By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
A giant-sized American flag suspended high above the ground fluttered softly as close to 200 Louisville Metro Police officers, firefighters and other first responders processed into the Cathedral of the Assumption for a Blue Mass on the evening of Sept. 12.
The Blue Mass gives thanks for the work of first-responders and pays tribute to those who lost their lives while serving.
The hat and gloves of four fallen officers rested atop red pillows next to a single stem red rose near the entrance of the cathedral — a solemn reminder of that ultimate sacrife.
Father Martin Linebach, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Louisville, celebrated the liturgy, which was preceded by the sounds of bagpipes and drums. About 400 people, including the men and women in uniform, attended.
Father Linebach opened the celebration by acknowledging the families of officers who’ve died in the line of duty. He also extended Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz’s gratitude to men and women who serve.
“He knows and respects you,” said Father Linebach. He noted that the archbishop himself would be there if it weren’t for health problems. Archbishop Kurtz is in North Carolina receiving treatment for cancer.
Father Linebach said first responders have taken a “sacred oath to the people of the community.”
“I know I speak on behalf of them to say thank you for your service,” said Father Linebach.
In his homily, Father Linebach said that when individuals encounter evil in the world the response might be to doubt God or even question his existence.
“Murder, assault, drug abuse, gang violence, disregard for life at all stages, hatred for people. These are just some of the things that women and men who respond first and have pledged to protect and serve face each day and the experience can often be very dark.”
But in all this darkness, Father Linebach said God is still present.
“We come to realize that God is our only hope, that God alone helps us to make sense of our world. God is the cornerstone,” he said.
The Blue Mass is an “opportunity to recognize you, the men and women who protect and serve us … to lift you up to God in prayer, regardless of your particular religious beliefs, to raise you up and ask almighty God to watch over you and to care for you, to protect you the way a father watches over, cares for and protects his children,” Father Linebach told the first responders in the congregation.
He noted that the Blue Mass is also a celebration of faith, which is sometimes tested by the darker side of human nature. The words of holy Scripture can strengthen faith, he said.
“God also speaks other words to you as public servants, words like duty, honor, integrity, service, justice, common good,” said Father Linebach. It would be difficult to understand and believe those words if God wasn’t in the midst of what first responders do, day in and day out, he said.
Father Linebach prayed for God’s blessing and protection over the men and women who serve Metro Louisville telling them that they do so without “fame or fanfare.”
The Blue Mass also honored officers who died while serving such as Metro Louisville Police Officers, including Nicholas Rodman and Diedre Mengedoht.
Officer Rodman, a 2005 graduate of Holy Cross High School, died in March of 2017, a day after he was injured in a violent crash that occurred as he pursued a suspect.
In December of 2018 Detective Mengedoht was killed while she was conducting a traffic stop in downtown Louisville. Her police vehicle was struck by a drunk driver.
Blue Masses are celebrated nationwide. The service dates back to 1934, when the first Mass was celebrated in Washington, D.C.