Wednesday, October 07, 2009

2009 Red Mass in Fort Worth

The North Texas Catholic, 02 Oct 2009

Legal Professionals Mark Beginning of Judicial Year with Red Mass

By Mary Lynne Hill, Ph.D.
Special to The North Texas Catholic

FORT WORTH – Judges, law professors, attorneys and a wide range of legal practitioners joined Bishop Kevin Vann on Sept. 28 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as he celebrated the annual Red Mass commemorating the opening of the judicial year.

"The Red Mass is a wonderful opportunity to open our hearts, minds, and law practices to the Holy Spirit's guidance and support. We had a great turnout this year, and I hope to see even more of Catholic and non-Catholic colleagues at next year's Mass," said Prof. John F. Murphy of Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.

Following the Red Mass, there was a reception in the Fort Worth Convention Center, which was organized by local attorney Robert Gieb and other volunteers.

During his homily, Bishop Vann recalled that when he came to Fort Worth in 2005, he spoke with Mr. Gieb about celebrating an annual Red Mass. Bishop Vann had studied Canon Law at the Angelicum in Rome, and for years was involved in the work of the Diocesan Tribunal of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, and the Tribunal of Second Instance in Chicago. As a legal practitioner himself, Bishop Vann had a special interest in the tradition of the Red Mass.

Mr. Gieb responded that he thought it would be great contribution to local legal community.

“It is always worthwhile to have an occasion when attorneys, judges and other public officials can come together in the public prayer of the Church to ask for wisdom and guidance from God, who is the source of all peace and justice. The Red Mass provides that opportunity,” said Mr. Gieb.

As a votive mass of the Holy Spirit, celebrants wear red to symbolize the tongues of fire that descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost. In the Mass, they request guidance for those involved in the conduct of the legal profession, including judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law school professors and students, along with government officials. The Mass provides the opportunity to honor the sacred role of the administration of justice in society, while encouraging these public servants to ponder what guides their decisions in their daily work.

Celebrated annually in the fall, the Red Mass generally coincides with the opening of the judicial year of the United States Supreme Court, which convenes the first Monday in October.

The national Red Mass has been held at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., since 1953. Sponsored by the John Carroll Society, it is attended by Supreme Court justices, members of Congress, the Cabinet, diplomatic corps, other government departments, and often times the President of the United States. These participants, of varied religious traditions, attend only in their capacity as private citizens, rather than as civic officials. This year’s gathering is scheduled for Oct. 4, 2009.

The first recorded Red Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral in Paris in 1245. Within a hundred years, the tradition had spread throughout Europe, particularly to England, where all members of the Bench and Bar, who also wore red robes, attended the annual event. The first Red Mass in the United States was held at the Church of St. Andrew in New York City in 1928. Currently, the Red Mass is celebrated in more than half of the states of the U.S. The Catholic Diocese of Dallas will celebrate a Red Mass on November 8, 2009.

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