After Mass, the group moved to the Marriott Key Tower for the St. Thomas Award luncheon, at which Dick Knoth, BakerHostetler partner, received the St. Thomas More Award. Ryan Acton, a Saint Ignatius High School senior, was presented with the Martin T. Galvin Memorial Scholarship and Saint Ignatius’ St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry was recognized with a special award for 20 years of ministry to the homeless.
Principal celebrant for the liturgy was Bishop Edward Malesic with Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries, OSB and Bishop emeritus Martin Amos of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, as concelebrants.
Priests serving in the diocesan Tribunal also concelebrated, including Father Gary Yanus, judicial vicar; Father Charles Strebler, adjunct judicial vicar and judicial vicar for the Eparchy of Parma of the Ruthenians; Father Jonathan Zingales, defender of the bond; Father Lawrence Jurcak, adjunct judicial vicar; Father Richard Bona, adjunct judicial vicar; Father Tom Fanta, pastor, St. Dominic Parish, Shaker Heights; and Father John Mulhollan, parochial vicar, St. Francis Xavier Parish, Medina.
Deacon John Travis assisted and Father Sean Ralph, cathedral rector, was master of ceremonies.
In his homily, Bishop Malesic told the congregation that they are gathered to ask the Holy Spirit to guide them in their work of “bringing about a better, more peaceful and just society.” As a canon lawyer himself, the bishop said he was honored to be there and to pray with the group, whether they work in the civil or canonical spheres of the law.
“We live in challenging times, don’t we?” the bishop asked, adding their collective responsibilities are awesome, so they cry out together, “Come, Holy Spirit.”
The Red Mass is named for the red robes once worn by judges. During the liturgy, they ask God to send his Holy Spirit into their minds so that they might grow in wisdom and into their hearts so that they may swell with compassion, the bishop said. He also reminded them of St. Thomas Aquinas’ words: “’Justice without mercy is cruelty. Mercy without justice is dissolution.’ My friends, the wise judge is the person who can harmonize justice with compassion.”
Bishop Malesic reminded those gathered that they must hold themselves to the highest standards, even if at time their decisions may be unfairly judged by humans because they know they have a higher judge: God.
“We will be held accountable to God,” he said, noting that each member of the judiciary, the legislature, the executive branch and all legal professionals are called by a special vocation from God to further the common good of society. “This requires members of the profession to possess the wisdom of Solomon and the mind of God himself. And that’s why we pray here today,” he said, asking God to “give us a good dose of wisdom in all of our decisions and actions.” In addition, those gathered also come in thanksgiving to God to honor those who have shown themselves to be exemplars of the profession, especially Knoth.
St. Thomas More, patron saint of lawyers faced extreme challenges but his faithfulness and dedication to the law are an inspiration, Bishop Malesic said. Although he had a conflict between his faith and the desires of the English crown that led to his martyrdom, St. Thomas More led a life dedicated to justice, mercy and kindness
Just before his execution, he was said to have forgiven his executioner. “Only saints can do that. And aren’t we all called to be saints?” the bishop asked. He also noted that the saint said he died “the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first,” finding fortitude in the worship of God and through prayer and finding renewal by receiving Communion.
“I hope that when making those most difficult decisions that we are all called to make from time to time, we go to a place of prayer and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord,” the bishop said.
Christians look to the cross for help and on the cross of Jesus, they meet their own sin in all its ugliness, Bishop Malesic said. “But on the cross we also meet God’s forgiveness because Jesus has taken our sin upon himself and defeated it with God’s love.” None of us is perfect, he noted, but God has mercy on us. We can ask the Lord to make up what we lack and ask him to help us overcome the bad decisions we make, the bishop added.
It also was the feast of St Jerome and in the readings we can distill that two virtues – humility and repentance – serve as guardrails along our spiritual pathway of life, the bishop said. “Let’s resolve today to do our best to seek God’s will and find the courage to carry it out,” he said, noting that we go and seek the good of the other in all we do.
Knoth said he was reluctant to accept the St. Thomas More Award and only agreed to do so if it could be in honor of those who allowed him and inspired him to do what he does, including his wife of 40 years, his family, his co-workers and members of his parish, St. Dominic.
He credited Bishop Amos – then Father Amos who was St. Dominic’ pastor – with helping teach him “what leadership means” and he thanked Father Fanta, current pastor, for “inspiring us to think of service as a framework for Catholicism.”
Having the opportunity to take mission trips to El Salvador also impacted him greatly, Knoth said, adding, “A visit to that impoverished area would reinvigorate you.”
Ryan, the scholarship winner, is the son of Amy and Shawn Acton. He is part of the SIHS Christian Action Team, Labre Ministry to the Homeless, is a tutor at Urban Community School and is a member of the track and field team and club soccer.
The Galvin Scholarship was created by the Lawyers Guild with support from the Reminger Foundation.
The Labre Ministry, honored with a special recognition award, was established in 2002 and reaches out to those in need of food and friendship. The volunteers have ministered 1,000 consecutive weekends and nearly a dozen other high schools and colleges have launched their own versions of the ministry.
For more information on the Lawyers Guild, click here.
Learn more about the Martin T. Galvin Memorial Scholarship here.