Holy spirit

Pr. Scalia: the fire of the Holy Spirit enlightens, purifies lawyers

PHOENIX — In a liturgy inviting the “tongues of fire” of the Holy Spirit to guide lawyers and government officials, it seemed oddly fitting that the fire alarm had inadvertently gone off just before the start of the annual Red Mass on Sunday. Diocese of Phoenix on January 11 at St. Mary’s Basilica.

“You’ll notice I asked the basilica to sound the fire alarm just before Mass so it’s already on your mind,” joked Father Paul D. Scalia, the homilist, who is the son of the late Associate of the Supreme Court of the United States. Justice Antonin Scalia and pastor of St. James Church in Falls Church.

Red Mass is celebrated annually for members of the legal profession. In the United States, Red Mass is usually celebrated to mark the opening of the judicial year, but in Phoenix it is celebrated to mark the start of the Arizona state legislative session.

The name of the mass comes from the red vestments of the presiding clergy.

Father Scalia, who is also Episcopal Vicar of the Clergy for the Diocese of Arlington, noted in his homily that the “time of Pentecost” referred to in the Acts of the Apostles is not what we celebrate on Pentecost Sunday, but rather a feast in ancient Israel commemorating when the law was given to Moses at Mount Sinai.

“There are two ways of looking at human laws. Either they correspond to the truth or they are instruments of power,” he said. Although the founding fathers of the nation were imperfect men, they understood this truth.

They sought, however imperfectly, to establish government according to the truth of the human person – truth that transcended any group or power bloc,” Fr. Scalia said. “They appealed to self-evident truths and inalienable rights to shape society.”

The Christian Pentecost fulfills the events of Mount Sinai, he said. Rather than God appearing in a cloud of fire to deliver the law on tablets of stone, he allows people to live it by the fire of the Holy Spirit. This fire enlightens, purifies and strengthens members of the legal profession, he said.

“This enlightenment is especially important for the work of law so that those who do it can see and grasp the truth and the dignity of the human person whom our laws must serve,” Fr. Scalia said.

He compared human reason to a window, saying that just as a dirty window can distort light, the fallen nature of humans can distort the enlightenment of reason. Taking the abolitionist movement as an example, he notes that the immorality of slavery is a truth accessible to human reason.

“But greed for power or financial gain had made reason impure and false,” Father Scalia said. “It was the Christians of the abolitionist movement who shed light on the question, and whose faith purified reason from its selfishness.”

Both priests and legal professionals can face the temptation of vanity, pride and selfish gain, Father Scalia said, noting that it can be easy to make decisions based on what others might think, say or publish.

“It is the fire of the Holy Spirit that strengthens our will to do what we know we should be doing, not just to see the good, but to choose that the good should be done,” he said. “The Spirit bestows the strength of will to give advice or make a decision that might make a person unpopular or even a little poorer.”

After communion, Arizona Supreme Court Justice Kathryn King, who attends St. Francis Xavier Church in Phoenix, took the oath of admission to the Arizona State Bar to all lawyers present.

“The fire of the Holy Spirit is very relevant to applying the law as we do as judges,” she said in an interview after Mass.

King, who was appointed to the court in July 2021, added that the Red Mass is “a great opportunity for all legislators, lawyers and judges and those involved in the law to come together and celebrate in Christ before the legislative session. begin.”

It is important to have a Red Mass because members of the legal profession have a major influence on society, Bishop of Phoenix Thomas J. Olmsted said at a reception after the Mass.

“We need to regain our trust in the power of the Holy Spirit,” said the bishop, who was the main celebrant of the mass. “We must constantly elevate the nobility of those in this profession, and then support, encourage and instruct our Catholic lawyers to live out their faith in the public square.