MESA — Nearly 1,900 worshippers honored the nation’s veterans in prayer, song and solemn ceremony during the Diocese of Phoenix’s seventh annual Red, White and Blue Mass Sunday, Nov. 5 All Saints Parish.
Led by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, members of every branch of the nation’s armed forces carried the flags of their respective branches of service. Members of the Knights of Columbus stood along the main aisle, forming a corridor for the procession. Musicians played the theme songs for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard as each flag was placed near the altar. Three candles were then lit — one red, one white and one blue.
“It’s awesome. I respect the church for doing this,” said one of the candle-lighters, Army Spc. Lopez Alejandro, 23, of Apache Junction. “I believe in God. I thank Him every day for where I am at right now.”
Young and old were represented in the liturgy, as Army Sgt. Jason Garcia, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division and an Afghanistan vet, and World War II veteran and Navy Master Chief Fred Stevenson served as lectors.
Crosier Father Robert Rossi, who lost his Uncle Fred in the Vietnam War, emphasized the seeming contradiction veterans face: carrying the love of God in their hearts — even for the enemy, while maintaining order in the world, often through armed combat.
“War is necessary if military engagement is the only way to clear a part of the world of forces destructive to the future of humanity,” Fr. Rossi pointed out. He concluded his homily saying, “I want to say to God, ‘Perhaps You could find a way other than war to get the job done.’”
While the Red, White and Blue Mass has become a diocesan tradition, there are signs it is growing in popularity across America.
Dcn. John Scott, a retired Army Maj. Gen. who serves at St. Mary Magdalene in Gilbert, organizes and leads planning for the Mass, and noted he has been asked by other dioceses about the event. One priest from the Archdiocese of Detroit recently contacted Phoenix for information.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” Dcn. Scott said of the ceremony and honoring veterans — both living and deceased. “They (veterans) are wonderful people; extremely brave,” he added.