History of the Red Mass
The Red Mass is a historical tradition within the Catholic Church dating back to the 13th century when it officially opened the term of the court for most European countries. The first recorded Red Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral of Paris in 1245. From there, it spread to most European countries.
Around 1310, during the reign of King Edward I, the tradition began in England with the Mass offered at Westminster Abbey at the opening of the Michaelmas term. It receive its name from the fact that the celebrant was vested in red and the Lord High Justices were robed in brilliant scarlet. They were joined by the university professors displaying red in their academic gowns.
In the United States, the first Red Mass occurred in New York City on Oct. 6, 1928. One of the better-known Red Masses is the one celebrated each fall at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.
San Antonio revived the tradition 65 years ago through the auspices of the St. Mary’s University School of Law and the Catholic Lawyers’ Guild of San Antonio. Red Mass calls upon God to grant light and inspiration to the lawyer in pleasing and to the judge in adjudicating during the court year. Officials of all faiths attend in their capacity as private individuals to receive God’s blessing and guidance on the court term.
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Photos: Veronica Markland | Today’s Catholic