Beginning the month of October by calling upon the Holy Spirit to pour forth His gifts upon them, members of the legal community from civic and canonical spheres gathered at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg for the Diocese’s Red Mass on October 3.
The annual liturgy, traditionally held in conjunction with the new session of the Supreme Court, invokes the wisdom of the Holy Spirit on behalf of judges, attorneys, legislators and all who are involved in public service.
Visiting bishops traditionally serve as homilists for the Red Mass, and this year, the Diocese welcomed home its native son, Bishop Edward C. Malesic of Cleveland, who offered a message about using the Gifts of the Spirit to do good in society.
Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord – the same gifts given at Confirmation – can bear fruit in us, Bishop Malesic said.
“We believe that if we use these gifts, if we follow these gifts and listen to the Gospel as it’s given to us, the Lord will renew the face of the earth,” he said. “So often, we get depressed about the bad news out there. We believe in the Good News, and we have to constantly remember that we have this great gift, this great treasure, the Holy Spirit, that God can use – if we allow Him – to renew the face of the earth.”
Bishop Ronald Gainer served as the principal celebrant of the Mass, which was concelebrated by Bishop Malesic, Father Paul Clark, Diocesan Judicial Vicar, and Father John Bateman, who is a Canonical Consultant in the Diocesan Tribunal.
A native of Enhaut and ordained a priest 1987, Bishop Malesic was a campus minister, pastor and canon lawyer for the Diocese of Harrisburg until his appointment and installation as Bishop of Greensburg in 2015. He was named Bishop of Cleveland in 2020.
Though he never anticipated that he would study Canon Law before being assigned to do so during his priesthood, Bishop Malesic said his life has been enriched by studying and practicing the law of the Church.
“The final canon of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church says that the highest law of the Church is to keep before our eyes the salvation of souls. Our worship, discipline and belief is directed toward finding the way to our ultimate end and permanent peace with God,” he remarked.
“The salvation of souls sounds like a very appropriate direction for Canon Law…. I think we can all apply the same standard of love to the civil law,” he told the congregation.”
“Love of others sounds like a reasonable approach to a better way of living,” he said.
He reflected on the day’s Gospel Reading of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. “Jesus tells us the way to get to heaven. Everything we do as people of faith must be done out of love of God – every ounce of our heart, being, strength and mind. And we must love our neighbor as ourselves. In other words, we must extend ourselves to others,” he said.
Bishop Malesic encouraged those in the congregation to consider the Spirit’s gifts and God’s blessing in their lives, and to carry them forward for the benefit of others.
“It’s a grace and blessing meant to be shared with all those whom God sends our way, especially those who are most vulnerable, innocent or in need of extra protection – born or unborn. That is why we come together today: to pray, to reflect, to open our hearts, to receive God’s charge, to love him above all else and our neighbor as ourselves,” he said.
“We ask the Holy Spirit to give us what we need to serve the greater good – the good that is outside of ourselves – and along the way to find eternal life for ourselves, and maybe help to save someone else’s soul in the process, too,” he said.
Connecting Members of the Legal Profession
The Red Mass is sponsored each year by The St. Thomas More Society of Central Pennsylvania. The organization works to promote the spiritual and intellectual wellbeing of its members and to acquaint them with the life and ideals of St. Thomas More, a devout Catholic lawyer who was beheaded by the order of King Henry VIII for refusing to sign the king’s Act of Supremacy and Act of Succession. Because of his stand for conscience, St. Thomas More is the patron saint of statesmen, lawyers and politicians.
“The Red Mass is important because it is a prayer, as every Mass is, but this one is wholly focused on seeking God’s help with justice here on earth through our elected officials, our judges, our lawyers. Prayer is always important,” said the society’s acting president, Linda Carroll.
The society, which is actively recruiting new members via membership drives in the parishes, also hosts an annual Mass on the Feast of St. Thomas More in June, an Advent communion breakfast and a Lenten reflections program.
“The St. Thomas More Society provided me a benefit by first making me aware of that awesome saint and learning about his life. The society hopes to share that with others through our education efforts. It provides continuing education for attorneys that have a different focus than the mainstream,” Carroll told The Witness. “The society is basically a mission of the Diocese to bring together people with a common profession, or interest, for the purpose of learning about St. Thomas and to pray together and provide mutual support. So the friendships made are based on our mutual faith and I treasure those friendships.”
A licensed attorney who retired from the Commonwealth after years of work with several agencies, Carroll said the St. Thomas More Society’s mission includes education as one of its core obligations.
“We want to educate about St. Thomas More and why he is so important today. He is such a role model for living in extremely changing times, especially when those changes are related to people of faith,” she said. “Also, we want to educate people about the law, where it is heading and how it has changed. Having an associate membership for people that are not directly involved in the law allows for this. Also, having public officials in the society will help to provide them with spiritual strength and support when they face challenges.”
Learn more about the St. Thomas More Society of Central Pennsylvania at www.saintthomasmoresociety.com.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness