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Our Faith Affects All of Life
By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Q U I C K S C A N

What Is a 'Red' Mass? A 'Blue' Mass?
'No Word and Communion Services for Me'
'Can I Miss Mass That Sunday?'
Dedications for Each Month?
Another Beatification Cause Opened
More 'Gifts of the Magi' Requested


Q: Not long ago, I saw a newspaper article about a “Red” Mass in some city. Later I heard about people attending a “Blue” Mass. What are these?

A: A “Red” Mass is a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, celebrated for judges, lawyers and other members of the legal profession, to ask God’s blessing upon their work. In Washington, D.C., this Mass is celebrated on the Sunday before the U.S. Supreme Court begins its term on the first Monday of October.

This liturgical custom has more recently led to annual Masses for at least two other occupational groups: “Blue” Masses for police officers and others engaged in public safety, as well as “White” or “Rose” Masses for doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals.

According to the St. Thomas More Society, the first Red Mass was celebrated in 1245 at La Sainte Chapelle in Paris. This custom spread to England in 1310. In some places, judges once wore or still wear red robes. The Mass celebrant wears red in honor of the Holy Spirit.

The first Red Mass in the United States was celebrated in New York City in 1928. The 2007 Washington, D.C., Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral was the 54th annual Mass in that city. Archbishop Donald Wuerl presided, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee preached. Six U.S. Supreme Court justices attended, including five who are Catholic and Stephen Breyer, who is Jewish.

Archbishop Dolan began his homily by recalling the witness given in 2002 by a 24-year-old woman at World Youth Day in Canada. Addicted to alcohol and other drugs, she was considering suicide. Friends convinced her to attend a World Youth Day event where she heard Pope John Paul II say that God loves each person, that every person is God’s work of art and known individually by God. “I now want to live,” she told a group in Toronto.

Later in his homily Archbishop Dolan said, “Ideas have consequences, and perhaps a way to view our participation in this annual Red Mass in our nation’s capital is as our humble prayer for the red-hot fire of the Holy Spirit, bringing the jurists, legislators and executives of our government the wisdom to recognize that we are indeed made in God’s image....”

The archbishop closed his homily by quoting from a prayer that Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore wrote in 1789: “God, we pray for all judges, magistrates and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled by Thy protection to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.”

In recent years, Red Masses have seen increased ecumenical and interfaith participation. At last September’s Red Mass in Atlanta, Rabbi William Rothschild proclaimed the first reading, from the Book of Haggai.

“It’s a wonderful way to recognize the serious, serious responsibility we carry out every day,” said Judge Doris Downs, chief judge of Fulton County Superior Court. “The judiciary does need the prayers.”

Catholic Standard, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and The Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, gave full coverage to their Red Masses, as did other diocesan papers regarding local Masses for occupational groups. Women and men distinguished for their public or community service are often honored at these Masses.

Occupation-related Masses remind us that faith touches all aspects of life. The feast of St. Joseph the Worker, celebrated on May 1, was introduced into the Church’s worldwide liturgical calendar in 1956 to stress a similar theme: One’s work can be part of—and not an obstacle to—growing in holiness.

‘No Word and Communion Services for Me’

Q: I have a question that is driving me crazy. Because of a shortage of priests, several parishes in my city no longer have daily Mass. My parish has Word and Communion services twice a week. Sometimes these are led by a deacon but other times by laypersons, including women. All the prayers for the Mass are said, except the consecration prayers.

I absolutely refuse to participate. Am I being old-fashioned in not accepting this?

A: I suspect that someone may not be accurately reporting what is happening there. The Church’s Congregation for Divine Worship approved a 1973 document entitled “Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass.” That instruction indicates who may lead these services (priests, deacons, those designated to bring Holy Communion to the sick and those whom the local bishop may designate) and what such a service includes (an introductory rite, followed by one or more readings from Scripture, the general intercessions, the Our Father and the rest of the Communion rite).

That omits the offertory and the eucharistic prayer, a sizable and key section of the Mass. If your parish is not following that Instruction, that is an abuse that should be reported to your local bishop. Anyone doing so needs first to be sure of the facts.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (now the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) published a booklet in 1976 providing the text of this Instruction and appropriate biblical readings.

The Eucharist is the Church’s celebration; whoever leads the Word and Communion service that you have described is acting in the Church’s name. By choosing not to participate, you are depriving yourself of a valuable opportunity to reverence the Body and Blood of Jesus and receive help in your growth as a disciple of Jesus. I would call such a decision not “old-fashioned” but rather “shortsighted.” I hope you will reconsider your decision—even as we work and pray to celebrate Mass more frequently.

Q: In a few months, my grandson, who is not Catholic, and his fiancée will be married on a cruise ship. We fly into Florida on a Saturday and board the ship the next morning. It looks as though I won’t be able to attend Mass that Sunday, something that I always do. Is it O.K. to miss under those circumstances?

A: I see two possibilities in this situation. First, there might be a Saturday evening Mass at a church near where you are staying that night. If you go to www.MassTimes.org, you can check out locations and possibilities. This Web site also offers maps to the churches listed.

Second, the cruise line might already have arranged for a priest to celebrate Mass on that ship. Check with the cruise line beforehand or with the staff after you board.

If neither of these possibilities exists in this situation, then you have done your best under the circumstances.

Q: I know that the months of May and October are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the month of June to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the month of July to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. Are there dedications for the other months?

A: Yes, there are. The Catholic Source Book (2007) gives the following list: January (Holy Childhood), February (Holy Family), March (St. Joseph), April (Holy Spirit/Holy Eucharist), May (Mary), June (Sacred Heart), July (Precious Blood), August (Blessed Sacrament), September (The Seven Sorrows of Mary), October (Holy Rosary), November (Souls in Purgatory) and December (Immaculate Conception).

Father Stanley Rother (1935-1981), a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, was murdered at his rectory in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. He is regarded by many people there and in the United States as a martyr.

On October 5, 2007, the cause for his canonization was formally begun at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Okarche, Oklahoma, where he was baptized. Archbishop Eusebius Beltran has appointed Deacon Norman Mejstrik as coordinator. Father Rother was the subject of our July 2006 cover story, which is posted at www.AmericanCatholic.org.

Thomas Rice, a Patrician Brother working at the Franciscan Mission in Aitape, Papua New Guinea, seeks picture books for children (ages five through eight), novels for teens and writing supplies, as well as statues of Mary and other saints. These can be sent to him at P.O. Box 179, Aitape 553, Sandaun Provice, Papua New Guinea.

If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.


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