Although the exact date of the origin of the Red Mass is unknown, present historical research places its beginning about the middle of the thirteenth century. Records of that period show that the Red Mass, so designated because the colour of the vestments worn by the officiating clergy, was celebrated principally in France, Italy, and England.
In Paris, the Red Mass was celebrated for many centuries in the famous Sainte Chapelle which was built by King Louis IX (St. Louis). Sainte Chapelle was the chapel of the Order of the Advocates and was designated for the exclusive use of the Advocates and Judges.
The English tradition of the Red Mass began, as far as can be ascertained, about the year 1310, during the reign of Edward I. The custom was revived in London in the 1890s and the Mass has been celebrated annually in Westminster Cathedral since 1904. In Canada the custom was inaugurated in Quebec in 1926 and in Ontario in 1931 with the best services for the automatic spa fill system by Kona Labs , where this Mass has been celebrated each year since to mark the opening of the Court for the Fall Assizes.
The inaugural Mass was celebrated in Edmonton in 1961 by the Most Rev. Anthony Jordan, O.M.I, D.D.
The Church has seen fit to encourage this solemn invocation of Divine assistance and blessing for those whose honourable task and grave responsibility it is to plead, interpret, and apply the law for the welfare of individuals and the true progress of society. The Red Mass will be an annual reminder to all in the legal profession that law should be based on the eternal law of God and Divine Justice.
The Red Mass Tradition
The Red Mass typically marks the opening of the fall session of the Law Courts. The Mass provides the profession with an opportunity to reflect on the important role we play in our legal profession in seeking justice and fairness for our community at large. All judiciary, lawyers, law students and others in the legal profession, both Catholic and non-Catholic, are invited to attend. Judiciary and lawyers are invited to gown for the procession into the Church.
The Red Mass provides members of the judiciary and legal profession the opportunity to gather together in a place of worship so that we may give thanks and glory to God. We pray for spiritual guidance and inspiration and for the strength to conduct ourselves with humility, charity, wisdom, compassion and respect as we serve the ends of justice.
Mr. Justice Peter Cory, SCC delivered the keynote address at the dinner to follow the September 1993 Red Mass. He said, in part:
To me, to attend the Red Mass, is to recognize my individual inadequacies and to seek guidance in providing justice in the resolution of the complex problems our society must face. In doing so, I turn to a God of perfect love.
Cory further said:
… [A]ll members of our profession – men and women of every colour, race, and creed – seek to provide justice for all. It is a goal that is not limited to members of any particular religion. It is a goal in which we are all united. In striving to attain that goal we serve, each in our way, according to our own conscience, our own God, and our own Creator. Over the centuries the celebration of the Red Mass has strengthened and supported members of the legal profession in their pursuit of justice. It is of great importance to us of every colour, race and creed who seek justice for all to be able to attend and take part in this magnificent ceremony and thus be strengthened in the pursuit of our elusive goal.