Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre celebrated the annual Red Mass for legal professionals Sept. 28 at the Cathedral of the Assumption, praying the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be poured out abundantly on them.
The gifts are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, courage, council, piety and fear of or respect for God, the archbishop told the congregation.
“With an awareness of these gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit, it’s very easy to understand the tradition of the Red Mass, as it’s clear these gifts are very important to all of those involved in our judicial system,” said Archbishop Fabre. “Because of our prayer here today, it is our sincere desire that these gifts again be abundantly poured out upon you my brothers and sisters.”
The archbishop said that it was a “real honor and privilege” to celebrate the Mass — his first as the Archbishop of Louisville.
The fact that the legal professionals, including judges clad in black robes, paused in the middle of the day to come to the cathedral, meant they were aware of the significance of the liturgy, he said.
The reason for the Red Mass, said Archbishop Fabre, can be divided into three sections.
Firstly, the Mass focused on the present, the opportunity for legal professionals to gather and pray for guidance in their individual and collective “deliberations” and “actions” during the judicial year, the archbishop said. “In this celebration, we gather to earnestly pray for God’s presence to be with you through a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
Secondly, the Mass is about remembering the past. The liturgy, said the archbishop, linked those who’d gathered at the cathedral with all who have sought the “presence and action” of God in the past.
Seeking and receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit has long been a part of “humanity’s interaction with God” as seen in Scripture, he said.
“We stand on the shoulder of our ancestors who were part of our judicial system,” he said. “We stand in the company of countless men and women who have gathered to invoke God’s generosity, to ask the Lord to grant to us all that will be of benefit to one another and to understand those situations in our lives and society that can lead to conflict, to pray for his wisdom to bring about justice and peace wherever conflicts arise.”
Thirdly, the Mass is an expression of their relation with and dependence upon God. The archbishop said gathering and praying at the beginning of the judicial year “is perhaps the most important.”
“Our presence and prayer here today is an expression of our relationship, and I would say, our utter and complete dependence upon God. We’re reminded in our Gospel of the necessity of remaining attached to the living God in all that we do. Because as Jesus said, apart from him we can do nothing.
“In our prayer, let us entrust this judicial year all efforts to the living God so that our legal system will always be that which it was created to be — something of benefit to all,” said Archbishop Fabre.
This year marks the 70th year of the Red Mass in the United States. The most well-known of these Masses is celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., before the United States Supreme Court begins its term. This year’s Mass was celebrated Oct. 2.