The Red Mass, attended each fall by dozens of judges, attorneys and others affiliated with the legal profession, took place on Oct. 16 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland. The Lawyers Guild of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland hosts the annual event, which roughly coincides with the beginning of the United State Supreme Court’s fall session. It is believed to have originated in the Cathedral of Paris in 1245 to invoice the guidance of the Holy Spirit on the judges of the ecclesiastical courts. The Red Mass refers to the red robes worn by the judges and the red vestments worn by the priests, since red is the liturgical color associated with the Holy Spirit. The Mass was introduced to the U.S. in 1928.
The celebration was scaled down this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of the traditional procession of judges dressed in their black robes with red stoles preceding the clergy into the cathedral for a special Mass, the Lawyers Guild opted to attend the regularly scheduled noon Mass, which is livestreamed. The moved allowed colleagues to view the liturgy from their homes or offices, since capacity in the cathedral is limited to allow for social distancing.
Also, in previous years, the Mass was followed by a luncheon at which the Lawyers Guild presented the prestigious St. Thomas More Award to a distinguished member of the legal community. The group opted to forgo the award this year, but it did present the Martin T. Galvin Memorial Scholarship to Magnificat High School junior Lauren Shearer after Mass.
Celebrating this year’s Red Mass was Bishop Edward Malesic, who is a canon lawyer and for several years headed the tribunal in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Concelebrants were Father Gary Yanus, judicial vicar, and Father Charles Strebler, adjunct judicial vicar, defender of the bond and pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Avon Lake.
“This is my first Red Mass here and I hope it’s not my last,” bishop Malesic said. He noted that at a Red Mass, it is customary to ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and courage (fear of the Lord). These characteristics are important for judges, lawyers, canon lawyers and other in the legal community, as well as those in public office and the rest of society, the bishop said.
“We need these gifts, including knowledge, piety and purity, desperately today. We have a lot to pray for today, so let’s get at it,” he added.
Father Yanus, the homilist, said we should give thanks daily for God’s grace and justice. “In him you’ve heard the word of truth,” he said, referring to the first reading.
“The pursuit of justice is a wonderful gift,” Father Yanus said.
He shared a story about a book, “The WEIRDest People in the World,” by Joseph Heinrich, which is an account of how psychology and culture meshed to create our culture.
Father Yanus said marriage is one thing that resulted from the Christian faith and the development of canon law. Instead of polygamy and marriage between close relations, rules were established that forbade some of these previously accepted practices. Over the years, marriage became a monogamous, consensual union. The couple separated from their parents and established their own household. Through the years, this led to enlightenment and the Renaissance, which helped to shape Western culture. But Father Yanus said these developments are rooted in our Christian faith. “The Church’s guidance on marriage is based on the Gospel,” he said.
Other legal precepts, including the belief that someone is innocent until proven guilty, also are derived from canon law. “Many of these things came from Medieval Church courts,” he added. Even the concepts of Church and state are embraced in Church law.
“These things brought a natural law,” Father Yanus said. Today, he said, the dignity and sacredness of human life and inviolability of marriage is becoming eroded.
“It’s no secret that we live in different times, but that doesn’t diminish the upholding of basic human rights.”
Immediately after Mass, Judge Laura Gallagher, Lawyers Guild president, and Bishop Malesic presented the scholarship to Lauren, daughter of Mark and Kathleen Shearer. They are members of St. Joseph Parish in Strongsville.
The $1,000 award is presented in memory of the late Martin Galvin, a past president of the Lawyers Guild and an attorney with Reminger. It was established and first presented in 2018 after his death. Some Galvin family members attended the Mass and presentation.
The scholarship is awarded to a student attending a Catholic high school in the Diocese of Cleveland who has a family member who is a member of the Catholic Lawyers Guild or is an attorney practicing law in Northeast Ohio.
Applicants write a 500-word essay on “Lessons to be Learned from the Life and Death of St. Thomas More.” Essays are judged by members of the legal community, including judges and lawyers, Judge Gallagher said.
“I was exhausted after reading all of Lauren’s activities and accomplishments,” Bishop Malesic said.
She maintains a 4.0 grade point average and is enrolled in all AP and honors courses at Magnificat, where she participates in the Business and Marketing Club, campus ministry, Ambassador Leaders and Peace and Justice organizations. Lauren also was a Girl Scout and has been active as a member of the St. Joseph Parish Vacation Bible School Team and By Teens, For Teens. She also served as an administrative intern for her father.
“Thank you to Judge Gallagher and the Lawyers Guild for organizing this event. Next year we hope we can all gather together again,” Bishop Malesic said.
The next Red Mass will be celebrated on Oct. 1, 2021 in the cathedral.