Dr. William Toffler, one of the founders of the Holy Family Health Care Clinic in West Linn, listens intently during the homily at the White Mass at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Saturday, Oct. 16. (Kristen Hannum/Catholic Sentinel)
Dr. William Toffler, one of the founders of the Holy Family Health Care Clinic in West Linn, listens intently during the homily at the White Mass at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Saturday, Oct. 16. (Kristen Hannum/Catholic Sentinel)
Msgr. Gerard O’Connor, rector of St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, welcomed both regular Mass-goers at the 5:30 vigil Mass on Saturday, Oct. 16, as well as those health care workers who had come especially for the White Mass, named for the white lab coats that physicians wear.

“We’re asking God’s blessing upon our health care workers,” said the monsignor, adding that the archdiocese was particularly grateful for the Holy Family Health Care Clinic in West Linn.

“It’s a great blessing for the archdiocese, and we’re praying for its success,” he said.

The clinic is proudly Catholic, and follows the ethical and religious directives set by the bishops.

In his homily, Archbishop Alexander Sample said that given the experience of the past year, it was important to show all health care workers our love, whether they were aides, nurses, technicians, support staff or physicians.

“In many ways they risk their lives for us,” he said.

He also noted that in our challenging age of “creeping secularism” it was harder for us all, including the health care workers, to hold fast to our faith.

The archbishop then taught about the faith, that Jesus came among us.

“God came to our rescue himself,” said Archbishop Sample. “This is the heart of the Gospel my brothers and sisters. He paid our ransom through his blood. This is all that matters.”

Archbishop Sample asked the people in the pews if they ever stopped to contemplate the fact that Jesus “justified us, made us righteous before God.”

The archbishop spoke to God’s love and mercy for us, even when we fail and turn away. “Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive — what? Anger? No. Judgment? No.

“Mercy.”

Archbishop Sample said health care professionals also bring grace and mercy. “I hope all of you in the medical profession see your service that way,” he offered. “To use the gifts God gave you to bring healing and grace.”

The archbishop also shared how he has been working through a program of spiritual growth and renewal. His spiritual director asked him to consider his entire life for his most recent confession,. “When you go to confession and look at a week or a month, try looking at going on 61 years,” he said wryly to the congregation’s appreciative laughter.

By the end of the Liturgy of the Eucharist the cathedral’s great stained-glass windows of saint were nearly dark.

Worshippers prayed the St. Michael the Archangel Prayer — “defend us in battle” — and sang the closing hymn, the classic “The Spirit Sends Us Forth.”

Dr. Christin McIntyre, a psychiatrist who is a member of Cathedral Parish, glowed at Mass’s end. “It’s been so wonderful to hear the archbishop share his faith journey and healing,” she said. “He’s serving as a wonderful example for the archdiocese to follow.”

Dr. William Toffler, one of the founders of the Holy Family Health Care Clinic, said how grateful he was for the prayers for the clinic. “We’ve been able to sail through COVID beyond our expectations,” he said.

Toffler also praised the White Mass as “a beautiful recognition of all those working in health care, whether they’re doctors, nurses or other professionals.”

The Portland Guild of the Catholic Medical Association organized the talk after dinner. Toffler is a member of the guild, something he said has changed his life as a Catholic physician.

He said the guild, as well the church, can help medical professionals navigate the ethical land mines they must confront, from assisted suicide to contraceptives. “I urge people to read St. Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae encyclical,” he said. “It’s all there.”