In a homily that encompassed the call to holiness, life in the Spirit and the obligation to see in each person the face of Christ, visiting Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland, Maine, struck a chord with those attending the 50th annual Red Mass Jan. 14.
The liturgy, held annually at the beginning of Arizona’s legislative session at St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Phoenix, draws a broad swathe of the legal community, from Arizona Supreme Court Justice Bill Montgomery to public defenders, prosecutors and others to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
At the end of the liturgy, Montgomery — who also read the First Reading — led attorneys as they stood and renewed their Oath of Admission to the Arizona State Bar, promising, among other duties, to “support the fair administration of justice, professionalism among lawyers and legal representation for those unable to afford counsel.”
In his remarks, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix thanked all those who serve in the legal profession, the judiciary, the legislature and the tribunal. He especially called out Montgomery for leading the lawyers in their pledge.
“It makes me convinced there is virtue at work in Arizona and happening in the institution of justice and the rights of others,” Bishop Olmsted said. “Thank you to all of you who serve in the very important profession of the law.”
Bishop Deeley, who is also a former president of the Canon Law Society of America, referred to the Galatians passage and noted the gifts of the Spirit help Christians to live a life of holiness in spite of temptations of the flesh. For lawyers, he said, those temptations can include selfishness and pride that block the call to holiness.
Another temptation, Bishop Deeley said, is seeing the legal profession as an exclusive club, “above the common society … such that members forget we must all rely on, or that we all need, the gifts of the Spirit.
“As you fulfill your call to holiness in our courts and legal hallways,” Bishop Deeley said, “see in the faces of those whom you meet, the face of a brother or sister.”
He spoke of a friend who served as a judge and who taught his children to always pray for the inmates at the state prison — men who were serving time because he’d put them there. It was an anecdote that made a strong impression on every person interviewed by The Catholic Sun.
Gina Godbehere, a prosecutor and St. Thomas Aquinas parishioner, said she prays for every defendant she’s ever prosecuted.
“I pray,” she said. “There’s more to you than one bad decision in your life. Everyone has value and everyone can make something positive out of life.”
Maricopa Superior Court Judge Joseph Mikitish, a parishioner at St. Stephen’s Byzantine Catholic Cathedral, said that Bishop Deeley’s homily served as a “great reminder” that all are connected.
“It called everyone involved in the administration of justice to look deep at what we do from a broad scale to make sure things are efficient but never losing sight of each individual person,” Mikitish said.
Noting the present as a time in the nation’s history that many people view the opposition “as their enemy,” Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, appreciated the appropriateness of Bishop Deeley’s message.
“It was really a call to holiness and to recognize God and the good in everybody,” Johnson said.
Ryan McCarthy, president of the St. Thomas More Society of Phoenix, which organizes the annual event, noted the bishop’s warning about pride.
“It’s a big temptation as lawyers to think that you have this special knowledge and a special place in society and, because of that, to put on airs. I think that really hit home,” McCarthy said.
Local attorney John Jakubczyk, a father of 11 who has belonged to the St. Thomas More Society for more than 30 years, received the 2020 St. Thomas More Award in recognition for his longtime leadership in the pro-life movement, both locally and nationally. The award honors those who exemplify the ideals of St. Thomas More in the legal profession and in life.