SCRANTON – Lawyers, judges, and elected officials from across the 11 counties of the Diocese of Scranton gathered at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Oct. 6, 2023, to celebrate the 50th Diocesan Red Mass.
“We lift up all those in the legal profession to the mercy and love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit,” the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, said in welcoming everyone to the milestone Mass.
The Red Mass is offered to invoke God’s blessing upon all members of the legal profession. Its name is derived from the color of the vestments worn by the presider and concelebrants, the scarlet robes of attending justices (which were bright scarlet in the Middle Ages) and the scarlet gowns of law professors.
During his homily, Bishop Bambera used the Gospel message, the familiar story from the Last Supper of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, to remind all those in attendance – whether they are a lawyer, judge, or public servant – that they must serve the most vulnerable among us.
“The gesture of Jesus washing the feet of His friends is recalled in the Gospel as a sign of His commitment to serve the suffering world in which He was immersed,” the bishop said.
Bishop Bambera also shared the words of Pope Francis, who recently spoke about those involved in the legal profession. The Holy Father said those whose vocation lies in law have the capacity to do great good but only if they use their authority “in a way that reflects a well-formed conscience and the use of that authority to serve others and the common good with prudence and responsibility.”
The first Red Mass was held in the Diocese of Scranton in 1971 but the tradition traces its origins to Rome, Paris, and London.
In closing his homily, Bishop Bambera acknowledged the difficulties and challenges people in the legal profession face, but offered some four pieces of advice as they face changing societal values and political pressure.
“First, never be too proud or self-inflated to pray for strength in the work that you do,” Bishop Bambera began. “We would also do well to recognize the need to acquire not only mere professional competence but wisdom and creativity in our exercise of the law … most of it comes with humility and a willingness to engage and learn from the experiences of others.”
Bishop Bambera also encouraged those in attendance to “be willing to serve beyond the bare minimum of what is required by your profession” and finally “always maintain a deep respect for the dignity of every person impacted by the work that you do.”