Before you shout “church and state,” hear me out. Work-life balance may be all the rage these days, but as the Red Mass’ history shows, it’s nothing new for those of us in the legal profession. The Red Mass originated in 13th century France, and celebrates the traditional start of the judicial year with a gathering to seek God’s blessing and guidance in our work. We’ll continue that tradition in Lewiston on October 13 at 11 AM. I hope you’ll consider joining us at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, with lunch to follow at Davinci’s restaurant. All are invited.
While the event will include a traditional Catholic Mass, it is open to people of all beliefs who are interested in taking time out of their day to celebrate the role that faith plays in their professional lives. Bishop Robert P. Deeley, himself a Canon lawyer, will serve as the principal celebrant and homilist. During the Mass, he will ask for God’s blessing upon those who serve in the legal profession and in public service, seeking God’s guidance in the administration of justice. Following Mass, we’ll have some good food, and will hear from Julia Sleeper, Executive Director of Tree Street Youth in Lewiston, a dynamic young woman who is transforming hundreds of lives of at-risk youth. Previous speakers have included Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia, Justices Clifford and Jabar of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Judges Woodcock and Levy of the U.S. District Court, and a former prisoner who was exonerated through the efforts of The Innocence Project.
The Red Mass celebrates the higher calling that many who work in the legal profession and in the administration of justice feel in our work. As lawyers, we often have to reconcile competing priorities. There is tremendous need for legal services in Maine, but there are also student loans to repay, staff to employ, and families to feed. The argument that wins the case may not be the just or the right one. How do we as legal professionals reconcile these many issues while staying true to our oath to conduct ourselves “in the office of an attorney within the courts according to the best of [our] knowledge and discretion, and will with all good fidelity, as well as to the courts, as to [our] clients. So help [us] God.”? 4 M.R.S. § 806. I don’t know about you, but I can use all the help I get.
Ms. Sleeper, this year’s speaker, will discuss how she strikes the balance while leading an after-school youth center serving over 700 children per year, many of whom come from at-risk backgrounds. In a multi-faith, polyglot environment, what is it that helps a leader strike the right balance? How does one draw the strength to do this work, and to love children who may be in and out of youth detention centers, who may have never known love or forgiveness? Not only is this an important social mission, it has resulted in innovative new partnerships with the Maine Department of Corrections that are using love and forgiveness to turn around lives and change a community. It’s no wonder she is one of Maine Magazine’s 50 Mainers Charting the State’s Future.
I realize not everyone will be inclined to attend this event. But if you’ve ever felt a higher calling in your work in the law, regardless of your faith tradition or even its absence, or if you could use a little more nourishment of the spirit and values that call you to your work, please join us on October 13. For more information, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 207-312-9239. You can register online at http://www.portlanddiocese.org/redmass.