Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer
October 13, 2020 // Bishop

Choosing to live differently: Red Masses celebrated

Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer

“The Red Mass is a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. Every year at this Mass, we pray for members of the legal profession, lawyers, judges, students and professors of the law, and also for civic officials,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades preached at the annual Red Masses, which took place Sept. 30 in South Bend and Oct. 5 in Fort Wayne.

“We ask the Holy Spirit to guide them and bless them with His manifold gifts. This year, when there is so much disunity and polarization in our nation and even within the Church in our nation, I invite you to pray for unity. The Holy Spirit is the principle and source of the Church’s unity.”

John Martin
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades begins a Red Mass celebrated for those in the legal profession at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, Oct. 5 in Fort Wayne. He asked those present to be sensitive to offenses that cause unjust harm, specifically, “the sins of rash judgement, detraction, calumny and defamation.”

Representatives of the legal profession attend the Red Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, Oct. 5.

At the start of each judicial year, Catholic administrators of justice in the legal profession gather together to pray and worship together, asking the invocation of the Holy Spirit. The St. Thomas More societies of South Bend and Fort Wayne hosted the Red Masses, which were livestreamed for those unable to attend in person. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, receptions and dinners that normally follow the Masses were canceled.

This year, Bishop Rhoades suggested to those present to keep in prayer the new Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett — Catholic wife, mother, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame Law School and parishioner of St. Joseph Parish, South Bend, as she begins the confirmation process in the U.S. Senate.

This theme of unity, being one in and with Christ and His Church, was heard throughout Bishop Rhoades’ homily, which was on point with the current climate in the country.

“One might have expected that the COVID pandemic would have united Americans in fighting the spread of the virus, but it has divided Americans even more. So we have not only a coronavirus pandemic, but another pandemic – a pandemic of anger,” he illuminated.

“Social media, including Twitter, Facebook and blogs have often become forums used more for the expression of divisive and nasty commentary than for constructive and civil dialogue. Traditional social mores and norms of conversation are thrown to the wind. Respect for those with whom one disagrees is often missing,” he pointed out.

“It has become culturally acceptable to abuse and injure other people and damage and destroy their reputation. Even many Christians engage in such a manner, seemingly oblivious to the Eighth Commandment’s prohibition of rash judgment, defamation, slander, and calumny. The anonymity of social media emboldens some people to behave badly. We must not forget that we are not anonymous to God.”

Jennifer Miller
Deacon Frederick Everett, JD, prepares to read the Gospel at the South Bend Red Mass Sept. 30 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame.

Bishop Rhoades reminded the faithful present, “As lawyers and judges, you know the importance of the Eighth Commandment, the gravity of false witness, perjury, and how it can lead to innocent people being found guilty or guilty people being exonerated. The exercise of justice is thus gravely compromised. As members of the legal profession, you are rightly sensitive to these grave offenses against truth. We all need to be sensitive to, and opposed to, the other offenses against the Eighth Commandment that cause unjust harm, as I mentioned, the sins of rash judgment, detraction, calumny, and defamation.”

Quoting Pope Francis, Bishop Rhoades noted that, “‘Christians too can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication. Even in Catholic media, limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can become commonplace and all ethical standards and respect for the good name of others can be abandoned’ (Gaudete et Exultate 115).” 

He explained, “This lack of civil dialogue and respect for others is a moral and spiritual problem, an area in which Christians should be setting a good example. As Catholics, we should be part of the solution, not part of the problem that we face in our polarized society. We are called to be better.”

He encouraged the faithful to be actively engaged in the world, while not being of the world. “We should not withdraw from the culture nor shirk our political responsibilities. As Catholics, we must not shirk our responsibility to promote the common good. We are called to be faithful citizens, which means putting our Christian discipleship ahead of allegiance to one’s political party and fidelity to the Church’s teaching ahead of any political ideology.”

Bishop Rhoades celebrates the Red Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Sept. 30. Deacon Everett, let, assists.

From the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, president of the Fort Wayne St. Thomas More Society, Judge Kenton Kiracofe shared, “The Red Mass is an event I look forward to each year to reflect on my role as a Catholic member of the legal community and to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I fulfill my obligations to my faith and my career. As always, Bishop Rhoades offered a very thoughtful and relevant homily. He reminded us as Catholics and lawyers of our obligation to follow the Eighth Commandment, not just the obvious sins of false witness and perjury but the sins of defamation, calumny, rash judgment and detraction which seem to be very common on social media.” 

Stephen Judge, president of the South Bend St. Thomas More Society, concurred. The St. Thomas More Society of South Bend is very grateful to Bishop Rhoades for celebrating the Red Mass again this year and for helping make a livestream available for those prevented from attending in person by the pandemic. We especially appreciated his moving homily and his vital call for unity in these deeply divisive times. We are blessed by the bishop’s genuine care and concern for the legal community.” 

Numerous law students and professors also attended, broadening the community as children and extended families were welcomed.

“While we are saddened that the coronavirus pandemic made it difficult for many colleagues to attend in person and prevented our usual post-Red Mass reception, we look forward to resuming that tradition in future years,” Judge mentioned.

Attorney Scott Hall expressed similar sentiments.

“The ‘experience’ this year for the Fort Wayne Red Mass was truly different with respect to face masks, social distancing and the lack of a supper with keynote speaker following the Mass,” Hall observed. “Still, despite those issues, attendance was pretty good. To me, that shows the true meaning and importance of the Red Mass persevered for many despite the obstacles and concerns of the times. Bishop’s references in his homily to our obligations as Catholics with respect to social media were very insightful, and timely.”

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