Red Mass — praying for and with the legal and judicial profession
Bishop Peter Muhich
Homily from the Red Mass
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
“Whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it.”
My warmest welcome to all you legal professionals, attorneys, magistrates, clerks, perhaps law professors, legislators, goverment officials, and all who support and sustain our legal system.
Thank you for your hard work especially in these challenging times! I gladly offer this Red Mass for you and your intentions. You might know that the first Red Mass was offered at the cathedral of Paris in 1245. Almost 800 years later, I am offering my first Red Mass as a bishop here in Rapid City. Perhaps a faint echo that first gathering but connected in God’s providence all the same.
Our Lord speaks in the Gospel today of the paradox of the cross and its life-saving power. To follow Jesus is to lay down our lives in imitation of him for the life of the world, a world that has lost its way because of the darkness of sin and that is often marked by confusion and strife.
Today’s saints in the liturgy, John Fisher and Thomas More — a scholarly and courageous bishop and a great lawyer and statesman, a saint for me and a saint for you, are with us in this great prayer and offering of the Eucharist so that we can together be inspired and challenged. Both lost their heads in 1535 because they resisted the unjust demands of King Henry VII in the matter of his divorce, the first of many, and his usurpation of the authority of the church over which he had declared himself head in England. Saint Thomas Moore said of the saintly bishop, “in this realm no one man in wisdom, learning, and virtue can compare with him.” Erasmus and other humanist at the time, praised Thomas More for his keen intellect and wisdom as well as his virtues as a father and his integrity and courage in the face of a corrupt king.
Both are shining lights and examples of embracing the cross and its power to transform. They remind us, as does the title of a recent book by one of our former bishops here, now Archbishop-emeritus Charles Chaput, that there are “things worth dying for.”
Today’s Red Mass is celebrated for you who serve in the judicial and legal profession. Upholding justice and the rule of law has never been easy. Strong currents in our society today make doing so even more challenging. In our current circumstances things are increasingly polarized and fragmented. I don’t have to tell you that. Prominent and influential voices in our culture call into question bedrock realities that are foundational for society: the natural law, the common good, and even the very notion of truth. Ours are not easy times and our institutions are under growing pressure and stress.
As England did in the 16th century, so modern-day America needs saints: holy men and women who embody the truth and life of the Gospel for a world often confused and in conflict about many things. The church recognizes your many contributions to our community state and nation. Thank you for your dedication and please know of my prayers for you. The church also calls on you to be guardians of truth and justice and defenders of the dignity of the human person at each stage of its journey through life, whether that journey is taking place in the womb, in our homes and schools, on our nation’s borders, on our streets, or in our correctional facilities. As Pope Francis frequently reminds us, we need to always keep in mind and reach out to those who lack power and influence and live at the margins of society.
In our fragmented and polarized time when grievances are expressed in increasingly violent ways, it is not easy to stand for truth, and reason, and moderation. The church lifts you up in prayer and supports you as you seek to always to serve the truth and to make and apply law in ways that are right and just, tempering justice with mercy as you make decisions about difficult issues and difficult cases.
May God strengthen you in your important work and make you radiant with splendor of truth. May we always see the love of Christ in you. May the Holy Spirit bestow on you good in measure the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and fortitude. May you be bright lights of integrity and goodness in our day just as today’s great English saints were in theirs.
St. John Fisher, pray for us!
St. Thomas more, pray for us!
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us!
In the name of the father and the son end of the Holy Spirit Amen
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Excerpts from the English translation of Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation, (ICEL); excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010, ICEL. All rights reserved.