February 26, 2018

Red Mass to Be Celebrated May 1

Try to imagine a world where a leader would be willing to face beheading rather than compromise his honor or the rule of law. But that’s exactly what St. Thomas More did when he was “martyred for the faith” in 1535. And that is why his namesake society in Columbus sponsors the Red Mass each year in connection with Law Day.

This year the colorful mass will be held at 5:15pm on Tuesday, May 1, again at the beautiful St. Joseph’s Cathedral at 212 E. Broad St. The Most Rev. Frederick Campbell, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Columbus, will be the celebrant.

The Red Mass begins with a procession of the Columbus Police Division bag pipers and color guard, priests in red robes and judges of all levels in black robes. The Cathedral brass and choir lead the congregation in the signing and chants. CBA officials as well as judges and priests participate in the ceremonies meant to “gather colleagues of all faiths in prayer for guidance, strength and recommitment to the highest principles of the legal profession.”

“Since red is the color of blood, it has historically been associated with sacrifice, danger and courage. Modern surveys in the United States and Europe show red is also the color commonly associated with heat, activity, passion, anger, love and joy.” {Wikipedia). Although all of those may apply to some degree, the “red” in Red Mass mostly refers to red as the symbol of God’s fire, the Holy Spirit.

Red Mass dates back to the middle ages in Europe and to 1928 in this country, commonly scheduled to coincide with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opening of a new judicial year in the Fall. The tradition was resurrected in Columbus in 1985 when the Thomas More Society was formed and Attorney Alphonse P. Cincione was elected as its first president. He remains in that position today.

The society took St. Thomas More’s name (he served as lord chancellor of England from 1529 to 1532) because More believed that no man – not even King Henry VII – was above the law. More was beheaded for refusing to recommend a marriage annulment for the king although his wife as “barren was a brick” (A Man for All Seasons). More’s famous last words: “The king’s good servant – but God’s first.”

The public is invited to the Mass that is followed by a reception with great hors d’oeuvres in the cathedral undercroft.

So come for “an uplifting experience,” a restful opportunity to reflect, restore and recommit and the “recognize the influence of God in our daily lives.”

Red Mass

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 @ 5:15pm
St. Joseph's Cathedral
212 E. Broad St.