Time to Speak – The importance of the Red Mass

R. Kenyon Meyer

After the great fire of 1666 that destroyed London, a famous architect was commissioned to rebuild St. Paul’s Cathedral. One day, the architect observed three bricklayers at work. The architect asked each bricklayer, “What are you doing?” The first bricklayer replied, “I’m a bricklayer. I’m working hard laying bricks to feed my family.” The second bricklayer responded, “I’m a builder. I’m building a wall.” But the third bricklayer replied, “I’m a cathedral builder. I’m building a great cathedral to the Almighty.”

On Tuesday, September 26, 2023, at 12:15 p.m. all who work in the legal profession, regardless of religious affiliation, are invited to the annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption. This celebration serves as an important annual reminder of the great blessing that we in the legal profession have to use our gifts to build a great cathedral – or as we say in the Catholic tradition, to reflect the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in our world. We in the legal profession have unique opportunities (and responsibilities) to assist the Holy Spirit’s work in the world. The calling of those in the legal profession is not easy. We choose this life despite stress and precious time away from our families. When we fully invest in our vocations, we are cognizant that we make these sacrifices for something greater than ourselves.

Every human interaction we have and every mundane task we perform are opportunities to build the cathedral. When we treat those in need with respect and dignity, we build the cathedral. When we treat difficult and unpleasant people not as they treat us but as we would like to be treated, we build the cathedral. When we use our talents to end conflict, we build the cathedral.

This means that everything we do is important. Every “hello” to a person in the office, every email to opposing counsel, every oral presentation to an unsympathetic judge, every time we decline a request to represent someone and every time we communicate to a client that we have failed to achieve the result they hoped are occasions we are called to manifest the presence of the Holy Spirit. Even in the moments we like least in our professional lives, we have an obligation to build the cathedral.

I fail miserably every day to do this. This is why I need reminders like the Red Mass. Because no matter how many times we fail, every day presents new opportunities. And when we are at our best, we in the legal profession, more than any other profession, live and reflect Matthew’s beatitudes:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit…, they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…, the merciful…, the clean of heart…, the peacemakers…, they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness… Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

R. Kenyon Meyer is the managing partner of Dinsmore’s Louisville office and a member of St. Raphael Parish.

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