Time to Speak — The Red Mass and the Holy Spirit

Jason Woodall

Archbishop Shelton Fabre has welcomed all members of the legal profession to attend this year’s Mass of the Holy Spirit on Sept. 28. The annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, with its special invitation to legal professionals, is commonly referred to as a Red Mass for the color of the vestments worn by the celebrating clergy. This red color recalls the fire of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon the early Church at Pentecost and signifies the gift of courage given by the Holy Spirit to martyrs and other witnesses of the Trinity.

The Red Mass traces its origins to the Cathedral of Paris in 1245 for a Mass in honor of the original patron saint of attorneys, St. Ives (also Yves or Ivo). In the early 1300s, during the reign of King Edward I, the Red Mass began being offered at Westminster Abbey at the opening of the court of England’s Michaelmas Term, the first of the court’s four annual terms.

As you may have noticed, the Red Mass today is still celebrated near Michaelmas or, as we refer to it, as the feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael the Archangels (Sept. 29). However, since its first celebration in the United States, the timing of the Red Mass has been associated not with the feast of the archangels, but with the beginning of the Supreme Court’s annual term, which by statute occurs on the first Monday of October.

In 1928, the Red Mass was introduced in the United States through a celebration at St. Andrew Church in New York. Today, Red Masses are celebrated throughout the country. The most prominent Red Mass in the United States is celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. The congregation frequently includes the President of the United States, justices of the Supreme Court, members of Congress, diplomats, cabinet officials, university presidents, professors, students of law and lawyers. It is a congregation of Catholics, separated brethren and even nonreligious.

I would like to think that all who attend a Red Mass are motivated by the hope they will receive the Holy Spirit’s blessings. Those baptized and in a state of grace may receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit — wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. These seven gifts build upon, complete and perfect the virtues and make those who receive them docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

I hope that those who attend the Red Mass desire to have these divine blessings bestowed upon to aid them in their pursuit of justice not only under human law, but also under natural law and divine law.

May all those who advocate for or assist in the advocacy of others be granted the gifts from our heavenly advocate, the Paraclete — the one who builds, animates and sanctifies the Church; and may the faithful who attend the Red Mass be made docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The 2022 Red Mass for the Archdiocese of Louisville will be held at the Cathedral of the Assumption on Sept. 28 at 12:15 p.m., and all who serve in the legal profession, regardless of religious affiliation are invited to attend.

Jason Woodall is a parishioner of St. Louis Bertrand Church, a convert to Catholicism, a husband, a father of three children and a member of the Kentucky bar.

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