Archbishop urges police to work for justice, protect order God established

Members of the Detroit Police Department pose for a photo outside the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament following the annual Blue Mass. During his homily, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron reminded officers of their sacred duty to protect God’s order, charging them to work with justice and turn often to prayer. (Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)

Annual ‘Blue Mass’ an opportunity for Church to pray with and for law enforcement, archbishop says, reminding officers of sacred duty

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DETROIT  Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron welcomed members of the law enforcement community to the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit on May 18. 

An estimated 40 police officers from various departments in Metro Detroit prayed with the archbishop for the protection of police officers during the semi-annual Blue Mass, that they use wise judgement in fulfilling their duties and be agents of “God’s justice” in the world. 

“We have extended this invitation to have our time in prayer together out of a deep respect and support for all of you in the great service you perform as law enforcement officers,” Archbishop Vigneron said in his homily. “This is a way for us, the Catholic community of the archdiocese, to acknowledge the debt we owe you. To pray with you and to pray for you.” 

Members of the law enforcement community pray at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. While police are under increased public scrutiny, Archbishop Vigneron reminded officers that their authority is ultimately a share in God's own authority, a reality that must guide their duties daily. 

The Mass is one of a series of annual liturgies celebrated for members of different professions in the archdiocese. Others include a Red Mass for members of legal professions, a Rose Mass for health care workers, and a Mass for Commerce for members of the business community. 

The readings for the liturgy were from the Acts of the Apostles, where Paul told disciples of the hardships he was bound to face from the authorities in Jerusalem, and from the Gospel of St. John, where Jesus glorifies His Father in prayer. 

Archbishop Vigneron stressed the importance of prayer, and what true, authentic prayer means.  

“Prayer should be honest,” the archbishop said. “Bring your whole self to your prayer, the self you are proud of and the self sometimes you are a little ashamed of. God wants you — the real you, not the false you. And prayer is a way to ensure God is in one’s life. Think about how in all the marvel of His creation, that your happiness and your well-being, your salvation is more at the forefront of God’s heart and mind than it is yours.” 

Lt. Al Carter of the Royal Oak Police Department proclaimed the first reading and said having a Mass at the cathedral is a great way to pray with and for the law enforcement community.  

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron offers the Eucharist for members of the law enforcement community May 18 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. 

“Prayer plays a huge part in our profession,” said Lt. Carter, a parishioner at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak. “We see all different types of people — good people on their worst days and bad people on their bad days — and it can be very difficult. 

Some people seek counseling, some seek therapy, which is fantastic,” Lt. Carter added. “I use prayer as my guidance. I pray for the victims and for the suspects. I pray to never harden my heart, to keep God always pleased with my behavior and my performance in this law enforcement job.” 

Archbishop Vigneron noted how in the epistle, St. Paul likens agents of the law as people who share in God’s authority, protecting and keeping the order God himself had created on earth.  

As agents of the law, you are sharers in God’s own authority. St. Paul wrote this,” Archbishop Vigneron said, quoting from Romans 13. “‘There is no authority, except from God. And those whose authority exists has been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority, opposes what God has appointed. And those who oppose it, will bring judgment upon themselves.’

Members of the Livonia Police Department pray at the cathedral during the Blue Mass. Officers face dangerous realities in their jobs, the archbishop acknowledged, and deserve the prayers and support of the community.

These are strong words; I was even a little hesitant to quote them,” Archbishop Vigneron continued. “And think about this: they were written by a man who was persecuted by the law. Sometimes thrown into prison — he had a record. 

Archbishop Vigneron said St. Paul was trying to make the point that lawful authority is in line with God’s plan for justice and human flourishing. 

Lt. Carter echoed those sentiments when he said it is the job of law enforcement officers to promote peace in their communities, to work to bring justice and compassion to every situation. 

“As people in law enforcement, it means a tremendous amount of us to be peacekeepers, but the fact we have to keep law and order, we have to be just when we keep that law and order and use good judgement as the archbishop mention, in every aspect of our job,” Lt. Carter said. “we have to do it in the most honest, Godly way. 

Lt. Carter acknowledged law enforcement agencies are under tremendous public scrutiny, but said the Mass is a reminder that officers must conduct their duties with integrity and God’s justice in mind. 

Members of the Detroit Police Department laugh and talk with cathedral rector Fr. J.J. Mech after Mass. 

“I’m third-generation law enforcement, and my son is fourth generation law enforcement, so we continue to do our jobs as Catholics and to do a job well done,” Lt. Carter said. “I know I can hold my head up high and be judged by anybody, especially God, and know I do a good job and do an honest job.” 

Archbishop Vigneron concluded his homily by calling on officers to use good judgment in ever-changing situations and praying for the protection of those who serve in a dangerous profession.

“Maybe you don’t think about it much, but you must have humility to appreciate that you don’t act for yourselves,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “You act as agents of the order of law, the government. And St. Paul reminds us that you acts of agents of God himself, the ultimate lawgiver. And while this could be heavy insight for some, it is a humbling insight, to see the source of your authority entrusted to you by the community.”