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SOUTH END -- Gratitude was the main theme of Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley's homily Oct. 9 during the annual Mass for Public Safety Personnel.
"We can never repay God's gifts, but we should never cease to thank him. Just as we often take God for granted, we can often take each other for granted," said the cardinal, speaking to the dozens of public safety personnel gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
"Today, we come together to honor our police and fire officials and other first responders. We need to ask for your forgiveness, because, so often, we take you for granted. One of the reasons for this celebration is to thank God for your generous and faithful service, and express our profound gratitude to you and your families," he continued.
The Mass for Public Safety Personnel honors police officers, firefighters, EMTs, corrections officers, and other first responders throughout the archdiocese.
Like the Red Mass for those in the legal profession and the White Mass for those in the medical field, the Public Safety Mass had been a longstanding tradition in the archdiocese until the early 2000s. The Mass was revived in 2014 through a collaboration of the archdiocese's Office of Chaplaincy Programs and Office of Divine Worship with the goal of honoring all those who serve their communities in uniform.
The Mass began with bagpipes and drums, as law enforcement and fire honor guards processed into the cathedral.
Already sitting were dozens of other public safety personnel and their families, as well as public and law enforcement officials, including Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans, and Boston Fire Commissioner and Chief Joseph E. Finn.
In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley continued on the theme of gratitude by offering thanks to the families of first responders for the support they show their loved ones every day, and he recalled those who have died in the line of duty.
We remember "all of those who have fallen in the line of duty, who never failed in their generous service, even when it meant giving up their very lives. Let us give thanks to God for the witness they have left us, a witness of sacrifice, a witness to the dignity and the honor of their vocation and service," he said.
"Jesus reminds us that no one has greater love than the person who lays down their life for their friends or their community. That is a love that inspires so many to risk and sacrifice their lives so that others might be saved, so that others might be healed, so that others might be rescued from harm's way," the cardinal continued.
He spoke of modern-day celebrities, "who are often just famous for being famous," and noted that it is important for today's youth to look towards a different kind of role model, like our first responders, so that the youth may "discover a life motivated by purpose, love, and courage."
During the Prayers of the Faithful, the assembly was invited to pray for active emergency personnel as well those who have passed, including Massachusetts State Trooper Thomas Clardy, Police Officer Ronald Tarentino, and Officer Matthew Snow.
Following the Mass, officials and first responders posed for pictures and talked with one another.
Boston Firefighter Paul Capeless, a parishioner at St. Thomas More Parish in Braintree, attended the Mass with his wife.
Capeless said this was his first time attending the Mass for Public Safety Personnel, but noted that it was nice to be able to pay respects to those in the public service.
"It was a terrific service," he said. "It was a good day."
It was also the first time Officer Melissa Allen of the Middlesex County Sheriff's department attended the Mass.
"I thought it was beautiful, the church is really beautiful, and I'm lucky to be a part of this," she said.