On 12 January 2019, Archbishop Simon Poh presided over the Kuching Archdiocese’s Red Mass at the Blessed Sacrament Church in BDC. It was attended by 50 Catholic legal professionals, and some members of the church community.
The Red Mass, so called due to the red vestments worn by the clergy and also the red robes historically worn by English judges in the High Middle Ages, was concelebrated by the church rector, Fr. Felix Au.
Red is also the liturgical colour for the Holy Spirit. The votive Mass to the Holy Spirit is celebrated to ask for His guidance for the legal fraternity as they embark on another new year.
During his homily, Archbishop Poh presented engagement in political and legal fields as ways for Catholics to bring about change in society. His Grace called for young people to answer the call to these professions and to promote gospel values and human values in their work for the good of all peoples.
Drawing attention to the red vestments, the archbishop encouraged those present to call upon the Holy Spirit for courage when confronted with situations beyond our control, citing Luke 12:11-12; “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defence, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
The first recorded Red Mass was celebrated in the mid-13th century in Paris, France. From there, the practice of celebrating votive masses of the Holy Spirit for those in the legal profession spread to the rest of Europe and, over time, further afield.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, council, understanding, and fortitude – are traditionally invoked upon attendees of the Mass.
In the Archdiocese of Kuching, Red Masses have been celebrated since 2015 and the tradition is expected to continue in years to come.
By Joshua Wong-Tendahal
Photos: Stephanie Chua