Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Samantha Smith
The American flag is displayed outside the Cathedral of Christ the King the morning of Sept. 11. Members of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department raise the flag each year for celebration of the Blue Mass.


Blue Mass honors public safety officials, first responders

By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published September 19, 2019

ATLANTA—Public safety officials, first responders and Catholics gathered to celebrate the fifth annual Blue Mass on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta.

Bagpipe notes from “Amazing Grace” accompanied people as they entered the cathedral. Soloist Louis Bell sang the national anthem with the presentation of colors by the City of Atlanta Police Honor Guard before the opening procession.

“We come together on this day enshrined in our nation’s memory to pay respect to the fallen, to show our gratitude to those who endure danger for the sake of general wellness, and to pray that we are united in a fight to promote and preserve the common good,” said Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, celebrant of this year’s Blue Mass.

In the United States, the Blue Mass tradition began in September 1934, when Father Thomas Dade of the Archdiocese of Baltimore formed the Catholic Police and Fireman’s Society. That year, the first Blue Mass was celebrated for police officers and firefighters. Since then, the Blue Mass has been celebrated in many dioceses across the country and is often tied to the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 to honor first responders who risked their lives and died in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

The City of Atlanta Police Honor Guard presented the colors at the fifth annual Blue Mass of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, celebrated Wednesday, Sept. 11 at the Cathedral of Christ the King. The Mass honors first responders and remembers the lives lost in the 2001 terrorist attacks. Photo by Samantha Smith.

During his homily, Bishop Konzen talked about the common ground between first responders and men and women religious.

“You in the response professions and we in the faith professions have something in common. We are championing a life for the general public that is rooted in mutual respect, regard for life,” he said.

“Our hope comes from the constancy that propels us, the reality that we will not be defeated by the sins that threaten life, and the prospect of goodness and well-being,” said Bishop Konzen.

Memorial wreaths for Atlanta firefighters and police officers were on display near the altar of the cathedral. Bishop Konzen blessed the badges of first responders attending.

“We pray at this Blue Mass for all professionals dedicated to law and order and to rescue, including those present here and your compatriots elsewhere, that God might preserve them in safety, in steadfastness and in their ability to judge in the quickness of the moment, the right thing to do,” he said.

On the eve of Sept. 11, 2001, firefighters, police officers, first responders and families prepared for the next day not knowing what was to come, said Major Ricardo Vazquez, Zone 6 Commander for the Atlanta Police Department.

For those still healing from the aftermath of the attacks, Major Vazquez encouraged them to “live and enjoy the breaths you take today. And tonight, before you go to sleep in preparation for life tomorrow, kiss the ones you love, snuggle them a little bit tighter, and tell them you love them and never take one second of your life for granted.”

“September 11 is a day that we will never forget,” said Deputy Chief Antonio Webb from the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.

We take the things that were learned from that day and embrace our role in society, said Deputy Chief Webb.

“We are the homeland security for the city of Atlanta. We take pride and we honor that role,” he said.

After the Mass, public safety officials were greeted by Christ the King School students who clapped and cheered, “thank you for your service,” as the responders entered the cathedral’s Kenny Hall for lunch.

We offer thanks for the selflessness that your professions demand, said Bishop Konzen. “May God continue to bless your good work,” he prayed.