My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
On this coming Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, we will celebrate the annual Blue Mass at 11:15 a.m., at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Rochester. At this Mass we pray for all our sisters and brothers in law enforcement, as well as those serving in the military, asking Our Lord to protect them as they work to keep us safe and to protect our freedom.
We also beg the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, at this Mass, to bestow peace upon our communities, nation and world as we stand in the shadow of the most recent tragedies in El Paso, where 22 innocent children, women and men were killed and another 27 innocent people were wounded; in Dayton, Ohio, where nine innocent people lost their lives and dozens more were wounded; and in North Philadelphia where six police officers were wounded. These horrendous events are not isolated but follow a very sad pattern of violence where daily we learn of still more horrific acts of inhumanity. On Sept. 11, we sadly recall that day in 2001 when our country was frozen in disbelief as we witnessed terrorist attacks, one destroying the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, another as a plane crashed in a Somerset County, Pa., field, and a third hitting the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C. Almost 3,000 lives were lost in these attacks; among the dead were 412 emergency workers in New York City who responded to the World Trade Center attack and many more who would suffer terminal health complications during and after their service as first responders. The families of the deceased continue to mourn the loss of loved ones. So emblazoned in their minds is the memory of these attacks that daily they relive the tragic deaths of those so dear to them; so, too, this is the same for all who mourn the death of a dear one caused by senseless violence.
Now, 18 years later after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, violent attacks continue and have become more numerous. Who can question the need to pray more earnestly for peace and to work for peace? Our children are growing up in a world where anger, hostility, vindictiveness and revenge are common to our contemporary landscape. So many people of good will, you my sisters and brothers, do not intend this environment for our young people. As a community of faith, it is necessary to cultivate peace and charity in our homes and then to reach out to our parishes and the local communities.
Our schools are now in session after the summer recess. At Sunday’s Blue Mass, I will pray for the safety of our children and those responsible for keeping our youth safe. And how very important it is that in our Catholic schools and religious-education programs they come to know and love Jesus Christ, the source of all peace and who guides our action in the path of truth, love and justice. Let us recall the words that St. John Paul II addressed to the people of the United States at his general audience on Sept. 12, 2001, the day following the tragedy of Sept. 11:
“Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible affront to human dignity. After receiving the news, I followed with intense concern the developing situation, with heartfelt prayers to the Lord. How is it possible to commit acts of such savage cruelty? The human heart has depths from which schemes of unheard-of ferocity sometimes emerge, capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people. But faith comes to our aid at these times when words seem to fail. Christ’s word is the only one that can give a response to the questions which trouble our spirit. Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say. Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it.”
Please join with me on Sunday, Sept. 8, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart when, as a diocesan family, we pray for peace.
Invoking God’s blessings upon you through the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace, and of St. John Fisher, patron of our diocese, I remain
Devotedly yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend
Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester