Every day first responders face great danger in order to protect others. They respond to assaults, car accidents, domestic abuse and drug use. They witness great ugliness, yet are called to remain calm, treat every person with respect and look out for the safety of themselves and others.
It’s not always easy, said Matt V., a parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington and a federal police officer, who asked not to be named due to the sensitive nature of his work. But it provides great opportunities for grace. “Sometime you don’t always live up to your expectation of what you want to do, but it’s not for lack of opportunity,” he said.
Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde celebrated the Blue Mass for those in public safety at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington Sept. 30. On the rainy evening, the bishop thanked all first responders and emergency personnel for their service, and prayed for those who had died in the line of duty.
“These are good and decent human beings trying to keep us from harm,” he said. “I plead with the whole community to honor them by way of prayers and respect.”
Father Robert J. Rippy, cathedral rector, concelebrated the Mass. As the chaplain of the Arlington County Police Department, he often rides along with officers and ministers to them as well as to victims of crime.
“It's really been invaluable,” said an Arlington County police sergeant. Whether at gruesome crime scenes or at his father’s deathbed, Father Rippy has been there, he said.
The presence of priests, grace of the sacraments and wisdom of the church can provide great inspiration for a job full of challenges. Matt still remembers the advice he received from Father Donald J. Planty after he switched careers from being a firefighter to become a police officer — “be merciful and just like the Father.”
He feels that being a policeman has challenged him to stay humble and to accept criticism. “You’re not better than someone else, but you do have a duty and obligation to protect others,” he said.
Maraist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@zoeymaraist.