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Kirby: Police officers share hope despite different faiths

Published January 30, 2014 4:44 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A former police academy classmate called last week. I haven't seen Mike Julian in a while, but we remain friends. At least I think we do.

Mike invited me to Mass at St. John the Baptist Parish in Draper at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 16. Would I round up whatever miserable collection of friends I had left, show up and allow them to be blessed by the monsignor?

I was instantly suspicious. I'm Mormon. Was this some Catholic way of latching onto my soul and condemning it to an outer ring of hell co-hosted by Justin Bieber and Rush Limbaugh?

In fairness, I once told Mike (right after some guy tried to kill him) that as soon as he was dead for real, I was sending his name through an LDS temple and having him baptized our way. Maybe this was a pre-emptive strike.

Trusting Mike with my life is easy. It isn't worth much. Also, we'd been cops at the same time. My soul was a different matter. Who knew what he would do with that?

We talked more. It wasn't shaping up to be one of those theological debates wherein the participants try to prove how much they love God by insulting each other, but it was getting boring.

I cut to the end and asked Mike if his wife would be at Mass. Mike and I went to the academy together, but Sharon and I graduated in the same alcohol server training class just before the 2002 Winter Olympics. We have a bond.

Him: "She'll be there."

Me: "OK, I'll show up. But no tricks."

As it turned out, Mike was not inviting me to just any Mass. It was a Blue Mass, the annual ritual blessing of police officers by the Catholic Church. It's a huge deal back East, where lots of cops are Catholic. Not so much in Utah.

After the Mass, all the law-enforcement personnel present are blessed to do their jobs well, stay safe and seek the best in everyone while walking the dark paths.

I saw a lot of religious rituals during my time as a cop — Catholic last rites, Mormon priesthood blessings, American Indian prayers, pagan talismans, etc. Usually it was when someone was dying.

I investigated an auto-pedestrian accident where a little girl's skull had been crushed by the bumper of a car. When the emergency medical technicians had done what they could for her, I watched neighbors and emergency personnel gather around and give her a blessing.

Did it work? Not if it was intended to keep her alive. I watched her die in the middle of the street anyway. But that didn't mean it was ineffective.

During a ritual particular to one faith, I saw it bring an entire group together in a moment of shared grief. I didn't need to be a spiritual giant to see the hope that still lived in all of them.

I'm not Catholic, but a Blue Mass makes perfect sense to me. Why shouldn't people of different faiths but one hope stand together for a moment? The world might be a better place if we all did that a little more often.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley. —

Blue Mass

A Blue Mass to bless law-enforcement officials so they may stay safe and do their jobs well will be Feb. 16 at 8:30 a.m. at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 300 E. 11800 South, Draper.