Bishop Olson, former congressman call on Holy Spirit for wisdom and courage for legal community

North Texas Catholic
(Oct 4, 2022) Local

people in pews at St. Patrick Cathedral

A congregation comprising attorneys, judges, and civil officials stands for prayer as Bishop Michael Olson celebrates the Red Mass on Sept. 29, 2022 at St. Patrick Cathedral in downtown Fort Worth. (NTC/Ben Torres)

Red Mass photo gallery

FORT WORTH — When choices aren’t black and white, and the correct path is obscured in a gray fog, the Holy Spirit’s direction is essential — and that’s the purpose behind the Red Mass.

On Sept. 29, Bishop Michael Olson celebrated the 16th annual Red Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral. He began his homily by invoking “the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit on all judges, civic officials, magistrates, and lawyers who are to be engaged in the authentic ministry of justice and law directed to human flourishing and the common good of our society.”

Bishop Olson’s homily counterposed the listening, discerning heart to the duplicitous heart, based on the readings for the Mass, which was held on the Feast of the Archangels St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael.

The prelate said, “The vocation of a Catholic lawyer, judge, legislator, or civic official entrusted with the ministry of authority is the cultivation of a discerning and listening heart that brings about conversion to the truth and guides society towards justice through the rule of law” — a law anchored in the truth of God.

Bishop Olson in pulpit
Bishop Michael Olson preaches during this year's celebration of the Red Mass on Sept. 29, 2022. (NTC/Ben Torres)

During the Mass, the Honorable Chris Taylor, judge of the 48th District Court, and his wife, Assistant Criminal District Attorney Courtney Taylor, presented the gifts of bread and wine during the offertory.

The couple, parishioners at St. Mary the Virgin Church in Arlington, attend the Red Mass each year because “It’s a time during which everyone in the legal community, judges, and politicians can really focus on what’s important, and that’s our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Having that moment to really think about doing justice in the community, and hearing from the bishop, and knowing that the Church is supportive of our positions is everything to me. What I do on the bench first flows from Christ, to me, to hopefully the litigants,” said Judge Taylor.

In addition to Bishop Olson, a dozen priests concelebrated the Mass and wore red vestments, which symbolized both the Holy Spirit and the 800-year-old tradition of French judges opening the court’s term in red robes.

In the Diocese of Fort Worth, probate attorney Robert Gieb founded the Red Mass in 2006 and currently chairs the Red Mass committee. He explained, “Because we come together in the Mass, our gathering is truly transcendent, affording those assembled the gift of an encounter with the perfect and loving order of the Holy Trinity. … So we hope and pray that this encounter with the divine will strengthen and sustain those who make and administer our laws, and that the ordering of our society may be more directed to the divine plan.”

Jan Zemanek, who works as in-house counsel for a financial services company, appreciated the “willingness of the Church to reach out to the legal community to bring the recognition that the Holy Spirit is animating us in our deliberations and in what we do in our work.

“Oftentimes, there are perilous, gray paths that you really have to discern. To do it right, you need the Holy Spirit,” said the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioner.

Nearly 200 attended the Red Mass, which was followed by a reception dinner and address by former U.S. Congressman Daniel Lipinski, Ph.D.

Although the legal community heard Dr. Lipinski’s lecture, the congressman gave a universal speech appropriate for every Catholic: how to solve the sectarian partisanship in our country.

Dan Lipinski
Former U.S. Congressman Dan Lipinski speaks during the Red Mass reception, on Sept. 29, 2022 at the Fort Worth Club. (NTC/Ben Torres)

The former congressman observed that, in the current tumultuous period, both sides of the political divide fear where the nation is heading. “Catholics are the hope for our nation, but it will only happen if we have the courage to be Catholic first,” he said.

A problem, opined the pro-life, pro-family, pro-religious liberty Democrat, is that partisanship becomes toxic when it becomes one’s primary social identity. In that condition, a person conforms to all the beliefs of their political party, and discussion, debate, and compromise are eliminated.

He discussed the challenges of representing his Chicago district for 16 years while being “formed and informed” by his Catholic faith. Lipinski said his congressional voting record was determined by the seven teachings of Catholic Social Thought, which is built on the foundation of the life and dignity of the human person.

“Catholic social teaching pulls us away from political sectarianism,” he explained.

In 2020, the representative lost his party primary election to a candidate whose views more closely match the Democratic Party’s platform.

Lipinski emphasized the necessity of establishing one’s primary identity as one’s relationship with God. “If we always put Him first, put Jesus first, and find our meaning in Him, we won’t be swept up in the temptation that surrounds us every day to find a different primary identity, including joining one of our political sects,” he advised.

Our identity determines our mission and guides our actions, he said.

“We don’t seek worldly defeat with our actions. We seek to serve God’s justice. But even if we don’t succeed now, we know that we are joining in the ultimate victory. And we do it by rejecting our comfort and our fears, and having the courage to be Catholic first,” he concluded, which brought the audience to its feet.

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