FORT WAYNE — Celebrated by Bishop John M. D’Arcy, the annual Red Mass was held Sunday in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Fort Wayne, followed by brunch at the nearby Grand Wayne Center.
Bishop D’Arcy said, “The purpose of the Red Mass is to ask the Lord to send his Holy Spirit on lawyers, judges and public servants that they may have that same spirit of integrity and goodness as they serve the law and their fellow citizens.” Its name is derived from the red color of the vestments of the celebrant, which is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The Red Mass is currently celebrated on the first Sunday in October in cities around the nation.
Bishop D’Arcy reminded his audience of St. Thomas More, who was executed in 1535 for refusing to sign an oath accepting the King of England as his religious authority. More said, “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”
The bishop noted that Thomas More was proclaimed the patron of statesmen by Pope John Paul II in 2000 and should serve as a model for those in the legal profession. He admonished his listeners to make a personal pledge to bring Christ into their daily lives as More did and said, “May all your decisions and deliberations be blessed.”
At the brunch which followed the Red Mass, local attorney Thomas Blee introduced former NFL player Chris Godfrey as keynote speaker.
The affable former New York Giants lineman who helped his team win Super Bowl XXI, now an attorney in South Bend, outlined his journey from pro athlete to the practice of law.
After retiring from football at the age of 30 Godfrey says he was discouraged and unsure which path to follow. “I gave up,” he admitted. But knowing that “faith tells us where we’re going,” he asked God to point him in the right direction. Citing additional inspiration from Mother Teresa and encouragement from former Giants teammate Mark Bavaro, he decided to study law and subsequently earned a law degree from the University of Notre Dame.
But Godfrey drew on his football background when he challenged his audience. “As Christian lawyers, are you water boys or players?” he asked. It’s easy to enjoy the fruits of your profession without really making a personal commitment to let faith into the practice of law, he pointed out. He spoke eloquently of allowing faith to guide reason. “Relativism can be deadly,” he said. Informed choices must be based not on relative truth but on absolute truth.
Godfrey also spoke of his work as founder and president of Life Athletes, a coalition of 200 professional and Olympic athletes who teach and inspire young people to live lives of virtue and abstinence. The commitment of Life Athletes — try to do what’s right, be faithful to your life partner, respect the rights of others and persevere when meeting obstacles — bears testimony to his life’s journey and his personal philosophy.
Though a person’s talents are God-given, his heart dictates his choices. That’s why Life Athletes is a fellowship of heart, said Godfrey.
Bishop John D’Arcy had summed up the solemnity of the occasion earlier when he invoked a prayer of blessing for all the judges and attorneys present at the Red Mass. He asked God to assist them with his spirit of counsel and fortitude and let the light of his divine wisdom shine forth in all of their proceedings, decisions and deliberations.
Godfrey concluded with a simpler sentiment. “A good relationship with God and others is the key to happiness,” he said.
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