Friday, October 6, 2017
Marlene Quaroni - Florida Catholic
Photography: MARLENE QUARONI | FC
MIAMI BEACH | Bishop Peter Baldacchino compared police officers to St. Michael the Archangel, their patron saint, during the 15th annual Blue Mass on the saint’s feast day.
“Each one of you has taken on the role of saint,” the bishop told representatives of Miami-Dade County police departments gathered Sept. 29 at St. Patrick Church. “You are called to be angels, like St. Michael the Archangel. You protect us from evils that surround us. You men and women courageously face the violence and evil that we all run away from.”
The annual Mass drew police officers from several municipalities and agencies including Miami Beach, Surfside, Sunny Isles, North Bay Village, Bay Harbor Islands, Miami Shores, Florida Highway Patrol, United States Customs and Border Protection, Miami-Dade, El Portal, Aventura, Key Biscayne, Homestead, Miccosukee, Miami Gardens, Miami Springs, Pinecrest, Florida International University, Miami-Dade public schools, Transportation Security Administration, West Miami, Aventura, and Miami-Dade Corrections.
Honor guards from the various departments marched into church carrying the U.S. and Florida flags as well as flags from their departments.
Because of the work involved in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, some organizers thought this year’s Blue Mass should be canceled, said Sunny Isles Police Chief Fred Maas, one of the organizers of the event.
“This year we had to bring back shattered lives and our faith was tested,” he said. “We decided to have this event and the fellowship. This is an opportunity to share our faith.”
John Rivera, president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, commended the first responders for their work in the hurricane’s aftermath.
“I saw you out in the sweltering heat wearing your uniforms that intensified the heat,” he said. “Cell phones were down and you couldn’t communicate with your loved ones, but you gave yourselves unselfishly to help others.”
Rivera gave Chief Maas a statue of St. Michael the Archangel and Bishop Baldacchino received a plaque of appreciation from the PBA. Seventh and eighth graders from St. Patrick and St. Lawrence School in North Miami Beach attended the Mass.
Chief Maas presented gifts to representatives from each school: St. Patrick seventh graders Carolina Heimes, 12, and Samuel Vasquez, 13, and St. Lawrence eighth grader, Julian Quintero, 13, and seventh grader, Leyla Masson, 12. The boys received model police cars and the girls received police plaques and police teddy bears named Freddy.
Miami Springs Police Chief Armando Guzman said that St. Michael the Archangel isn’t a saint in the traditional sense.
“He is an angel and the leader of all angels and the army of God,” he said. “Archangel means that he is above all the others in rank. He is still called a saint because he resided in heaven in communion with God. St. Michael is depicted as a knight-warrior wearing battle armor and wielding a sword or spear, while standing triumphantly on a serpent or other representation of Satan. Today, St. Michael the Archangel is invoked for protection, especially from lethal enemies.”
Guzman noted that during the recent storms — Harvey, Irma and Maria — police officers worked 12-hour shifts, sometimes 24 and 36 hours. He told the story of Houston police sergeant Steve Perez, who was off-duty but wanted to help victims of Hurricane Harvey’s flooding. Although his family told him to stay home, he told them he had work to do. He drowned in the floods while trying to get to the police station. Similarly, Puerto Rican police officers Angel Lorenzo Gonzalez and Hector Matias Torres, after working 24 straight hours, were washed away in their cars when a river overflowed its banks.
Former PBA chaplain Peter Newman, who was at the Mass, started the event 15 years ago.
“I had an idea for the Mass,” said the former corrections officer. “I drove around to different police stations to tell them about the Mass I was planning at St. Patrick Church. It’s become an annual tradition.”