Rockville Centre Bishop
Rockville Centre Bishop William F. Murphy gave the homily at the annual Red Mass Jan. 22 at St. Mary’s Basilica. (J.D. Long-Garcia)

Lawyers, judges, canonists and lawmakers from around the State of Arizona gathered at St. Mary’s Basilica Jan. 22 for the 44th annual Red Mass to mark the opening of a new legislative session.

Before the Mass began, Alan Tavassoli, president of the Thomas More Society, called on those in attendance to speak out against injustice.

“Tonight, we are all called to a greater faith,” Tavassoli said.  “We are called to speak out against oppression. We are called to take sides for what is right in the eyes of God.”

Indifference to human suffering, Tavassoli said, is spreading and he called on lawyers present to join the St. Thomas More Society if they would like to make a difference in the world.

“As lawyers, judges, and legislators, we have a special duty to not just ourselves, and not just to those that share our features, our nationalities, or our political views, but to all people,” Tavassoli said, “for we are all God’s children, and as such they deserve our best attention.”

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted concelebrated the Mass with Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares, other diocesan priests and Bishop William F. Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., who gave the homily.

“I salute you who have committed yourselves to the work of justice in the service of all,” he said. “You are one of the bulwarks of the fight for freedom and justice, harmony and peace for all the citizens of this great state.”

Bishop Murphy referred to Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta as contemporary examples of those whose lives showed the influence of the Holy Spirit. The Red Mass calls upon the Holy Spirit to guide lawmakers, lawyers and judges and the celebrants and clergy traditionally wear red vestments.

“Blessed John Paul II spoke God’s word, not his own, and that word transformed the political world of East and West as we knew it,” Bishop Murphy said. “That word challenged those persons in power who denied human rights and that word spoken in Haiti to say, ‘something must change here,’ began a process that led to the downfall of a dictatorship.”

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Bishop Murphy said, changed the world because “the spirit of God that rested in her did not remain inert…she became the instrument of God to bring his message of love to the outcast of society and so taught society that no one can ever be an outcast.”

Referring to the U.S. Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate, Bishop Murphy said that the U.S. bishops would continue to speak out on matters of religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

“The God who gave us life is the God who gives us liberty,” Bishop Murphy said, quoting Thomas Jefferson.  “When either one of these gifts of God is threatened, we bishops can and do speak out.”

Several dioceses, including that of Rockville Centre, Bishop Murphy said, have brought their concerns about the HHS mandate before the courts and the U.S. bishops have also entered into discussions with the Obama administration vis-à-vis the mandate.

“We have entered into dialogue with an administration that listens but does not hear,” Bishop Murphy said. “It’s a dialogue with the deaf but it will continue.”

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Harriet Chavez read some of the prayer intentions at the Red Mass. “That the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge may be with all leaders of nations as they continue to work to bring an end to oppression and violence so that all people may live in freedom and peace,” Chavez prayed.

Ryan McCarthy, a recent graduate, said this year’s event was his fourth Red Mass. He’s been attending since he began law school at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

“I think the Red Mass brings you back to the beginnings that you care about and why you go to law school — to do justice, to find significance in the day-to-day activities that you do and remembering to do your best, even when you’re strapped for time,” McCarthy said.