Red Mass at Cathedral

This story was originally published by Catholic News Singapore on 22 January 2006. Republished with permission.

SINGAPORE – Archbishop Nicholas Chia celebrated this year’s Red Mass for the members of the Catholic Lawyers Guild and the Order of Malta at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on Jan 5.

The Red Mass is a Mass that is celebrated annually specially for those involved in the administration of the law or who intend to do so – judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law school professors and students, and government officials. At the Mass the celebrants request guidance from the Holy Spirit for all who seek justice, and it offers an opportunity to reflect on the God-given power and responsibility of all in the legal profession.

In his homily, Archbishop Chia reminded the faithful about the need for law and authority to maintain order and to help a society to develop. However, he stressed that the law must always be seen in its  correct perspective. “Jesus is the end of the law and only he and he alone can dispense God’s justice,” Archbishop Chia said.

He reminded the congregation that “no one can give what he or she does not have”, hence in order for them to have integrity and to show compassion, they must first have it within themselves. Archbishop Chia warned those present to always be on theirguard against relativism. “Not for anything must you compromise truth and justice,” he emphasized.

The first recorded Red Mass was celebrated in Paris in 1245, and the practice spread to most European countries. The Red Mass takes its name from the red vestments traditionally worn by the celebrant and people at the Mass when the tradition  spread to England, as Judges of the High Court of England and all doctors of law wore red robes or academic hoods. In the Roman Catholic liturgy, red vestments symbolise the Holy Spirit.


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