Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer
September 22, 2020 // Bishop

Red Masses to be celebrated in diocese

Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer

For more than 775 years, “Red” Masses have been celebrated annually. Asking God’s grace and wisdom upon the start of the judicial year, the Red Mass invites into worship and fellowship all persons in the legal profession.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades will celebrate two Red Masses this year on either side of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. The Masses will begin at 5:15 p.m. on Sept. 30 in South Bend and at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 5 in Fort Wayne. Both will be hosted by the St. Thomas More Society. On the South Bend side, the Mass will take place in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. In Fort Wayne, it will occur at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, neither celebration will offer a reception or speaker afterward. All lawyers, judges, staff, regardless of religious affiliation, are welcome.

The first recorded Red Mass was in the year 1245 in Paris, France. The tradition had spread to England by 1310 and the start of the Michaelmas on Sept. 29, the feast of the Archangel Michael. To this day, a Red Mass is still celebrated at Westminster Cathedral in London.

The tradition spread to America. In 1928, in New York City, the first Red Mass was celebrated. Many cities across the country now offer a Red Mass, from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta. In the nation’s capital, representatives of all three branches of government gather to worship at a Red Mass on the Sunday before the Supreme Court reconvenes in October for its new term.

The name derives from the color of the scarlet robes worn historically by the judges, as well as the red liturgical vestments worn by the clergy. The Mass is celebrated in honor of the Holy Spirit, the source of all wisdom, understanding, fortitude and good counsel. These gifts are especially needed in the day-to-day labor of the legal profession. Canon lawyers and judges also celebrate the annual Red Mass, seeking the same blessing of wisdom and understanding.

At the Mass, the bishop will publicly invoke God’s blessings upon those entrusted with the administration of justice, and upon all public officials who serve the common good.

The South Bend Red Mass will be livestreamed via the Campus Ministry of the University of Notre Dame at

The Fort Wayne Red Mass will be livestreamed on the diocesan Facbook page and YouTube channels.

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