By Peter J. Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 5, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Catholic jurists and justices gathered in the nation's capital on Sunday to celebrate the day before the beginning of the US judicial year with the 56th “Red Mass.” At the Mass Cardinal Daniel DiNardo in a sermon reminded those present that God calls them back from “religious amnesia” and that even the unborn child is a client who requires their “radical support.”
Six Supreme Court Justices were among the legal professionals gathered at St. Matthew the Apostle Cathedral for the famous “Red Mass” – a Catholic celebration for lawyers and judges dating from the early 13th century. The annual liturgy takes its name from both the vestments worn by the priest (red symbolizing the tongues of fire sent by the Holy Spirit) and the red garments once traditionally worn by judges. The Mass invokes the guidance of the Holy Spirit to guide those in the legal system, especially in securing justice for the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.
While there are six members of the US Supreme Court that count themselves as Catholic, only five of those were present: Chief Justice John Roberts with Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Sonia Sotomayor. Missing was Justice Clarence Thomas, who could not attend the Red Mass. Associate Justice Steven Breyer, who is Jewish, was also in attendance.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, thanked the members of the John Carroll Society for inviting him to give the homily, and then proceeded to explain how Isaiah's “Servant of the Lord,” a prophetic image of Jesus Christ, demonstrates the “real notion of justice” as having a corrective, but at the same time, healing character.
“Jesus cares for the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks,” said DiNardo, hearkening back to imagery of Isaiah's Servant to illustrate that, like the Lord and his Servant, the law should not “crush … or snuff out the wavering and those confused about the truth.”
The Cardinal spoke to those in attendance of the need to renew in their hearts the will to conform themselves to Christ, and the problem of seeking justice for human beings – alluding to the danger run by legal professionals off seeing their clients as something less than persons in need of compassion.
“There are always smoldering wicks and bruised reeds needing our human attention, an attention that cries out and says that even sophisticated knowledgeable 'human' lawyers need reminding, need a purifying divine fire from the Lord, both in their personal lives and in their profession itself,” said DiNardo. “It is that reality that brings us to praise, reflection, and prayer this day.”
The Cardinal went on to make clear that Catholic jurists must act in defense of the most vulnerable, most especially the unborn, who cannot speak in their defense.
“The many smoldering wicks are our 'clients' but more than clients,” admonished the Cardinal. “They are poor and wealthy, confused and lucid, polite and impolite.”
“In some cases the clients are voiceless for they lack influence; in others they are literally voiceless, not yet with tongues and even without names, and require our most careful attention and radical support,” said DiNardo, in a clear allusion to the unborn child.
DiNardo concluded his message for those gathered that the Holy Spirit's responsibility is to “illumine, purify and constantly remind all those of Christian Faith that the Word must take root in hearts,” the appropriate response for those gathered “is certainly to hear and understand.”
“This contemplative dimension, however, also leads to obedience, an obedience of Faith. Graced in this manner, we respond in our personal lives of faith and witness and in our professional lives too, not only for the good of our souls but also for the sake of our professions that must show God's justice in the world.”
(To read the complete homily click here)