It's Red Mass season and I wanted to highlight Bishop Richard J. Malone remarks at the Red Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo NY. The full text is here and here is an excerpt:
..Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the church in the Modern World alerts us in no uncertain terms to the danger of this separation. The Council Fathers describe as “wide of the mark" those "who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age" (GS, 43).
To extend this reflection to the legal profession in a humorous way, I quote Joseph Allegretti's The Lawyer's Calling: Christian Faith and Legal Practice. Allegretti was a professor at the Creighton University Law School. In addressing what he sees as the possible gap that can grow between the practice of law and the spiritual life, he refers to a lawyer friend of his who served as a deacon at his church. He writes, "When I praised his willingness to donate his time and talent to the church, he sighed and said, 'I've got to do something on the weekend to make up for what I do the rest of the week."' Remember now, that is from an attorney, not from me!
Seriously, though, Allegretti goes on to argue that as faith and work belong together for every Christian, so they do for those in the legal profession. While I am speaking in Christian terms, I invite those of other faith traditions who are here today to reflect on what this connection between religious commitment on the one hand and work on the other means in the context of your own religious perspective. Allegretti suggests that we need a change in our thinking. That change would come from rearranging the order of a few words ... from thinking of oneself first as a lawyer who happens to be a Christian, to thinking of oneself first as a Christian who happens to be a lawyer. May I quote: "...1 am not first of all a lawyer, spouse, friend or parent. First of all I am a disciple of Christ. My ultimate allegiance is not to the things of this world, but to the one true God who transcends all earthly loyalties. Remembering this, I try to approach my work not just as a career but as a calling."
Do you think of your work, as an attorney, a judge, another court officer, an elected official … or whatever it is that you do.. .as a calling. a calling within the first and primary vocation that is yours through baptism, or whatever your own faith commitment might be? This change in perspective may require a real transformation in the way we typically think of things. And so it is that we attend to the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, just now proclaimed, "Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge " what is God's will, what is good, pleasing and perfect."
Each of us has to determine how to translate the values and obligations that are ours because of our Christian discipleship into the context of our own public life and work. This is a particularly vexing challenge for politicians, some of whom seem to me to place party philosophy, ahead of God's revealed truth, whether that be about the right to life of the unborn, the nature of marriage as God has created it, or other contentious issues of our time.
The challenge is singularly complex, and the right way not always apparent. And let me be very clear that when I call for the interpenetration of one's religious values with one's professional duties, I am not suggesting any weakening of the principle of separation of Church and state, which separation,
properly conceived, is best for both religion and society.
The bottom line, I think, is the principle that believers are called first and always to serve God in all that we are and do. And so it is that we hear Moses telling us in the reading from Deuteronomy, to heed the Lord's voice and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in the book of the law ... a law that is not remote, but, very near, he says, "in your mouths and in, your hearts.” And then we listened to Jesus calling us to the ethics, the law of the beatitudes, law that leads to happiness as well as to compassion. ....