September 8, 2022
In honor of the Holy Spirit as the source of wisdom, understanding,
counsel, and fortitude, gifts that shine forth preeminently in the dispensing
of justice in the courtroom as well as in the individual lawyer’s office.
History of the Red Mass
The “Red Mass” is an historical tradition within the Catholic Church dating back to the Thirteenth Century when it officially opened the term of the court for most European countries. The first recorded Red Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral of Paris in 1245. From there, it spread to most European countries. Around 1310, during the reign of Edward I, the tradition began in England with the Mass offered at Westminster Abbey at the opening of the Michaelmas term. It received its name from the fact that the celebrant was vested in red and the Lord High justices were robed in brilliant scarlet. They were joined by the university professors with doctors among them displaying red in their academic gowns. The Red Mass also has been traditionally identified with opening of the Sacred Roman Rota, the supreme judicial body of the Catholic Church
Red Mass Moves to the United States
In the United States, the first Red Mass occurred in New York City on October 6, 1928. This Mass was celebrated at Old St. Andrew’s Church with Cardinal Patrick Hayes presiding. Today, the United States celebrates the Red Mass each year, with not only Catholic but also Protestant and Jewish members of the judiciary and legal profession attending the Mass. One of the better-known Red Masses is the one celebrated each fall at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. It is attended by Justices of the Supreme Court, members of Congress, the diplomatic corps, the Cabinet, and other government departments, and, sometimes, the President of the United States. All officials attend in their capacity as private individuals, rather than as government representatives, in order to prevent any issues over the separation of church and state.