Attorneys, judges, and other members of the legal profession joined Bishop Richard F. Stika for the annual Red Mass on Oct. 8 at Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Knoxville.
The Red Mass is a centuries-old tradition in the Church, Bishop Stika – dressed in red vestments for the liturgy – said.
“The color red designates the Holy Spirit, and so that’s why it’s called the Red Mass,” the bishop said. “In Washington this week, the Supreme Court justices, and other legal folks, judges, and whatever – they participate. It happens throughout the whole country, this Mass of the Holy Spirit.
“You know, the judges and the legal profession are very important people to society, and just like all of us we pray we are guided by the Holy Spirit. We pray in a very special way for them.”
Joining the bishop for the Red Mass were IC pastor Father Ron Franco, CSP, IC associate pastor Father Jerry Tully, CSP, Monsignor Xavier Mankel, and Deacon Joe Stackhouse.
Bishop Stika told the congregation about his recent meeting with Pope Francis, the third pope he has met over the years.
“One thing I’ve found in common with all three popes is even though they run an organization with over a billion people, they’re very serene and peaceful and they give the person in front of them all the attention in the world,” Bishop Stika said.
“St. John XXIII, they asked him how he could sleep at night, and he said ‘at night when I decide to go to bed, I tell Jesus it’s his Church and I’ll see you in the morning.’ I guess that’s a good way to deal with life.”
The bishop said that “all of us are responsible to God.”
“The lives that we are given with all the actions, with all the decisions, with all the conversations, how I govern as a bishop, how I lead the Diocese of Knoxville, and how you practice law, or if you’re not here from the legal field, how you live your life. We’re ultimately all responsible to God with ethics, with charity, with pro bono work, whatever that involves us. Ultimately what we know, what we believe in, the length of our days – they all belong to God.”
Given his audience at the Red Mass, the bishop used a legal analogy of a Christian on trial.
“You’re arrested for being a Christian, and they take you into the trial, and you have the best lawyer possible because you’ve got one of those mean prosecuting attorneys. . . . The judge is there. So there’s a trial going on, and the question is how much evidence can they present in the trial, to the jury, to the judge, that would convict you for being a believer in God, for being a believer in Jesus?”
The bishop said he had a prayer for his listeners at the Red Mass.
“Today we celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit, and I pray that all your choices, all your decisions, whether in married life or single life, whether just walking on the street or driving a car, in your legal profession, or your profession, we might always invoke the Holy Spirit so that the choices we make might have a ripple effect and might only bring about goodness of life to the lives of others.
“We all are given a responsibility. We all make up the fabric of what is called the Church. God has given us the gifts of who we are. Let us pray that we might always use those gifts despite our sinfulness or weakness at times, that we might always use all those gifts to make the world a better place and make God a part of that world as he is a part of our lives.”