SALT LAKE CITY – The annual Red Mass, which honors lawyers, judges and members of law enforcement, this year took place at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on Oct. 9.
The tradition of the Red Mass began during the Middle Ages as a way for those in the legal and criminal justice professions to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in dispensing justice. The first recorded Red Mass was celebrated in 1245 in the Cathedral of Paris. The first Red Mass in the United States was celebrated in 1928 at the Church of St. Andrew in New York City. The Diocese of Salt Lake City began celebrating the Red Mass more than 15 years ago and has expanded to recognize members of the U.S. military and government officials as well as those in legal professions.
The Oct. 9 Mass started with choristers from the Madeleine Choir School singing “Spiritus Domini.” Then Fr. Martin Diaz, the cathedral rector, welcomed those present. Mentioning that the Red Mass tradition is for all involved in the legal professions and the judicial system to invoke the support and guidance of the Holy Spirit, he added that that day was an opportunity “to extend our gratitude, respect and admiration for the great service offered to the citizens of Utah as you who are gathered today work to build a civilization of justice, mercy and love for all who live in the state.”
In his homily, Fr. Diaz talked about some of the terms used by the justice system, such as advocate, defender, justice and prejudice. He quoted President Russell M. Nelson, 17th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that “racial injustice is something that we must address not just in our society here in Utah but in the society of the world.”
Things like ethnicity and race need to be addressed, Fr. Diaz said, and used a family story to explain the idea of justice. His father, he said, would give him and his younger sister a candy bar to share, and told them, “One of you cuts and one of you chooses.”
His younger sister, who became an attorney, would cut that candy bar exactly in half, Fr. Diaz said, and although we may think of justice as equality, it also requires knowledge of the other person, an idea he illustrated with another story.
“When my mom used to served us breakfast – and bear in mind she was a size 1 – she used to serve me two eggs and a piece of toast, and she served herself just one egg and a half of piece of toast. Certainly not equal, but not everybody has equal needs,” said Fr. Diaz, underlining that in order to have equality people need to “understand deeply who each other are.”
“We need to come together as one family,” he added.
Speaking to the members of law enforcement present, Fr. Diaz acknowledged their dedication to justice, and said, “We as a community of people entrust you with justice. We pray that you would take this responsibility and before God execute that trust that the community gives you. … We ask you to please work for justice.”