Also, reflect this week on the opportunities in your everyday life to follow Jesus and to be witnesses of his Gospel. Remember that each of us is called to draw others to Jesus by living lives of joy and heroic love.
The Gospel lived well is irresistible.