What we have traditionally called the “White Mass” has been a tradition of the Catholic Church in the United States since 1932, which coincides with the origin of what later came to be known as the Catholic Medical Association. The term “white” refers to the white coats that physicians involved in patient care have worn for many years.
Today, advanced nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other patient care providers wear white coats. White coats have come to symbolize the healing profession. With each year’s White Mass, we look forward to gathering physicians, dentists, nurses and all who work in the healthcare environment.
Over the past 18 months, the world has been severely traumatized by the myriad number of illnesses and deaths associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the pandemic still continues after these many months, though the availability of effective vaccines offers hope for the future.
All healthcare professionals but most especially those at the “front lines” of patient care, are themselves suffering from the burnout and exhaustion that has resulted from the sheer number of those affected by the virus, the intensity of their illness and the level of care required to assist in their recovery.
Many of our colleagues have become ill themselves in carrying out their duties, and some have died.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will celebrate this year’s White Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption on Oct. 3 at 5:30 p.m. This year we celebrate with special gratitude the heroic efforts of all healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. And a warm invitation is extended to persons of all faiths who serve in the healthcare field.
At this liturgy, we celebrate the call to alleviate suffering and to preserve the health of our fellow human beings. We pray for almighty God’s blessing of the work that we do and for the patients that we care for. We also pray for the intercession of St. Luke, the patron saint of physicians, as the White Mass is annually celebrated in proximity to his feast day on Oct. 18.
This year marks the ninth White Mass that has been celebrated in our archdiocese and coincides with the formation of the St. Joseph Guild of the Catholic Medical Association. Over these years, Archbishop Kurtz has been very supportive of this annual Mass and we are grateful for his support and for his 14 years of leadership in our archdiocese.
I am very grateful that the “work” of healthcare is not really a job at all … it’s a calling to a profession that is so vital in our society, especially at times such as these.
Physicians and other healthcare professionals who normally wear white coats are encouraged to wear them to this liturgy.
Dr. Fred Williams is an endocrinologist with UofL Physicians and is a member of St. Boniface Church. He currently serves as chair of the Kentucky Physicians Leadership Institute and is a board member of the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care. He is a past president of the Greater Louisville Medical Society and the Kentucky Medical Association.