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, inspiration
and guidance to those serving in the legislative, executive and judicial
branches of government, and members of the legal profession.
The custom of a special Mass for the
Bench and Bar arose principally in England, France and Italy in the early
13th century. The first recorded Red Mass was said in 1245 in the chapel
of the Order of Advocates, La Sainte Chapelle, 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 1347.
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 1300 during the reign of Edward I. The entire Bench and
Bar attended the Red Mass together at the opening of each term of Court;
the feast days of St. Hillary (January 11), Easter, the Trinity and St.
Michael (September 29). Since the priest wore red robes, the judges of the
High Court in Edward I'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 Mass asks the Holy Spirit to keep lawyers and
judges alike true to the truth of justice, the devotion is called the Red
In Florida, the Catholic Bishops
continue the Red Mass tradition, inviting the people who serve in the
executive, legislative and judicial branches of government to join them in
prayer and ask theLord to guide and direct them in their service
to the people of Florida.
38th Annual Red Mass of the Holy Spirit - March 20, 2013
Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More
Homilist - Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee