Judges, lawmakers invited to attend Red Mass for divine guidance

Southern Nevadans will have a chance to attend a Mass of (pardon the pun) a different color Tuesday when the St. Thomas More Society of Nevada sponsors its second annual Red Mass.

The Red Mass, which will begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Guardian Angel Cathedral, 302 Cathedral Way, will be attended by valley judges, lawyers, government officials and civil servants.

Following the Mass, the St. Thomas More Society of Nevada will hold its annual gala at the Four Seasons Hotel. The dinner and program will begin at 7:45 p.m. Keynote speaker at that gathering will be U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

The Red Mass is a tradition that dates back to Europe during the 1200s, says attorney Richard C. Gordon, president of the St. Thomas More Society of Nevada. During the Red Mass, judges, attorneys, lawmakers and others who are involved in the administration of justice gather to ask for divine guidance and strength in their endeavors.

The name of the service comes from the red vestments priests wear in celebrating it. In addition, Gordon notes, “many centuries ago, judges’ robes were red.”

Although Roman Catholics will be familiar with the liturgy of the Red Mass, the service also includes special prayers and invocations as well as a civil procession of judges in attendance, Gordon says.

Last year’s Red Mass was attended by more than 30 judges as well as numerous state and local political and government leaders.

“It’s truly a beautiful liturgy,” Gordon says.

In the past, Red Masses have been held “sporadically” here, Gordon says. And, says attorney Adam P. Laxalt, the St. Thomas More Society of Nevada’s vice president, “they used to go on up north with some regularity.”

However, the Red Mass is “a pretty important tradition in major metropolitan areas,” Laxalt adds.

In Washington, D.C., for example, a Red Mass celebrated each year, usually before the U.S. Supreme Court begins its new term, is attended by federal officials, members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and the president.

In Las Vegas, the biggest hurdle in organizing annual Red Masses has been that “there wasn’t a group that existed, such as the St. Thomas More Society, to take this on as a sort of annual signature event,” Gordon says.

So, the society — named in honor of the 16th century English attorney and statesman who was martyred under King Henry VIII and who is patron saint of attorneys and statesmen in the Catholic Church — has made it its mission to organize and sponsor an annual Red Mass here.

“We hope to make this a consistent, annual liturgical celebration,” Gordon says. “And it’s not just for Catholics. People of all faiths are welcome to attend.”

Attendees last year included attorneys, judges and government officials “of all different faith traditions,” Gordon says. “While it is a Catholic religious service, it is ecumenical.”

Members of the public also are invited to the Mass, Gordon adds.

In addition to sponsoring the Red Mass, the St. Thomas More Society of Nevada conducts seminars and programs throughout the year for local attorneys and judges, many of which revolve around “the intersection between faith and ethics and the practice of law,” Gordon says.

For more information about the Red Mass and the St. Thomas More Society of Nevada, visit the organization’s website (www.stmnevada.org).

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280.