Scores of lawyers, judicial and public officials, and other legal professionals were on hand at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels the afternoon of Oct. 21 for the 32nd annual Red Mass, celebrated by Archbishop José Gomez in honor of their “service to our society,” as the archbishop noted in his welcoming remarks.

Notable public officials and members of the judiciary participated in this year’s interfaith liturgy — including former California governor Gray Davis and California Superior Court Judge Daniel Buckley.

San Fernando Region Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson presented the homily. In lieu of discussing how the assembly of legal professionals should do their jobs (“That would be a disaster,” joked Bishop Wilkerson with a laugh), he instead addressed everyday challenges typically facing individuals in nearly any profession.

“When I talk to people…about their lives, they often use the same words over and over again: overworked, overbooked, overwhelmed,” he said. “It seems that our culture has impressed upon us the equation that the busier you are, the more important you are [and] it seems that the inevitable result ends up being a crisis of faith for those who believe… It takes no moral courage to conform to government and social pressures, but it takes a deep faith to swim against the tide.

“Let’s stop and think for a moment: What voices are we listening to? Is there ever any room for God’s voice in our lives?” Bishop Wilkerson continued. “In order to hear God’s voice, we have got to be people of prayer… Prayer needs to be the steering wheel that directs our path throughout our earthly journey.”

California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin offered the final remarks at the close of Mass, which was sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society of Los Angeles. St. Thomas More was a 16th century lawyer who became chancellor of England and chief advisor to King Henry VIII.

When faced with choosing between his faith and his ambitions, he chose his Catholicism and it cost him his life.

“We must follow the example of St. Thomas More and dedicate ourselves, once again, to the rule of law,” Chin said.

“Do we want our judges…to test the political whims each time they are called to make difficult decisions? Or do we want our judges to be fair, impartial and independent? Let us choose the latter, let us choose to follow the stellar example of our patron, St. Thomas More, so that the liberty we all cherish can be preserved for all of us.”

For Maricarmen Puente, who recently took the California bar exam with the goal of becoming an immigration lawyer, the Red Mass was a “beautiful” experience that reinforced her desire to seek justice for society via her future profession.

“It feels really good to know that everybody who was here has something to do with the law and they continue to have Christian or Catholic values,” said Puente, a parishioner at St. Raymond Church in Downey. “I hope they implement [their values] when they go out and do their jobs, [because] it’s not about who wins, it’s about justice.”

The Red Mass tradition originated in 13th century Europe and has been celebrated annually at the opening of the judicial year since the time of Edward I. The Mass receives its name from the practice of vesting the celebrant in red while the Lord High justices wore red robes.