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“Be the light and salt to the world …”

While urging the lawyers to continue discovering their own Faith, His grace also reminded them of the Church social teaching concerning justice and fundamental liberties. He challenged the lawyers to be ready to stand in line, when responding to God’s call in defending the Truth and dare them to put right those things that have gone wrong. His grace also encouraged all members of the Bench and the Bar always “to project their gospel values” because it is this very attribute that “attract others” to them.

The “Red Mass” is an annual event, organized by the Sabah Catholic Lawyers Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu.

The Red Mass is an adaptation of the church’s age-old expression of dependence on God to the peculiar needs and institutions of the courts and the law.  In it we call upon God the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, to grant light and inspiration to police officers in upholding the law and protecting its citizens, the lawyer in pleading his cases, and to the judge in adjudicating them.

The custom of a special Mass for these professions arose principally in England, France and Italy in the early 13th century.  The first recorded Red Mass was celebrated in 1245 in Paris, France.  For many centuries the Red Mass was said in the chapel of the Order of Advocates, La Sainte Chappelle, which was built by King Louis IX of France who was canonized as St. Louis. In certain localities in France the Red Mass was celebrated in honor of St Ives, the patron saint of lawyers, who was born in Brittany in 1253 and canonized in 1374.  The custom ended in 1904 when the French Parliament, as part of the trend towards secularism, prohibited the celebration of the Red Mass.

In England the tradition of the Red Mass began about 1310 during the reign of Edward I. The entire Bench and Bar attended the Red Mass together at the opening of each term of court; Hillary (January 11), Easter, Trinity and St. Michael’s (September 29.)  Since the priest celebrant wore red robes, the judges of the High Court in Edward’s time, who were all doctors of the law, conformed to ecclesiastical tradition and also wore red robes. Therefore, the celebration became popularly known as the Red Mass.

Many scholars today maintain that the name has a deeper origin.  The liturgical red signified the willingness to defend the truth inspired by the Holy Spirit, even at the cost of shedding one’s blood.  Since the Red Mass asks the Holy Spirit to keep lawyers, judges and law enforcement officials alike true to the truth of justice, the devotion is called the Red Mass. – Ruth Marcus

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