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Jurists praised for promoting common good at Red Mass

By Mark Labbe Pilot Staff
Posted: 11/4/2016

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Cardinal O'Malley celebrates the Red Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross Oct. 30. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

SOUTH END -- At the annual Red Mass for legal professionals, held Oct. 31 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley noted the crucial role those in the legal profession plays in our society.

"Yours is not a job, a career, or a profession. It is, as St. Paul says in the second reading, a calling; a vocation to promote justice and to work for the common good," the cardinal continued.

The Red Mass -- a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages -- is held to invoke the power of the Holy Spirit in guiding members of the legal profession around the beginning of the judicial year. The Mass takes its name from the red vestments traditionally worn by clergy to represent the Holy Spirit, which came down on the Apostles as "tongues of fire." In Boston, the Red Mass is sponsored annually by the Catholic Lawyers' Guild of the Archdiocese of Boston.

In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley spoke on the Year of Mercy, and referenced Pope Francis by saying mercy is the face of God.

"If mercy is the face of God, it must also be the face of the Church, it must be our face. Few professionals have the kind impact on society that your profession does," said the cardinal.

"You are routinely involved in issues that are fraught with ethical implications, life and death consequences, repercussions that impact on the quality of life, the questions of the sacredness of life, the defense of the vulnerable, the care for creation and the environment, economic justice for the poor and the disenfranchised, human rights, human dignity, preservation for freedom, respect for conscience, promotion for the common good," he continued.

Therefore, the cardinal said, embracing the ideals of the Gospel would be of enormous benefit to "our spiritually bankrupt society"

"I urge you to pursue courageously the lofty ideals which your profession calls you to be -- the guardians of our democracy," Cardinal O'Malley said.

The cardinal also spoke about Question 4 on the Massachusetts ballot, which, if passed, would see the legalization and commercialization of marijuana for recreational use.

He urged those in attendance to vote against the initiative, and said the marijuana industry is acting out of greed and ignoring the safety of people.

"I hope that all of you will work hard to defeat this law, which has been written and is being promoted by an industry that is blinded by its desire for profits. People are more important than money," Cardinal O'Malley said.

Following the Mass, a luncheon held by the Catholic Lawyers' Guild and featuring a talk by former Boston Mayor and Ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn was held in Boston's Seaport Hotel.

In his talk, Ambassador Flynn called on those in attendance to be more active Catholics.

He challenged those at the luncheon to uphold their values, especially in politics.

"Are we faithful citizens? Do we have much of an influence in the political environment today? Do we have Catholics like we once did, fighting for social justice, fighting for the unborn, fighting for the needy?" Flynn asked.

He called on people to act to be a voice for Catholics around the country.

"Catholics, like yourself, are wonderful people. You're educated, you're intelligent, you're certainly concerned, that's why you're here today, but why can't we be more of an effective voice to make this a better country?" he said.

The luncheon also served as an opportunity to present their Honorable Joseph R. Nolan Award to this year's recipient, Henry Luthin.

Named for the late Judge Nolan, who passed away in 2013 and had served as the guild's president, the award is given to a "member of the legal profession who best exemplifies Justice Nolan's excellence in the law, devotion to the Catholic faith, dedication to family, and unwavering compassion for all."

Guild president Michael Gillis introduced Luthin, calling him "accomplished in every area of his life."

"He, professionally, has been an incredible municipal lawyer with the city of Boston for over 30 years, he has been the chief counsel for the Boston Water and Sewer commission, he's the first assistant corporate counsel for the city of Boston since 2008, and he was an assistant to our speaker here today, Ray Flynn, when he was the mayor. He also gets involved with many bar associations," said Gillis.

"In his spare time, he devotes his time to many pro-life causes. He's the chairman of the Mass Citizens for Life, he's been president of the Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund, he's a trustee of the St. Mary's Women and Children Center... It's a great pleasure for me to have him on the board," he said, before presenting Luthin with the award.

Speaking with The Pilot following the luncheon, Luthin said he was "very humbled" to have received the award.

"First of all, I tell you, the two previous recipients, the late Paul McNamara and Fran Hogan, have been inspirations to me as a lawyer, and I just have the highest regard and esteem for them," he said.

"And Judge Nolan, I was privileged to know for 30-plus years. He was a brilliant jurist, an outstanding scholar... but he brought his very deep and profound faith to everything that he did, and his faith informed his work," he continued.

He reflected on the Mass, calling it "extraordinarily special."

"To be with my fellow lawyers and Jesus Christ is just a wonderful thing," he said.

Marissa Marandola, a first year law student at Harvard Law School, attended the Mass and the luncheon. She said Ray Flynn was a household name growing up, and she was excited to have seen him speak.

"To hear how he's made faith a part of his public life and integrated public and private aspects of his faith was very inspiring, I think, for all of us as future Catholic professionals," she said.

"I thought it was very inspirational to see this vibrant community of people who share a vocation and our faith and to see how they're living their faith in their profession," said Marandola.

Gillis, speaking after the event, said "I think, all in all, the event is a great event to regenerate Catholic lawyers to go out there and live their faith, not just in the pews, but in their office and in their homes," he said.