The Red Mass
By Judge David P. Bowles
On Friday, September 8, 2017, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz will preside at the Red Mass in the Cathedral of Assumption at 12:15 p.m.
What, you ask, is a "Red Mass?"
Back in The Middle Ages, the earliest recorded Red Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral of Paris in 1245 in honor of Saint Ives, the Patron Saint of lawyers. The red vestments worn by priests and bishops at the Mass symbolize the Holy Spirit and the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and fortitude for leaders in the legal profession.
In modern times, the Red Mass is celebrated annually at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. on the Sunday before the first Monday in October, immediately prior to the beginning of the United States Supreme Court annual term. Most years, a number of United States Supreme Court Justices attend the Red Mass. It is open to all members of the judiciary and the bar, regardless of religious affiliation.
The Roman Catholic Church has a long history of acknowledging and spiritually supporting lawyers and judges. The most well-known Catholic lawyer is Saint Thomas More. During the reign of King Henry VIII of England, Thomas More served as Lord High Chancellor of England, the most prominent lawyer in the land. A close confidante and friend of Henry VIII, More's most significant act as Lord High Chancellor was his refusal to sign a letter asking Pope Clement VII to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Henry VIII eventually imprisoned More in the Tower of London and, upon More's steadfast refusal to support the annulment, had him beheaded for high treason. He famously declared, "the king's good servant, but God's first" immediately before his execution. Saint Thomas More was canonized in 1935, and Pope John Paul II declared him the Patron Saint of Statesmen and Politicians in 2000.
Here in the Archdiocese of Louisville, the Red Mass is in its infancy, but there is no shortage of men and women devoted to conscientious service to the law and to God. Each and every day, lawyers and judges in Louisville serve our community with compassion and skill while practicing Gospel values. This year, Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr. will lead the procession of judges and lawyers into our Cathedral to ask God's blessing on our work.
We would be honored to have you join us at this special Mass.