Judicial year opens with annual Red Mass

The Catholic Lawyers Guild of the Archdiocese of Boston will celebrate its annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 4:00 p.m. The Mass is open to the general public.

Bishop Francis X. Irwin will be the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass. Joining the bishop as concelebrants will be past and present priest staff members of the archdiocesan tribunal and other canonical offices, including Father Mark O’Connell, the judicial vicar of the archdiocese and chaplain of the Guild.

The Catholic Lawyers Guild will meet following the Mass. The speaker at the dinner will be the Dean of Boston College’s Law School, John H. Garvey.

Historical records indicate that the first Red Mass was celebrated at the cathedral of Paris in 1245. More than a half century would pass until the tradition crossed the English Channel and King Edward II began the tradition in his realm of bringing together all the members of the bench and bar -- judges and lawyers -- to invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit on the proceedings of the coming judicial year.

The Mass celebrated was usually a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit which specifies that the celebrants wear red vestments. The tradition continued and the title “Red Mass” has endured though with some historical breaks. According to sources, the Red Mass was restored in the English speaking world in 1931 when the custom was revived in Sydney, Australia.

In the United States, a Red Mass is celebrated in many places and is sponsored either by an individual bishop in his diocese or by a group of bishops. Because of its location in the nation’s capital, the Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, D.C. draws much notice, frequently being attended by justices of the Supreme Court and other federal and local officials.

Information about both events is available from Catholic Lawyers Guild (617-723-1100) or the Metropolitan Tribunal (617-746-5900).