Archbishop's web site Denver Catholic Register Parishes Catholic Pastoral Center
November 8 , 2000
Judges, lawyers gather for annual Red Mass
By Jeff Richmond
Catholic judges, lawyers and legal professionals gathered for the 40th Annual Red Mass, Oct. 29 at Christ the King Chapel at the John Paul II Center.
At a reception following the Mass, Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter was presented the St. Thomas More Award, and David C. Little was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The event was sponsored by The Catholic Lawyers Guild of Colorado.
The Red Mass itself deriving its name from the red vestments worn at the Mass began in the thirteenth century and is meant to solicit the assistance of the Holy Spirit for all those administering justice in the coming term. It was first celebrated in honor of St. Thomas More and St. Ives, the patron saints of the legal profession.
During the Mass, Msgr. R. Walker Nickless, vicar general, said, "You have been given extraordinary trust and confidence by the people to do what is right and good," with selfless compassion and justice based on the Gospels, and on the example of Jesus's "life giving death on the cross."
"This has never been easy, not for Jesus, not for Thomas More, and not for us today," he added.
"It's a huge honor," said Ritter of his award given to those most exemplifying the intellect, integrity and moral courage of St. Thomas More in service to God, family, and profession. "But it's also pretty humbling. ... One can only hope to be half the faithful public servant Thomas More was," he said.
As a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, Ritter says he struggles with faith and political forces daily. He believes his Catholic upbringing shows in his programs and policies as Denver's District Attorney. "Our notion of justice must be tempered with mercy and compassion," he said.
Ritter believes the challenges facing Catholic attorneys are the same for any person of faith.
"Our culture makes it difficult to be a person of faith we're too busy, in a consumer society, too often taken with celebrity status," he said, "to slow down long enough to reflect on our faith and pray."
According to Little, the award he received reflects on his family, associates and staff.
"It's more a team effort to stay out of trouble, to do the things the clients expect, and to do it within the framework of the law," he said. "I've been around so long that people must have forgotten why I shouldn't receive the award in the first place," he said lightly.
Little said he believes the legal process is no longer used as intended to avoid or redress wrongs. Too much license and liberty is taken to get around the law, he said. And in civil law, "there's a feeling one can profit, and get a windfall, from another's mistake."
These are problems he believes must be addressed.
"The legal profession is not the panacea for all the wrongs of the world, and we must recognize what the law's purpose should be, and to know our role," he said. In doing so, Little believes Catholic lawyers need to make sure the legal profession is doing what it ought to be doing, and not getting outside of itself, he said.
Both were asked by the Register if they had a favorite lawyer joke, and both said none came to mind. "But I have a lot of wonderful judge jokes," Ritter said laughing.