Monday, October 07, 2002

St. Escriva, the Red Mass, and Vineyard Parables

Preface: I've gotten a few emails recently chiding me for my lack of posts on CFL. To a certain extent I accept the criticism. And I plan to get back to CFL very soon. Bottom line, though, those reflections take more time to produce. And, sometimes to move the dialogue on the vocation of laity forward it is easier to draw from other sources or current events rather than posting on several paragraphs from CFL that share nearly identically the same theme as the previous twenty. Okay, enough apologies.

Sunday was a wonderful day. First, I recorded and later watched EWTN's coverage of the canonization of St. Escriva. I also got a chance to see some video of conversations St. Escriva had with people around the world. I find him to be a compelling figure and a saint to which I'm likely to turn often. Most readers won't be surprised by that. After all, this site is dedicated to the mission of the laity. St. Escriva was a great champion of the idea that a lay person can become a saint by sanctifying one's work and approach to the ordinary things of life. I'm very hopeful that, because of St. Escriva's example and the development of groups like Opus Dei, one day we will see the Church canonizing lay men and women who have lived out holiness in this ordinary way rather than what we typically see -- canonizations of religous or priests who founded orders or were great mystics or spread certain devotions. When that day comes more people might see sainthood as something attainable rather than impossible and foreign, and saints as heroic rather than perfect.

So I found it fitting that the Archdiocese of Chicago celebrated the Red Mass on the day of St. Escriva's canonization and when the Gospel was one of St. Matthew's vineyard passages (recall CFL's use of another Matthew vineyard parable as its lens). Cardinal George celebrated the Red Mass with several priests and bishops, including Bishop Conway who resides at my parish's rectory. Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore gave the homily. For the uninitiated, the Red Mass is a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. It usually is held the first weekend in October, which coincides with the start of the judicial calendar. During the Red Mass the church prays for, and asks the Holy Spirit to guide, the legal profession so that it may reflect God's justice and mercy. In Chicago, participating judges and lawyers form part of the entrance and exit processions. It's an interesting experience and probably a bit strange for some people to see forty-some men and women in black robes followed by more in suits, then deacons, priests, bishops and cardinals!

This is one of the first times I felt I viewed the Red Mass as something more than just another Sunday. (Maybe because this is the first one I've attended since becoming a lawyer. I missed the Red Masses of the last couple of years.) First, it is a great reminder that the law is more than a job or a profession. It is a vocation, and more than that, it has a critical role in shaping culture. The invocation of the Holy Spirit reminds me of the importance of my legal work and the opportunity to make such work a part of my own sanctification and the transformation of the world. More than that, on a personal level, it is one of the few vivid examples of the particular Church supporting me in my secular work. I think St. Escriva would have approved.

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