MESA — They came from all over the Diocese of Phoenix, decked out in their dress uniforms, to honor the men and women of the armed services.
Active duty members of the U.S. military as well as dozens of veterans and their families filled the pews Nov. 2 at All Saints Parish for the fourth annual Red, White and Blue Mass.
Fourth degree Knights of Columbus held their swords aloft as a color guard composed of the five branches of the military marched the U.S. flag into the sanctuary. An elderly veteran seated in the front pew brushed away tears as the poignant melody of Taps echoed through the church.
Vicente Sanchez of St. Joan of Arc Parish, who served 35 years in the Army, was deeply moved by the Mass, especially when Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted paused during the Eucharistic prayer to remember the dead. Veterans’ minds turned to fallen comrades. Sanchez, his voice breaking, recalled buddies he lost in Vietnam, Cambodia and Korea.
“I thought of Joe Gallegos,” Sanchez said. He prayed his way through the war, the Act of Contrition serving as the prayer that carried him through tough times. “God was with me then and He’s with me now,” Sanchez said.
Fr. Mike O’Neil, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and the homilist for the Mass, reminded those in attendance that of the need for self-acceptance. “We are all limited, imperfect, finite sinners…our Blessed Mother was the only perfect person,” Fr. O’Neil said.
He also thanked those who served their country and prayed that “we will not be found at fault just because we gave up, just because we were not perfect, just because the systems are not perfect. We try to make them better systems.”
Bishop Olmsted thanked those who “put themselves in harm’s way to save others, for sharing the sacrifice that bears union with Christ.” He asked the congregation to pray for “all our veterans who served in the armed forces, giving thanks to God for all those who serve in the military for the sake of peace and welfare and harmony among nations and who defend against unjust aggression wherever it happens.”
Massgoers also prayed that “world leaders will strive to settle conflict by mediation rather than war” and for all those who fought in America’s wars, “may we never forget their service and give them the thanks and respect they deserve.”
The liturgy for veterans was held the day after a retreat for them that drew 69 participants, said Deacon John Scott, a retired Army major general who served in Vietnam.