A Poignant Prelude to National Police Week

The official start of National Police Week may be five days away, but you wouldn’t know it from the impressive collection of bagpipers, Honor Guard units, horse mounted officers, clergy, news crews and supporters gathered outside St. Patrick Catholic Church in Northwest DC on Tuesday just before noon. They were there for the 15th Annual Blue Mass, to pray for those in law enforcement and fire safety, remember those who have fallen, and support those who serve.

Law enforcement leaders from throughout the DC region were in attendance: DC Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier and most of her Command Staff; Chiefs Roberto Hylton of Prince George’s County (MD), Tom Manger of Montgomery County (MD), and David Rohrer of Fairfax County (VA); Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terry Gainer; and many other federal, state and local officials. They stood at attention as more than a dozen Honor Guard units – several of them carrying the NLEOMF flag – processed down G Street, NW, under a huge American flag hung by the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department between two hook-and-ladder trucks.

As is tradition, the Archbishop of Washington, the Most Reverend Donald Wuerl, completed the procession outside, then served as principal celebrant and homilist to a standing room only congregation inside the historic church at 9th & G Streets, NW. Tuesday’s Blue Mass continues a tradition that flourished at St. Patrick, in a slightly different form, from 1934 to 1975. During those years, police officers would congregate annually to pray for their comrades who had fallen in the line of duty and to ask God’s continued blessing for their own safety. The name of the Mass comes from the blue color of police officers’ uniforms.

Back on G Street, a curious bystander stopped to ask a police officer monitoring the intersection what the fuss was all about. The officer replied, simply, “Blue Mass.” The questioner may not have fully understood the answer, but from the grand and uplifting nature of the ceremony unfolding before her, it seemed as if she got the point.