The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Red Mass Homily to the US Supreme Court

Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P.(photo at left), Secretary of the Vatican's Congregation of Divine Worship, was the homilist at Sunday's annual Red Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in downtown Washington, D.C. The Red Mass traditionally marks the beginning of the Supreme Court's session and was celebrated by Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl.

The fact that six of the nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic adds a bit of import to the Red Mass this year. Four of the Catholic justices attended the Mass while two did not. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. attended, along with Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas; but Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor did not. Also attending was Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who is Jewish. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, both also Jewish, did not attend the Mass. As you can see, for the first time in the court's history there are no Protestants among the justices -- really a rather odd turn of events.

Archbishop DiNoia, an American Dominican, who in years past would occasional celebrate Mass and preach at my former parish on Cape Cod, has moved on to greater things. I always found his homilies enlightening and inspired, and expected his Red Mass homily to be the same. I wasn't disappointed. It was especially heartening to see that he directed these words to the justices:

The words of the prophet Ezekiel recall another important element in our invocation of the Holy Spirit today. "I will put my Spirit within you," he says, "and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees." Positive law rests on certain principles the knowledge of which constitutes nothing less than a participation in the divine law itself: the pursuit of the common good through respect for the natural law, the dignity of the human person, the inviolability of innocent life from conception to natural death, the sanctity of marriage, justice for the poor, protection of minors, and so on. The legal profession is entrusted with the discernment and administration of justice and the rule of law according to an objective measure -- in effect, according to principles -- not of our own making. A consensus about these principles inspired the founders of modern democracies, and although it was profoundly influenced by Judaism, Islam, and Christianity (think of Averroes, Maimonides and Aquinas), this consensus was understood to transcend religious and cultural differences. Thus, it follows that the invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Red Mass is a prayer for light and guidance. Among the things for which we ardently pray is the wisdom to affirm and maintain those profound truths about human nature that are at the foundation of the common life we treasure in this great nation. "Holy Spirit, Lord of Light ... / Come thou light of all that live ... / Light immortal, light divine." 
You can read the entirety of Archbishop DiNoio's homily here. It also includes a brief historical note on the origin and continued tradition of the Red Mass.

Pray for our Supreme Court justices, that their decisions will always reflect God's will.

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