Record number of justices attends Red Mass

Six of the nine Supreme Court justices attended the annual Red Mass at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington on Sunday.

The event’s speakers spoke about using faith in decision-making but largely stayed away from the controversial issues the court will face in the coming months.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Elena Kagan all attended the 60th annual Mass. This was Kagan’s first Red Mass.

Having six justices in attendance ties a record set in 2009. The only justices to not attend this year were Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel Alito, both of whom are Catholic, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is Jewish. Kagan and Breyer, both of whom were in attendance, are also Jewish.

The annual Mass is an event put on by the Archdiocese of Washington and the John Carroll Society and aims to bring people together to pray for the members of the judiciary before the court begins hearing cases each year. It’s called the Red Mass because of the color of the garments worn by clergy.

In the past, presidents, vice presidents and many members of Congress and the judiciary have attended the event.

Timothy P. Broglio, archbishop for members of the U.S. military, delivered this year’s homily, expressing a commitment to the poor and to education while also strongly emphasizing the idea that people should strive to live their faith and become “instruments of a new evangelization.”

“The faith we hold in our hearts must motivate the decisions, the words and the commitment of our everyday existence,” said Broglio. “Our society must also rest on stable, clear foundations. Otherwise, we run the risk of sinking into the mire of one popular soundbite after another.”

Speaking about the need to shed clearer light on the “joy and renewed enthusiasm” of the church, Broglio stressed the idea of living one’s faith outside of church and in everyday life.

“We are instruments in the hands of the Lord, and so we pray to be ever open to his presence,” said Broglio. “The message is filled with hope: not only for eternal life, but also for the graces necessary so that our lives are truly noble of God and of the vocation he has given us.”

While the Red Mass follows the traditional structure of a Catholic service, it also includes a few additions. In particular, the congregants sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” at the start and end of the Mass.

Others attending the event included Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Virginia attorney general and gubernatorial hopeful Ken Cuccinelli, and U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney. [More]