Shadow Attorney General Michael Daley felt it was important to attend the Legal Red Mass held at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Monday last week.
“It’s important to fulfil your public duties, wherever they are,” he said.
Last week marked the fifth Red Mass held in the Diocese of Parramatta. Hosted by the Parramatta and District Law Society and the St Thomas More Society, it brought together the legal community. Attendees included Members of the NSW Parliament, Supreme Court judges, magistrates, commissioners, barristers, solicitors and even high school students studying legal studies for their HSC.
The Mass is an opportunity to reflect on the nature of law and justice. First celebrated in Notre Dame Cathedral Parish in 1245, it has become an annual celebration invoking the Holy Spirit to provide wisdom, understanding, right counsel and fortitude. Representing the flames of Pentecost, the clerical vestments worn are red, hence the name.
President of the Parramatta and District Regional Law Society, Stephen McAuley was delighted so many legal professionals attended the Mass. “Lawyers have much to benefit from coming together,” he said. “They are often stuck in their offices. The legal profession is at its strongest when lawyers work together and recall their common values of seeking justice for all.”
Vicar General of the Diocese of Parramatta, Fr Peter Williams AM, celebrated the Mass. “In the whole of the Bible, there are 328 instances of the word ‘justice’ being used,” he said. “Two hundred and ninety-eight in the Hebrew scriptures and 30 in the New Testament.” In his homily, he explained how the day’s reading from the prophet Isaiah was set in the context of the people of Judiah losing their sense of the justice of God. “Isaiah understood that if the moral fabric of society was going to be restored, then it had to being with each individual understanding his or her own responsibility,” said Fr Peter.
He noted the tensions facing today’s lawmakers. “Increasingly, we are confronted with what seems to be a dissonance between the rights of individuals and what many perceive to be the common good,” he said, before asserting that in his opinion lawmakers are currently tending to make laws for the benefit of individuals rather than the common good.
This trend, said Fr Peter, can be confusing or challenging to legal practitioners with a sense of faith. However, he reassured those present that, “Through the Spirit, we will be given the insight and the wisdom to know how to be and how to act if we are to maintain the right disposition in what we are called to do.” He reminded the legal practitioners that engagement in the law requires “reflective spiritual engagement.”
Mr Daley reiterated that, as a Marist-educated Catholic, his faith has been one of the contributing factors to the person he is. While he governs for all people in NSW, he does not as he describes “walk into the chamber and practise my Catholicism on the floor of the NSW Parliament,” but he hopes that his Catholicism “makes him a better person.”
He enjoyed and valued the Red Mass at Parramatta saying that it is important that the Diocese hold the event given it is the geographical centre of Sydney. “It is good to come, to join a professional group of people who share not only professional qualifications and love for the law, but who also have something else that’s special about them as well, which is that we are part of the Catholic family.”
Starting the year with a Mass, he said, is a good expression that as we go through the calendar year, that “God is with us as well.”
Claudia Nguyen was part of a group of HSC legal studies students at Catherine McAuley, Westmead. Listening to the homily, she realised the close links of Catholic ethics and the foundations of our society. It was good she said to see the different types of roles involved in the law, and “how faith plays a role in people’s law careers as well.”
You can see the recording of the 2023 Legal Red Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral Parramatta at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZpEunS35io
View images from the 2023 Legal Red Mass here or below:
Editor’s Note: The NSW Attorney General, the Hon Mark Speakman SC MP also attended the Red Mass, and was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for this article.