Catholic legal professionals honored at Lawyers Guild Red Mass

BOSTON -- After going three years without holding their signature event due to the pandemic, the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Boston held their annual Red Mass on Oct. 30 at the Seaport Shrine of Our Lady of Good Voyage, followed by a brunch and speaking program at the nearby Seaport Hotel.

The tradition of the Red Mass dates back to medieval England. At the beginning of a court term, the Mass of the Holy Spirit was offered as lawyers prayed for guidance in their profession. The name refers to the red robes worn by judges, as well as the red vestments worn by clergy as a symbol of the Holy Spirit that descended like tongues of fire on the Apostles.

The Seaport Shrine was standing-room-only for the Mass. Bishop Mark O'Connell, who has previously served as judicial vicar for the archdiocese and chaplain of the Catholic Lawyers Guild, was the principal celebrant. Father George Salzmann, who accompanied students from Harvard Law School, and Msgr. Robert Oliver, the current judicial vicar, concelebrated.

In his homily, Bishop O'Connell described the Red Mass as an opportunity for legal professionals to "do a check-in."

"You have to contemplate your relationship with Christ, especially as a lawyer, as a judge, as someone working in the public office," he said.

He encouraged them to "make sure, if you're lost, that you know that you can be found."

After the Mass, the assembly went to the Seaport Hotel for brunch. The speaking program began with the presentation of the Honorable Joseph R. Nolan Award. This award is given annually to a member of the legal profession who, like Judge Nolan, demonstrates excellence in the law, devotion to the Catholic faith, dedication to family, and compassion for all people.

The 2020 award was presented posthumously to attorney F. Beirne Lovely, who served as the first in-house general counsel for the archdiocese from 2007 until his death from cancer in 2020. His wife Joan and adult son David were present to accept the award.

Joan Lovely said that her husband was "always impressed" by the recipients of the Nolan Award.

"On his behalf, I thank you for this honor, which I know he would treasure above all the other awards he has received," Joan Lovely said.

The 2022 award recipient was Erika Bachiochi, a legal scholar, fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and director of the Wollstonecraft Project at the Abigail Adams Institute. She co-authored an amicus brief for Dobbs v. Jackson, the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year.

In her remarks, Bachiochi acknowledged how her legal career has taken a different path than Judge Nolan's: she is a "think tanker" and a theorist and not a litigator. But she also identified some similarities.

She and Nolan both "love the law and understand it as a participation in God's law." They are both daily communicants, "who know that to pursue truth, justice, and wisdom, we must be in daily communion with he who is truth, justice, and wisdom." And they both have seven children, who they viewed as "the crowning achievement" of their lives. Six of Bachiochi's seven children accompanied her to the Mass and brunch.

Bachiochi spoke briefly about the impact of Roe v. Wade and the work that remains to be done now that it has been overturned.

"Roe is gone, but yet we have so much work to do ahead of us to heal our law and culture," she said.

She said that they need "a deep personal commitment" to God, and emphasized the importance of daily Eucharist and prayer. She said they also must "manifest in our lives the real joy of giving ourselves sacrificially to our families."

The event's keynote speaker was Andreas Widmer, an author, entrepreneur, former Swiss Guard, and associate professor at the Catholic University of America's Busch School of Business. He spoke about lessons in leadership and work ethic that he gained by working as a guard for Pope John Paul II.

He described how the pope expressed appreciation for the Swiss Guards and said they were part of his ministry. When Widmer had a difficult time at the beginning, the pope promised to pray for him. He told Widmer, "When we work, we don't just make more, we become more." This seemed like a riddle that Widmer would not solve until years later.

Widmer's time in the Vatican ended when he got married and moved to the U.S. He began a career in high tech, "got lost" in his work, and eventually felt "depressed, burned out, disengaged." He said he had lost the "why" of his work.

He pointed out that the paradigm of profit is the main concern of business.

"I'm the last person who will diss profit, but what we're dealing with here is the relation to profit," he said.

He compared the role of profit in a business to the role of white blood cells in the human body. People cannot survive without them, but it is not necessary to think about them all the time.

"White blood cells are the result of a healthy lifestyle, but white blood cells don't give meaning to your life. That's profit to a company. You don't live for profit. Profit is an effect of a company that does a good job, that brings value to society," Widmer said.

He finally solved the "riddle" of the pope's words during a safari in Rwanda. After a close brush with an angry gorilla, his guide made a joke about meeting his "cousin." This led Widmer to reflect on what makes human beings different from animals, despite being so similar biologically. He concluded that it was the ability and mandate to continue God's work of creation.

"Work is so much more than making a living. When we work, we actually do God's work. Work is an imitation of God the creator," Widmer said.

He said the central question of any business is, "How may I help you?" That question both defines the way a business creates value and applies internally as team members help each other realize their potential. While the secular world calls this "becoming the most you can be," in Catholicism, this is called holiness, Widmer said.

He said that Pope John Paul II showed him that his faith and his work were connected.

"Working is a way to pray. It's the privilege to participate in God's creative power, in God's creativity, to collaborate with God, to do good with and for others," Widmer said.

Information about the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Boston is available at