By Judy Bradford
NOTRE DAME — Sarah Chambers is a second-year law student at the University of Notre Dame. She realizes that the career she has chosen will probably lead to some tough decisions.
So when Bishop John M. D’Arcy recently talked about what it takes to gather strength for those decisions, she listened.
“It was a reminder that we’re all going to face those kinds of decisions,’’ said Sarah after the Red Mass.
The Red Mass is named for the resplendent red vestments, worn by the presiding priests and required for a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit.
It dates back to the 1300s, when it formally opened the legal term of the year in many European countries. In the United States, it is often celebrated the first week of October to coincide with the opening of the Supreme Court’s term.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart was packed on Sunday, Oct 11, with attorneys, judges and students of the law school at Notre Dame, as well as those who regularly attend Mass there every Sunday.
Bishop D’Arcy, in his homily, chose to talk about the inner spiritual life of St. Thomas More, the lawyer, scholar, author and statesman who has become the patron saint of anyone professionally connected with law. More was beheaded in 1535 for refusing to recognize the king as the head of the Church of England, which was heading for a split with Rome.
Although the story has been told many times through literature and film, Bishop D’Arcy said details of More’s spiritual life are often overlooked.
“He prayed every day,” said the bishop, of More. “He kept the sacraments, and he defended the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”
As did More, in 16th century, those in the law are asked to make decisions that might hurt their own prestige and professional position. Bishop D’Arcy told worshipers that a life of prayer and living close to the Holy Spirit is the only way to make decisions in the way of “truth, for beauty and for love.”
Michael Agrippina, a high school student from Atlanta, was visiting the university with his family and decided to attend Mass at the basilica. He was delighted that it turned out to be a Red Mass, since he is considering law as a career.
“St. Thomas More was my confirmation saint,” said Michael. “Sometimes in law, it can be hard to stay on the moral path. So (the bishop’s) words were inspiring to me.”
Biblical readings for the Mass focused on the value of wisdom, the living. breathing nature of the Word, and accountability in God’s sight.
The Gospel reading from Mark focused on Christ’s instructions to the wealthy young man to sell everything he has and give to the poor. “When the Gospel is read, it’s Jesus speaking to us as a present event and so it’s a charge not to the young man, but to us.’’
Songs, led by the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir, rang out beautifully in the cavernous basilica. A reception elsewhere on campus followed the Red Mass.
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