March 26, 2019
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Members of Maine’s legal profession gather in Portland as Bishop Deeley celebrates the Red Mass

Community Author: Dave Guthro, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland
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Dave Guthro | Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland
Dave Guthro | Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland

We will see the practice of the law as service, as our way of bringing God’s love into the world. By so doing, we will witness to the truth which is Jesus Christ who is the bearer of God’s love and we will change the world we live in as we faithfully pursue justice.”—Bishop Robert P. Deeley

 PORTLAND—Judges, lawyers, canonists and government officials gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland on Sunday, Sept. 30, as Catholic Bishop Robert Deeley, J.C.D., celebrated the Red Mass, asking for God’s blessing upon those who work in the legal profession, their service to the common good and the pursuit of justice.

“Our prayer asks that we will be enabled, through the grace of God and the guidance of the Spirit, to seek to bring God’s justice into the decisions, opinions, briefs and lectures which further and nurture the pursuit of law,” Bishop Deeley said during his homily. “Our prayer is one of humility. It acknowledges that we are created by God, and in need of his presence in our life. It is an act of faith.”

 The Red Mass is a tradition that dates back to the early Middle Ages when Pope Innocent IV is said to have invited the Ecclesiastical Judicial Court in 1243 to gather to ask God’s blessing through the invocation of the Holy Spirit on the work that would be conducted in the court.

“On the occasion of the beginning of the court year, whenever that occurs in different countries, the Church has been gathering for centuries in prayer to the Holy Spirit asking the Spirit of God to guide judges, attorneys, law school professors, students and public servants in the exercise of their duties in the light of God’s higher law, apart from which there is no true justice,” said the bishop.

Bishop Deeley wore red signifying the fire of the Holy Spirit’s guidance to all who pursue justice in their daily lives. Concelebrating priests, including Fr. Gregory Dube, rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and Fr. Jack Dickinson, J.C.L., judicial vicar of the diocesan tribunal, wore red vestments as well.

“In the prayer we offer, we ask that the Spirit ‘enlighten our minds and lead us into all truth just as Jesus has promised,’” said Bishop Deeley. “It is a bold prayer and statement. It says that there is a God, a loving Spirit, whom we believe cares for us. We believe that Jesus leads us to truth. Our prayer makes a difference in our lives. God, in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is present with us just as Jesus promised us.”

The bishop told the assembly that this year’s Red Mass comes at a particularly challenging time for both our country and Church, and that the answer in both periods of difficulty may be the same.

“The attempt to seat Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court has shown all too clearly that we are a divided people. There are serious questions that divide us. At the same time, given the painful stories of events in the Church, you might well say to me, ‘What right have you to speak? Have we not seen abundantly in these weeks the depth of moral scandal within the Church? We, the people of the Church, have lost any trust in our leaders.’ And I cannot argue with that. It is true. Many people of the Church have lost trust in their bishops. But I am still here, and you are still here. I think that is because we both believe that something important and necessary for life happens when we come together as we are for the Eucharist. Where do we go from here? I believe we should do what we came here to do: celebrate the Eucharist. It is there that, in the mystery of God’s love and mercy, we will find our way forward.”

Bishop Deeley has an extensive background in the legal field. In 1978, with his appointment as Secretary to the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Boston, he began a ministry in the Tribunal which would last for over 20 years, including ten years as Judicial Vicar. He assumed the presidency of the Canon Law Society of America in 2000 and served at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome from 2004-2011. The bishop earned both a Licentiate of Canon Law degree in 1983 and a Doctor of Canon Law degree (summa cum laude) in 1986 from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In October of 2016, the bishop was named the recipient of the “Role of Law Award,” the Canon Law Society of America’s most prestigious honor and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) named Bishop Deeley as the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance.

In addition to the bishop, many of the other participants in the Mass are connected to the legal profession. Attorneys Eric Wycoff and Michael Malloy served as readers and Christopher Siuzdak, a canonist, and Anthony Manhart, an attorney, served as gift bearers.

Following the Red Mass, a reception was held at the cathedral enabling parishioners and the members of the legal field in attendance to get to know each other better.

“We gather this morning with this community and together we ask that the Holy Spirit of God give us the courage to be authentic in what faith asks of us, and humble in our acceptance of the uniqueness of each of us in the way God shows us his love,” said the bishop. “That will open us to the grace to live out the commandment to love one another as God has loved us. We will see the gifts that God gives us as gifts to be shared. We will seek the dignity and worth of each person. We will, as well, see the practice of the law as service, as our way of bringing God’s love into the world. By so doing we will witness to the truth which is Jesus Christ who is the bearer of God’s love and we will change the world we live in as we faithfully pursue justice.”