Red Mass: ‘In our work, never be ashamed of the Gospel’
July 20, 2012 – Janis Nelson
Challenged in the homily to become healers and “candles of hope in the darkness,” nearly 200 members of the legal community in Ventura County gathered Oct. 11 at St. John’s Seminary to celebrate the fourth annual Red Mass for Ventura County, with Santa Barbara Region Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry presiding.
Sharing stories from his years of work in detention ministry, homilist Father George Horan, co-director of the archdiocesan Office for Restorative Justice, reminded the legal professionals present that justice is all about healing — for all involved.
“If crime is a wound, then justice should heal,” asserted Father Horan. “There cannot be a ‘them’ and ‘us’ because salvation is for everyone. We must try to heal or the law isn’t doing what it is meant to do.”
Father Horan described — from his first-hand relationships with the incarcerated — the snowball effect of how a crime against one victim creates many victims: families and friends of the victim and the perpetrator, and the entire community. All need healing and hope for a better future.
“Forgiveness and making amends are steps to healing,” he explained, “and the Gospels show how to do this.”
But to do restorative justice, he added, requires being faithful to the Gospel. “In our work, never be ashamed of the Gospel,” he said.
Many of the attendees of this Red Mass expressed a strong connection between their faith, the Gospel and their work, even in the midst of the everyday challenges before them.
There cannot be a ‘them’ and ‘us’ because salvation is for everyone. We must try to heal or the law isn’t doing what it is meant to do.
—Fr. George Horan
“I have not found a lot of conflict between faith and the practice of law; faith is actually a support for doing this work,” asserted Justice Henry J. Walsh, parishioner of San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura, and Superior Court judge for the past 13 years following 27 years in private practice.
Kathy Back, parishioner of Blessed Junípero Serra Church, Camarillo, is an attorney who had practiced law for 22 years, and now serves as an at-risk youth advocate. Her desire to work with under-served children drew her into teaching in poor communities and ignited a passion to make a difference.
“I am working to change the way we deal with these young people,” Back explained. “Child perpetrators are most often themselves victims of violence and abuse. Punishment does not change behavior. These young people have a lack of hope. Healing and hope is what they need most.”
Father Horan reminded attendees of the words of Christ and used the images of darkness and light to illustrate the powerful impact that legal professionals can have in the world.
“A lot of people live in darkness: perpetrators of crime, people who have lost loved ones, neighbors, and citizens in the community,” said Father Horan. “Darkness can seem overpowering, but it is not. A candle burning in the darkness, bringing light into the darkness reminds us of this. God is calling us to be candles of hope in the darkness and to let Christ’s light shine through us.”
The Red Mass has been celebrated for 29 years in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, more recently in conjunction with the opening of the Supreme Court’s fall term in Washington, and in 2008 became a tradition in Ventura County as well. The first Red Mass was celebrated in 1245 in Paris and during the following century began in England, occurring at the opening of the term of the Court. The priest wears red vestments and celebrates the Mass of the Holy Spirit and the judges of the high court wear red robes.