The Rose Mass – Providing the Witness of Christ’s Love in the Healing Professions

Christ Healing the Mother of Simon by Peter John Bridges

Just as the color of priests’ vestments can reflect the liturgical season, so too do four annual Masses named for colors highlight important work and outreach in our Archdiocese of Washington.

The Red Mass, sponsored by the John Carroll Society on the Sunday before the Supreme Court begins its term on the first Monday of October, seeks the guidance of the Holy Spirit on those in the legal professions. This Eucharistic celebration, which last year marked its 60th anniversary, is held at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle and attended by Supreme Court justices, judges from various courts, attorneys working for the government and in private practice, and sometimes by the U.S. president or vice president.

Begun in 2010 and hosted at Saint Matthew’s by the archdiocese’s Department of Special Needs Ministries in October, the White Mass seeks God’s blessings on people with disabilities and on their family members and friends.

The Blue Mass, a local tradition revived in 1994, is celebrated in May at Saint Patrick Church in Washington for those working in law enforcement and public safety, including local police, firefighters, first responders, and government workers involved in our national security.

And the Rose Mass, which will be celebrated on Sunday, March 10 at 10:30 a.m. at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, has since 1992 sought God’s blessings on the medical, dental, nursing and allied health care workers and the many health care institutions in the Archdiocese of Washington. The Mass gets its name from the rose-colored vestments worn on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent.

The rose has also come to symbolize life, whose care is entrusted to the healing professions.  Thus, the Rose Mass offers a special day each year to pray for and give thanks to those in the Catholic health professions, who in their daily work reflect Christ the healer. For a Catholic in the healing professions, medicine is more than a job. It is a vocation, combining the science of medicine with Christian charity. It is God’s mercy and love at work among us and in us, through human hands, words, actions and hearts.

The John Carroll Society presents Pro Bono Health Care Awards after the Rose Mass, recognizing volunteers from the Archdiocesan Health Care Network, an agency of Catholic Charities that has 250 participating doctors, dentists and specialists, five participating hospitals and 35 clinics serving about 2,000 poor and uninsured patients each year, providing an estimated $4 million-$5 million worth of care.

The Archdiocese of Washington’s publication Catholic Impact highlights the difference that our Catholic health care institutions make in the lives of people. At the Spanish Catholic Center’s medical and dental clinics, immigrants seeking a new life in a new home receive much-needed care. Anchor Mental Health helps adults with mental illnesses rebuild their lives.

Ever since President Abraham Lincoln signed its charter in 1864, Providence Hospital has been the oldest continuously operating hospital in the nation’s capital. Founded by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, Providence Hospital last year offered $13.7 million in unreimbursed services to the community, including medical care for the poor.

Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, founded by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, marks its 50th anniversary this year. More babies are born at Holy Cross Hospital than in any other hospital in Maryland, and the hospital also has an innovative emergency room tailored to senior citizens. In addition, Holy Cross now has construction underway in Germantown for a new hospital that will serve the growing upper Montgomery County region.

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington continues the Jesuit principle of caring for the whole person, in programs including the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and a neonatal intensive care unit. And at the Jeanne Jugan Residence operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington since 1871, seniors receive loving care in a faith-filled home.

All these Catholic health care institutions bear witness to the God-given dignity of human life in all its stages. As we celebrate their work, we also recognize that Catholic health care services in our country face a significant threat – the ongoing erosion of our freedom of conscience and our religious liberty.

Our Church opposes the HHS mandate that would coerce Catholic health care institutions, schools and charitable agencies into providing employee health insurance coverage for abortion inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations. Our faith compels us to care for “the least of these,” and that same faith requires us to say “no” to those things that threaten human life and dignity. We must be free to carry out our health care ministries in accord with our conscience.

As we celebrate the Rose Mass and offer prayers and thanks for those working in Catholic health care, we must continue to stand strongly for the religious freedom that allows them, and us, to be true to what we believe, and true to who we are, as Catholics and as Americans.