October 16, 2020

Red Mass draws legal professionals to pray for guidance of Holy Spirit

Marion County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Harrison sits with her sons Rory (partially obscured) and Henry during the annual Red Mass of the St. Thomas More Society of Central Indiana, celebrated on Oct. 7 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Marion County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Harrison sits with her sons Rory (partially obscured) and Henry during the annual Red Mass of the St. Thomas More Society of Central Indiana, celebrated on Oct. 7 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Judges, lawyers, other legal professionals and law students from across central Indiana gathered on Oct. 7 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis for the annual Red Mass of the St. Thomas More Society of Central Indiana.

It was a continuation of a centuries-old tradition of those who work in law to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the legal term in the early fall. The liturgy is called a Red Mass because of the red vestments worn during it, red being symbolic of the Holy Spirit.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, trained as a canon lawyer, was the principal celebrant and homilist at the liturgy. Those taking part in it wore masks, and seats in the cathedral were set apart to allow for social distancing.

In his homily, Archbishop Thompson described overseeing the rule of law in society as “a sacred duty, as those in the legal profession—judges, lawyers, court personnel, legal staffs—are entrusted with the care of lives.”

He encouraged his listeners to embrace the Church’s balance of human rights and responsibilities and its promotion of the common good—two aspects of Catholic social teaching which he noted that Pope Francis had emphasized in his new encyclical letter, “Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship.”

At the same time, Archbishop Thompson recognized how these teachings challenge trends in contemporary culture.

A balance between rights and responsibilities, he said, “is necessary for an ordered society” that is “especially essential as we navigate the rather unchartered waters of the social unrest involving the current pandemic, racial tension and very heated election process.”

Holding on to a value of the common good and objective truth, Archbishop Thompson noted, “can be perceived as a threat to the notion of the precedence of subjective truth that tends to underlie radical individualism.”

Despite the challenges of applying these principles in society today, Archbishop Thompson said they are still a “means of keeping ever before us the bigger picture of the health, well-being and progress of humanity.”

Toward the end of the Mass, Indianapolis attorney James Lauck was presented with the St. Thomas More Society of Central Indiana’s Person for All Seasons Award. The name of the award is taken from the title of Robert Bolt’s play about the saint, A Man for All Seasons, which was also the title of the 1966 Academy Award-winning film adaptation of the play.

A member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis, Lauck is a partner in the Kroger, Gardis and Regas law firm and has practiced real estate law since 1979. He has been an active member of local, state and national bar associations, has served on local and state government commissions and is a past president of the society.

In comments made to The Criterion before the Mass, Lauck spoke humbly of receiving the award.

“It is an honor to be sure,” he said, “as well as a reminder that we’re all ragamuffins.”

Lauck also spoke of the role that his faith has played in his practice of law.

“Faith can be expressed in the essential notions of kindness, fairness, compassion and hope to others,” he said. “Christ is always there, on your side, as you act upon those notions.

“The practice of law gives me more opportunities to live out a faith with contact with those in need, both in and outside the office.”

Attending the Red Mass for the first time was Judge Jennifer Harrison, who serves in the Marion County Superior Court. Before serving as a judge, Harrison, a member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, worked as a public defender.

“We are meant to be servant leaders, to balance our faith with the law and to be compassionate,” she said. “[Faith] brings forth my compassion and my ability to see people as individuals.” †

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