MESA — Catholics and others with connections to the military did their best to show both their patriotism and their gratitude for the faith and other American freedoms during the third annual Red, White and Blue Mass Nov. 3.
The Diocese of Phoenix hosted the liturgy as part of the regular Sunday celebration of the Eucharist at All Saints Parish in Mesa. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted celebrated alongside several priests and deacons. Dozens of Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus, the patriotic level of the fraternal organization, came in full regalia adding a colorful array of feathers and a collection of shiny swords.
Many of the veterans came in neatly-pressed uniforms. Civilians showed off their red, white and blue, whether that was a scarf, a business jacket or a dress.
Bishop Olmsted acknowledged that love brought so many together for the celebration. Love begins in the home and continues in the church in and the nation, he said.
Fr. Craig Friedley, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Queen Creek, and a one-time pilot in the Air Force, said Americans have a special love for freedom. He went on to highlight in his homily the right to freedom expected by a child, a senior citizen, a pro-choice person and Zaccheus from the Gospel reading.
“Our military, our veterans, our people know what freedom truly means,” Fr. Friedley said. “We’ll continue to fight freedom until His kingdom comes.”
Fr. Friedley said members of the military will always be needed to help others around the world be free. That’s something some 34 percent of humanity lacks, he said. Freedom isn’t just in numbers though. For Christians, freedom also comes through the person of Jesus.
“True freedom comes about only when we are living with and for God,” Fr. Friedley said.
That allows Catholics to become citizens of this world and in God’s kingdom, he said. Many could relate to being citizens of both heaven and earth, especially the Veterans.
Members of each branch of the military solemnly processed around the altar and posted their respective flag. A pair of boots, a rifle and a helmet all surrounded by U.S. colors and candlelight served as a reminder of those in the military who loved their country so much that they made the ultimate sacrifice defending freedom.
All of it was a bit much for Pat and Frank Wentworth to take in. The All Saints parishioners served time in the Army and Navy, respectively, and have a son-in-law heading to Afghanistan Nov. 13.
“It was a very touching Mass all the way through,” Frank said.
His wife agreed, although she admitted that the posting of colors and the sound of “Taps” were key moments for her heart. A member of the U.S. Army played it on the trumpet after lighting candles at the memorial.
A reception following Mass honored Catholics in the military through pictures and a display case featuring medals and uniforms. The crowd also learned ways to support local veterans, members of the military and their families through a small ministry fair. Part of the proceeds from the Veterans Mass supported the Wounded Warriors Project.