Red Mass provides archdiocese's first Mass specifically for the legal community in a half century
By Brent Mattson
The B.C. Catholic
VANCOUVER--Common sentiment often labels lawyers as people working against the good of society, but at the Sept. 22 Red Mass for legal professionals Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, laid this unholy myth to rest.
"People love telling lawyer jokes, and commonly place them in hell," he said. "Yet the history of sanctity in the Church contains dozens of examples of lawyer-saints: from Cyprian, Ambrose, and Jerome to Thomas à Becket, Francis de Sales, Alphonsus Ligouri, and, above all, Thomas More."
After the priesthood and religious life, the field of law has been the most common calling among saints. This is why the archbishop is encouraging the formation of a local Catholic lawyers' guild to encourage legal professionals in their faith.
The archbishop said that such guilds already exist in other major cities in Canada and the United States, and it's about time for Catholic lawyers in the Archdiocese of Vancouver to catch up.
"I (envision) it as an association of Catholic lawyers and members of the judiciary which would bear witness to the fact that there is no contradiction between the Catholic faith and the law profession and would help its members to integrate their spiritual and professional lives," he said. "It could provide an opportunity for members to socialize and network with their colleagues and support one another in facing the challenges."
Warren Smith, a lawyer on the steering committee for the Red Mass, believes now is the right time to create a Catholic lawyers' guild in the archdiocese.
"I think it's a great idea," he said. "A once-a-year event (such as the Red Mass) is excellent, but a fellowship is not done once a year. It takes place over a long period of time.
Smith first brought the idea for a Red Mass to the archbishop after a conversation with Father John Horgan. Father Horgan, who is involved in the White Mass for healthcare workers, told Smith that the archdiocese hadn't had a Mass dedicated to lawyers in more than 50 years.
The Mass was followed by a sold-out reception at the Vancouver Club, where B.C. Catholic columnist Father Raymond de Souza was the keynote speaker.
"(The speech) was amazing, absolutely fantastic," Smith said. "It was a good balance. It was not overly preachy, but he also didn't shirk from the fact that he was in a room full of practising Catholic Lawyers."
Father de Souza tailored his remarks to reiterate some of the ideas in a Sept. 22 speech by Pope Benedict in Germany which discussed the historical role of the Catholic Church in the rule of law. Father de Souza said a trinity of ideas gave birth to the modern western society: holy truth discovered through religion, the rule of law from the Roman State, and the Greek notion that truth is knowable.
"(Father de Souza) said we can't have western democratic institutions with any of those absent," Smith said, "otherwise it would turn government into a well-equipped band of thieves."