“When I am called to duty, God, wherever flames may rage,
Give me strength to save some life whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child before it’s too late,
Or an older person from the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout,
And quickly and effectively put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling and give the best in me,
To guard my neighbor and protect his property.
And if, according to Your will, I have to lose my life,
Please bless with Your protecting hand my children and my wife.
—Fireman’s Prayer, given at the beginning of Mass, 8 October, 2017.
Last Sunday, October 8th, the 10:30 Mass at my parish was celebrated in honor of First Responders, especially Firefighters. A Firetruck from the local volunteer fire company (“The Washies”) was drawn up in front of our church, and about 20 volunteers, in full dress uniform, men and women, took part in the Mass. They precessed in to the accompaniment of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, two by two, carrying flags and stood at attention while the Chief read the Fireman’s Prayer quoted above. At the end of intercessions, a roll call of deceased firefighters was read, with a fire-bell tolling for each name—very moving.
They recessed out, again two by two, to the accompaniment of Amazing Grace.
Our Pastor took note of their contribution to the community, and as part of his homily suggested that we Catholics engage with the world by volunteering. He noted the sacrifice that First Responder volunteers made, and as he talked the admonition of Our Lord came to mind:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
It’s true. A month earlier, the sacrifice of the First Responders on 9/11 was remembered. These public servants—firefighters, police, emergency medical teams—deserve our gratitude and our prayers. There’s little enough we can do to reward their devotion and sacrifice.