Invoking the Advocate — for advocates
FORT WORTH — Whatever vocation you serve in life, everything begins with the Eucharist, explained Robert Gieb, an early proponent of the local Red Mass. So, when the Fort Worth lawyer organized an evening for attorneys, judges, and civil servants to grow in their Catholic faith, his planning started with Mass.
“We believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord of history and the Lord of law. When we look at the Eucharist, we have Him here with us today,” said Gieb. Then, Catholics must take Him into society “and reclaim the public square.”
At the 14th annual Red Mass, held Sept. 26 at St. Patrick Cathedral, Bishop Michael Olson began by invoking the Holy Spirit to bless and guide the legal community so that lawyers and public officials would promote the common good, truth, and justice in society. The Holy Spirit was summoned throughout the celebration of the Mass — in the hymns sung by the Nolan Catholic High School choir, in the readings, in Bishop Olson’s homily, and even in the red chasubles worn by the bishop and nine other priests at the Mass.
The prelate pointed out that Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Advocate “who pleads on our behalf in the Divine economy of Christ’s restorative justice.” Attorneys are also sometimes referred to as advocates who plead a defendant’s cause.
“The vocation of advocacy of lawyers requires a selfless life ordered by reason and informed by faith,” Bishop Olson said. “It requires a commitment to the truth in order to guide sound moral judgment. The sound moral judgment of lawyers made in the integrity of every aspect of their personal life guides how they will advocate on behalf of their client.”
Society, and the legal system in particular, can devolve into distrust and confusion as seen in the chaos of Babel, the bishop said, referring to Genesis 11:1-9. However, the bishop added, “Jesus Christ is the Truth who simultaneously reveals and absolves our sins and who restores a right order that surpasses even the paradise of the Garden of Eden before the fall.”
The bishop said, “We are gathered here in this Eucharistic assembly to ask the Advocate again that we become a stronger part of the Church’s mission, to forgive and to redeem our sins, and to bring to us order out of chaos.”
The Red Mass concluded, but the evening didn’t. Gieb, the coordinator of the Red Mass, explained, “We start by focusing on a Person who was, who is, and who will be.” As we take Him into our community, continued the St. Patrick parishioner, “We must become smart. We can’t be reactive, but proactive. We can’t be ignorant when it comes to our Catholic beliefs.”
Father Robert McTeigue, SJ, a professor of philosophy and theology, helped shed light on Catholic teaching with his talk after Mass, “Appealing to Conscience as a First and Last Resort.”
He explored the current culture in which morality is subject to the individual conscience and actions must not be criticized or judged. This ignores the objective dimension of morality to do what is good and avoid what is evil, he said.
The legal community deals with important moral issues, which makes having a properly formed conscience even more critical, according to the priest, who sits on the National Ethics Committee of the Catholic Medical Association.
He compared the well-informed conscience to a compass, helping navigate through the gray areas between the fixed points of black and white.
“Far from being the universal excuse for all behavior, conscience is our moral compass that must be harmonized by universal moral truths; reinforced by the virtuous love of God, self, and neighbor; illumined by revelation; and strengthened by grace,” Fr. McTeigue said.
In addition to pursuing a well-formed conscience, we must also draw on community of like-minded people for strength and comfort. He encouraged the crowd of more than a hundred to grow in knowledge and virtue and gain “the skills to tell the truth, in love, and be resistant to the toxic culture.”
Cary Schroeder, who belongs to Good Shepherd Parish in Colleyville, attends the Red Mass each year because “I want to hear the faith and live the faith. This helps me be able to evangelize, and it helps Catholic attorneys have an impact [on society].”
The Red Mass is a relatively new tradition in the Diocese of Fort Worth, but it traces its roots to 1245 in Paris, when government officials wore red vestments to Mass prior to opening the court’s term.