Friday, October 18, 2013

Red Mass

At 7:00 this morning, my parish hosted the Diocesan "Red Mass," celebrated by the Bishop of Knoxville. A “Red Mass” is a special Mass, often celebrated annually for judges, lawyers, law school faculty and students, and governmental officials. The first recorded “Red Mass” was celebrated in Paris in 1245. From there, it spread throughout Europe. The first “Red Mass” in the United States was celebrated in Detroit, Michigan, in 1877. That Detroit tradition was resumed in 1912 and has continued uninterrupted for 101 years. And now each year, on the Sunday before the first Monday in October (the opening of the Supreme Court's annual session), a “Red Mass” is also celebrated at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., often attended by some Supreme Court Justices as well as other lawyers, judges, and governmental officials 
Our local Downtown Knoxville "Red Mass" was also attended by a diverse group of attorneys, judges, and public officials, among the Mayor of the City of Knoxville. At the Mass, the Bishop told the story of Blessed Pope John Paul II's visit to Saint Louis, Missouri, in 1999. At that time, the state had coincidentally scheduled an execution to coincide with the papal visit. At one of the public events, the Pope spoke with the Governor and left him with the simple message, "Mercy." The Governor commuted the condemned man's sentence and later explained how he had prayed about his decision.

In his homily at this morning's Red Mass, the Bishop recounted that story as an invitation to pray before acting, to make prayer a constitutive part of our activity - whether as lawyers or judges or whatever our profession. It was a salutary reminder to all of us - busy, active people, engaged in all manner of important business - of where our spiritual center must be and how to nurture it.


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