Compassion and accompaniment, justice and service

This story was originally published by Catholic News Singapore on 9 February 2021. Republished with permission.

Fr Adrian Yeo laying hands and invoking the Holy Spirit upon the members of the legal fraternity.
Photo: Adrian Liaw

The vocation of a Catholic legal professional

Michelle Tan

“Lord, our God, send your Spirit upon these members of the legal profession and fill them with your gifts of wisdom, counsel, right judgment, knowledge, understanding, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord, and with all your blessings. Grant that during this legal year, they may devote themselves in work and service to all those in need with the love, joy and mercy of the Holy Trinity.”

It was the evening of Friday, Jan 15 and the occasion was the CLG’s Red Mass, held annually at the beginning of each legal year (the calendar year during which cases are heard in court). With these words from the Rite of Blessing, Father Adrian Yeo, the Spiritual Director of the Catholic Lawyers’ Guild (CLG), invoked the Holy Spirit upon nearly 100 members of the legal fraternity, laying hands upon them from the altar as they stood, masked and socially distanced, in the pews beneath the resplendent rose window of the Church of the Holy Family. As Mass attendance was restricted to 100 persons, many more received the infilling of the Holy Spirit virtually as they watched the livestream online.

This Eucharistic celebration is popularly known as the Red Mass because red is the colour of the fire of the Holy Spirit – Fr Adrian wore red vestments – and in England, when the tradition of the Red Mass began during the 14th century, the judges of the High Court all wore red robes.


Compassion and accompaniment

In his homily, Fr Adrian referred to the Gospel story of the paralytic who was carried by his four friends to Jesus. He emphasised the friends’ accompaniment of the paralytic in bringing him to Jesus, and the compassion of Christ who not only physically healed the paralytic, but also forgave his sins.

He shared that, from the time he started as an advocate with the Marriage Tribunal till now as an ecclesiastical judge, he tried his best to show the compassion of the Church and the love of God when administering the law, and prayed to the Holy Spirit to guide him in making the right judgments. In the same vein, he said, civil lawyers, especially those who are Christian, need to show the compassion and justice of Christ to their clients, out of their own love for God.

In this way, continued Fr Adrian, when they journey with their clients, they will bring them not only to the justice they seek, but also closer to God through their witness. Such accompaniment and support of clients is a great vocation, but not an easy task. “That is why we need to pray to the Holy Spirit constantly to lead, guide and inspire us as witnesses” he said, otherwise “we can lose heart and lose our way”.

Service and joy

Addressing the congregation after the Liturgy of the Eucharist, CLG President Peggy Yee shared that, although this Red Mass was very quiet compared to previous years with no singing by the choir comprised of legal professionals, no offertory procession, no greetings nor warm signs of peace and no convivial dinner reception after Mass, “amidst these nays, we came together to celebrate the Eucharist, with joy”.

She noted that the number of cases attended to in 2020 at the CLG’s weekly pro bono legal clinics at parishes and Agape Village was double that of 2019, with a significant increase in matrimonial and employment issues. “From this we are keenly aware of the need of the community for our service, and we hope to work in tandem with our volunteers to serve more.”

Justice and grace

Invited to say a few words by the President, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, said he was greatly encouraged to see so many celebrating the “wonderful” Red Mass and consecrating their work of serving God through administering justice in various different capacities.

He shared that Fr Adrian’s “powerful” homily reminded him of the card he had on his office desk, on which was printed, in large font, Deuteronomy 16:20, where Moses, in his last exhortation to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land, adjured them: “Justice, and only justice, shall you follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God gives you.”

He said that this verse helped him remember how privileged Catholic lawyers were to have day jobs that were an extension of their faith, giving them a chance to live their faith and transform their work into a calling through the grace of the Holy Spirit. “That’s really the best part of our involvement in justice”.

Signs of God’s love

Concluding the hour-long Red Mass that was also attended by the Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong, Deputy Attorney-General Kwek Mean Luck and many members of the judiciary, Fr Adrian enjoined the CLG to continue their good work on behalf of the Church as signs of the Church’s compassion and God’s love for others.

For more information on the Catholic Lawyers Guild, please visit their website at, or email

St Thomas More, martyr (1478-1535)

“The King’s good servant – but God’s first.”

These were St Thomas’ last words before he was beheaded for treason in 1535, having refused to sanction King Henry VIII’s divorce and remarriage, and his establishment of the Church of England.

Educated at Oxford, St Thomas was called to the Bar in 1501. He soon became London’s leading barrister and served as a part-time judge. In 1518, he entered the service of King Henry VIII, becoming Chancellor in 1529, but retiring in 1532 as the King drifted further away from the Catholic Church. He was a vocal defender of the Church and wrote numerous works, including “Utopia”, a socio-political satire about a perfect island society, considered one of the greatest works of the late Renaissance.

St Thomas was known for his gift for friendship and sense of humour, his deep spirituality and his happy family life. Lawyer, judge, statesman, scholar, writer, husband, father, martyr, saint: St Thomas truly was, as his friend Erasmus described him, “a man for all seasons.”

He was canonised by Pope Pius XI in 1935. His feast day is June 22.


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