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The Scoop


Red Mass is set for those who serve the law

Statement as issued Monday by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend:

FORT WAYNE – On Wednesday October 3rd at 5:30 PM, Bishop Rhoades will celebrate the Red Mass from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

This special Mass is for lawyers, judges, and civil government officials.

The renewal of this ancient tradition in which God’s blessing is asked on all those who serve the law will be followed by a dinner in the Archbishop Noll Center. Noted author, lecturer, and legal mind,

Mr. Richard Garnett, professor of law, University of Notre Dame School of Law, will speak after the dinner. The title of his talk will be “Religious Freedom in the American Tradition and Today”.

About the Mass

The Red Mass is an ancient custom dating back to the 13th century, when the solemn votive Mass began being celebrated annually at the opening of the judicial year. From the earliest of times, the Mass has been attended by the judiciary, attorneys at law, law professors, high ranking government officials, distinguished guests, and others who work in the legal arena. The Mass was intended to gather those from the noble legal profession for the purpose of seeking divine guidance and strength for the coming term of court.

The Red Mass is celebrated in honor of the Holy Spirit, from whom flows wisdom, understanding, counsel, patience, energy, and courage necessary for the administration of justice. Those who work in the legal profession prayerfully seek these virtues, which are essential to the courtroom, law practice, and public post.

The venerable custom derives its name from the red vestments of the celebrant, representing the tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit, and from the brilliant scarlet robes worn by the Lord High Justices of the middle ages. The Mass is attended by those of Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, and all religious beliefs who work in the legal arena, as they come together for this annual public celebration of faith and the law.

About the Speaker

Richard Garnett is Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Professor of Law and Concurrent Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. Dean Garnett teaches and writes about the freedoms of speech, association, and religion, and also about constitutional law more generally. He is a leading authority on questions and debates regarding the role of religious believers widely on these matters, and is the author of dozens of law-related articles and book chapters. He is the founding director of Notre Dame Law School’s new Program in Church, State, and Society, an interdisciplinary project that focuses on the role of religious institutions, communities, and authorities in the social order.

Professor Garnett clerked for the late Chief Justice of the United States, William H. Rehnquist, during the court’s 1996 term and also for the late Chief Justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Richard S. Arnold.

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