Red Mass celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne

Monday 29 January 2018

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

A very warm welcome to this Red Mass of the Holy Spirit, in which we implore the grace of God upon all in the legal profession.

I recognise particularly distinguished judges and magistrates, barristers and solicitors, members of legal staff, and their families, as we come to implore God’s help in the important equity, administration of the law and compassionate decisions that we make for the good of people.

For nearly 800 years, members of the legal profession have gathered for the Red Mass to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The red vestments and sometimes the red robes of senior judges are a reminder that this plea for God’s assistance is because of the awesome responsibilities which each of us bear.

We live in times of social and cultural pluralism and of relentless public scrutiny to which all public officials are subjected. We too may be troubled like the Galatians and yet we bring to the holy sacrifice of the Mass our needs and our human condition to the God of all wisdom.

We are aware of many competing interests and disagreements; we pray that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, will help us in our daily witness as doers of justice and peace.

The emphasis which Pope Francis places on the care of the poor, the needy, the weak and those whom society dismisses, are an encouragement to us to seek out the deepest truth; that God has implanted in every human heart for the common good.

As a member of the community I speak with esteem for the vocation which you fulfil for justice, truth and equity as a call from God to be credible and authentic, to be filled with the fruits of the Spirit; peace, joy, kindness, gentleness and self-control. And yet in every situation we have to have a thirst for justice. Those who represent their clients must be zealous in advocacy. Aware, however, of the harsh partisan reality of contemporary Australian public life, we need to use our influence for balance, equity and prudent judgement in the face of the toxicity of our 24 hour media cycle.

In another time Hillaire Belloc noted that the grace of God is in courtesy. We might call it civility, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, to shape the way we think about the work we do and in every dimension of our lives. You and I are called to give flesh to the civility that is the gift of God’s Spirit in the midst of our conflicts and disputes, inviting us to discovery, negotiation, putting our case, and interacting in objectivity with one another in court.

We are all witnesses to the civility that God calls us to have when we treat our colleagues, clients and adversaries with dignity and respect by responding to the Spirit’s gift of wisdom, opening our hearts and minds to the possibility of learning from those with whom we disagree.

The invitation to all who believe in Jesus Christ is to be salt and light to the world. We provide challenge, we draw light from the Gospel, and we live in that light so that the work of the Holy Spirit will be done in us. We seek to be credible believers in a world which is often sceptical and cynical about our Catholic witness as citizens.

My dear friends, as I speak to you with esteem and as we all strive to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God in 2018, we pray that our lives might reflect the truth experienced by the 19th century Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins:

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his going graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is –
Christ - For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of [our] faces.

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.

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