by Scott R. Sabey
The other day the Utah Italian Society sent me an email from the St. Thomas More Society inviting me to attend the Red Mass being held at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, September 21, 2012. While I am always interested in what the Italian community is doing here in Utah (I served an LDS mission in Italy), I had no idea what the Red Mass was about, so I decided to attend.
It is, quite simply, a mass for justice. It derives its name from the red vestments, worn traditionally by judges, and it is intended for members of the legal profession and all those involved in the administration of justice. The Red Mass was first celebrated in the early 1200s in Paris, France, and quickly spread around Europe. It has been celebrated in the United States for more than 135 years. Since 1953, on the first Sunday in October, the Red Mass has been held in the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., with the participation of the members of the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, the first time it was held, there were no Catholic members of the Supreme Court of the United States, so the “Catholic Seat” had to be filled by Justice Sherman Minton, who although he was Protestant, had a wife who was Catholic.
As a result of the efforts of the St. Thomas More Society (the patron saint of lawyers), the Red Mass has been conducted at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake for the last five years. I was impressed with the level of participation at the Mass. I saw attorneys I know from around town, attorneys who own companies rather than practice law, and a number of judges from both the State and Federal Courts.
The Cathedral of the Madeleine is a grand, beautiful, yet peaceful building. Bishop John C. Wester, with the assistance of Monsignor Joseph Mayo, was very welcoming of all who attended. Bishop Wester talked about the need for justice in society and a solid judicial system. He recognized the contributions of judges, lawyers, police, military, and corrections officers. He gave special recognition to those individuals who gave their lives in the service of others, naming each of them. The Mass sought the blessings of God on all those involved in the administration of justice, to have an open mind and compassionate heart, and to do our best in serving others.
The time I was in attendance was a wonderful opportunity to rise above the billable hour and contemplate the profound impact that the practice of law has on the lives of people every day. I left feeling at peace and recommitted to the proud profession we call the practice of law. I hope to see you there next year!