On Oct. 1, a yearly tradition among Catholics in the legal profession continued at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo. Bishop Richard J. Malone presided over the Red Mass, an annual gathering of lawyers, judges, paralegals and others, with a homily tailed to them. The Mass concluded with a speech by Hon. Frank Caruso, a New York State Supreme Court justice and City of Tonawanda native, who recommended to those in attendance that they continue to use a Catholic sense of compassion in their jobs.
"Our diocese continues the tradition of rejoicing in this annual moment to welcome, thank and pray with and for all of you - our judges, attorneys, lawmakers, professors and students of the law, law clerks, paralegals and all of you who have come here today," Bishop Malone told the congregation.
During his homily, Bishop Malone said people often live in two different worlds, referencing the 1960s song "Two Different Worlds," by Engelbert Humperdinck. This metaphor applies to a world where one's religion and career are kept separate, often to the extent of being divorced from one another. Bishop Malone discussed how, decades ago, Vatican II addressed this matter in no uncertain terms.
"This split between the faith that many profess and our daily lives deserves to be counted among the most serious errors of our age," Bishop Malone said, quoting the Second Vatican Council.
Bishop Malone said it is possible for the law profession to be reconciled with Christian and other faiths, and part of this way of thinking is changing one's way of thinking. Instead of identifying as a lawyer who happens to be a Christian, one should instead label him or herself as a Christian who happens to be a lawyer. At the same time, one's career should be seen as a calling, not just a way of making money.
However, he clarified, "Let me be very clear that when I call for the interpenetration of one's religious values with one's professional duties, I am not suggesting any weakening of the principle of separation of church and state, which, as you all know, properly understood, is best for our religion and society." He also said while believers are called to serve God in all they do, they also must obey the law.
"'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.' We have obligations, all of us of course, to government, to the law, to Caesar, to use the words of the Gospel, no question about it," he said. "But the Lord Jesus is not putting Caesar and God on the same level. The realm of Caesar, the realm of government and law, from the believer's perspective, is a subset of the reign of God."
Caruso discussed Pope Francis' recent visit to the United States and reiterated the pope's worldwide appeal for compassion and kindness to others, also emphasizing importance of faith in God and prayer. In thinking of how the pope's message relates to the legal community, Caruso was reminded of advice he once got from Msgr. Ralph Miller, a late pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Tonawanda.
"'Remember that the courtroom and kindness are not a contradiction in terms,'" Caruso quoted. "He said, 'You must not only be sympathetic to your client's wishes, but patient enough to listen to your opponent's viewpoints with the hope of reaching a just agreement between the parties. If that really can't be reached, then strongly advocate for your client, making sure it is done in a professional and dignified manner. Never lose sight of the fact that your opponent is in the same position as you.
"When a courtesy is needed and requested by your opponent, put yourself in their shoes. If the courtesy does not harm your client or your matter, then extend it without hesitation. It's just the right thing to do. And finally, in those situations where we are fortunate enough to prevail in litigation - which wasn't as often as I would have liked - he said to 'never, ever embarrass your opponent, and remember in times of doubt or stress, or in times of thanks, don't hesitate to seek comfort in prayer,'" Caruso continued.
He also recalled other advice he got from Msgr. Richard Graeber, former pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Kenmore, who said to bear in mind that things happen for a reason, and not pray for specific results on any matter. He advised Caruso to instead "pray for the strength to address and endure the challenges ahead, and the wisdom to eventually understand God's reason for those challenges."
Bishop Malone said the Red Mass had its origins in 13th-century England and France. Then and now, at the Red Mass officers of the court and "various folks involved in the administration of justice gathered for prayer near the beginning of what was the judicial year." They did so to ask for God's blessing and guidance in what Bishop Malone referred to as "demanding, necessary and holy work."
The celebration is called the Red Mass because it invokes the Holy Spirit, whose liturgical color is red, reminiscent of fire and symbolic of the Holy Spirit. "It is the Holy Spirit we know, and we believe, who gives all of us the gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge and reverence, who fills us with wonder and awe in God's presence," Bishop Malone said. There is also a White Mass for doctors and health care workers, and a recently established Blue Mass for police and first responders.
According to Bishop Malone, these special Masses for people in "certain key professions" are important because the community not only wishes to offer prayers of support for these people and the critical role the people in these professions play in the community, but also to suggest the possibility of "some deep connection between the religious dimensions of our lives and our professions."