Catholics in legal and medical occupations gathered at Christ Cathedral at two separate Masses this month to receive the Church’s blessing on their labors.
Bishop Kevin Vann presided over the Diocese of Orange’s 33rd annual Red Mass on Oct. 4, invoking God’s blessing upon attorneys, judges and other legal professionals. On Oct. 21, physicians, nurses and others in healthcare related occupations congregated at the cathedral for the White Mass, held on the Feast Day of St. Luke, patron saint of physicians. Monsignor Stephen Doktorczyk, diocesan Vicar General, presided over the Mass.
Deacon Modesto Cordero, diocesan director of the Office of Worship, reflected that individuals in law and medicine both help to carry out the Church’s seven Corporal Works of Mercy, which include visiting the sick and the imprisoned.
“We wanted to honor all those professionals, because they are important in the mission of the Church, (which) is always working toward social justice, taking care of the poor, the sick, those who are alienated and those in need of compassion and care,” he said. He noted that those in either field must see individuals as creations of God and “not just a business.”
ADVOCATING FOR EQUALITY
The Diocese traditionally holds the Red Mass on the first Monday in October, when the U.S. Supreme Court begins its annual term. The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., typically offers the Red Mass the Sunday before the term begins, with the congregation frequently including the president, Supreme Court justices and members of Congress.
The St. Thomas More Society of Orange County, a local Catholic association of legal professionals, hosted a dinner following this year’s Red Mass.
Attorney William Malecki, Red Mass chairperson for the organization, said, “One of our most cherished freedoms is our freedom of religion and the right to worship … Although we’re not all constitutional lawyers, we’re all involved in the legal process and helping to ensure that everyone is treated equally under the law.”
The St. Thomas More Society of Orange County honored its Attorney of the Year, Lisa Ramirez, at the event. Ramirez specializes in immigration law and has provided extensive pro bono representation for immigrants in the county. Malecki correlated Ramirez’s work with Jesus’ admonishment to welcome the stranger in Matthew 25:35.
“Jesus didn’t discriminate in exercising charity,” Malecki said. “Legal professionals must have in mind that charity, mercy and justice are the ultimate aim and aren’t incompatible with our legal system.”
Malecki added, “Faith provides the basis for the idea that we are all created equal by God, which is expressed in the Declaration of Independence but is also expressed in the gospel.”
Deacon Modesto Cordero, director of the Office of Worship in the Diocese of Orange, saw this year’s White Mass as particularly special, as the Mass was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event also marked the first celebration of the White Mass at Christ Cathedral.
“We in the Church look after the health of people’s souls, while medical professionals take care of the body, but those are connected,” Deacon Cordero said. “We see their faith being put into the care of the people, in seeing the person as the creation of God, loved by God, and doing their best to maintain that life.”
Providence Orange County sponsored the event, with representatives from each of its acute-care ministries participating in the Mass. Mark Jablonski, Chief Mission Integration Officer for Providence St. Jude Medical Center, noted the last 18 months have been especially challenging for health-care workers, who have had to work extensive hours and put their own health at risk amid the pandemic.
RED, WHITE, BLUE AND GOLD
The Red Mass originated in 13th-century Europe, deriving its name from the color of the vestments worn by the celebrant as well as the scarlet robes of the royal justices in England. Deacon Cordero noted that the Church also uses red to represent the Holy Spirit, on whom legal professionals must rely for wisdom and guidance. Arriving to the United States in 1877, the Red Mass has been celebrated in the Diocese since 1988.
Celebrations of the White Mass date back to the founding of the Catholic Medical Association in the United States in the early 1930s, white being the color traditionally worn by doctors, nurses and others in the medical field. Alternatively, some dioceses invoke a blessing upon health-care workers at a “Rose Mass” on the fourth Sunday of Lent or Laetare Sunday, when priestly vestments are rose-colored.
The Blue Mass, recognizing those in law-enforcement, firefighting and other public-safety occupations, also emerged in United States the 1930s and is celebrated annually in the Diocese. The Society of Catholic Scientists introduced the first Gold Mass in 2016 to pray for scientists, science educators and students. Gold is the color of the hoods worn by those graduating with a doctorate in the sciences.