The Red Mass

On February 15, 1953, Archbishop Patrick A. O’Boyle celebrated the first John Carroll Society sponsored Red Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle.  In succeeding years, the congregation frequently has included the President of the United States, the Chief Justice of the United States, and Associate Justices, other leading federal, state and local jurists, cabinet officials, members of Congress, diplomats, university presidents, deans, professors, students of law, and lawyers.

The Red Mass is celebrated annually at the Cathedral, traditionally on the Sunday before the first Monday in October, which marks the opening of the Supreme Court’s annual term.  Its purpose is to invoke God’s blessings on those responsible for the administration of justice as well as on all public officials.

Since its inception, the Red Mass has remained the ceremonial highlight of the Society’s year.  Liturgically, the Red Mass is celebrated as the Solemn Mass of the Holy Spirit.  Its name derives from the traditional red color of the vestments worn by clergy during the Mass, representing the tongues of fire symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, where the Red Mass is celebrated.

The Red Mass enjoys a rich history.  Originating centuries ago in Rome, Paris and London, its name also exemplifies the scarlet robes worn by royal judges that attended the Mass centuries ago.  The Red Mass historically marked the official opening of the judicial year of the Sacred Roman Rota, the Tribunal of the Holy See.  During the reign of Louis IX (Saint Louis of France), La Sainte Chapelle in Paris was designated as the chapel for the Mass.  In England, beginning in the Middle Ages and continuing even through World War II, judges and lawyers have attended the Red Mass, which today is celebrated annually at Westminster Cathedral.

In the United States, the Red Mass tradition was inaugurated in 1928 at old Saint Andrew’s Church in New York City.  Since then, the Red Mass has been celebrated increasingly in communities throughout the United States.



EWTN News Nightly recently featured a news segment regarding the Red Mass, including an interview with John Carroll Society President Elizabeth B. Meers.  The segment can be viewed below.

(To enable full-screen viewing, start the video and click on the "Full screen" icon in the lower right corner of the frame below.)



Each year, at the Brunch following the Red Mass, the Society confers its Pro Bono Legal Service Awards to thank lawyers and law firms that have provided outstanding service to the Catholic Charities Legal Network.

Recipients of The John Carroll Society Pro Bono Legal Service Awards

2014 Recipients
Jacqueline Acosta (Individual)
Matthew Sheptuck (Individual)
Miller & Chevalier (Law Firm)
O'Melveny & Myers LLP (Law Firm)

2013 Recipients
Meritta White (Individual)
Charles "Tim" Engel (Individual)
Michael McGonnigal (Individual)
Crowell & Moring LLP (Law Firm)

2012 Recipients
Joyce T. Gwadz (Individual)
Hon. John M. Facciola (Individual)
Furey Doolan & Abell LLP (Law Firm)

2011 Recipients
Francis T. Coleman (Individual)
Todd Coles (Individual)
John Kirk (Individual)
Reed Smith, LLP (Law Firm)

2010 Recipients
Kathleen J. Lester (Individual)
Paul V. Rogers (Individual)
Dow Lohnes PLLC (Law Firm)

2009 Recipients
Barbara Betsock (Individual)
Winston & Strawn LLP (Law Firm)

2008 Recipients
John E. McCarthy, Jr. (Individual)
Charles J. Steele (Individual)
Francis E. Yeatman (Individual)
Covington & Burling LLP (Law Firm)

2007 Recipients
Lauri E. Cleary (Individual)
Brian W. Stolarz (Individual)
Foley & Lardner LLP (Law Firm)

2006 Recipients
Kevin C. Fitzgerald (Individual)
Francine Higginbotham (Individual)
William E. Lawler III (Individual)

2005 Recipients
Anne Marie Cashman (Individual)
Elizabeth B. Meers (Individual)
Hon. Joseph M. Quirk (Individual)
Henry M. Rivera (Individual)

2004 Recipients
James A. Treanor III (Individual)
Steven M. Wellner (Individual)
Winston & Strawn LLP (Law Firm)
Dow Lohnes & Albertson (Law Firm)

2003 Recipients
Joseph P. Blocher (Individual)
Susan M. Hoffman (Individual)
Steven M. Schneebaum (Individual)
Kirkland & Ellis LLP (Law Firm) Recipient

2002 Recipients
Kathleen Blake Asdorian (Individual)
Michael F. Curtin (Individual)
Barbara Lee Smith (Individual)
Dewey Ballantine LLP (Law Firm)

2001 Recipients
Matthew A. Pavuk (Individual)
Janice K. Johnson Hunter (Individual)
Frederick E. Woods (Individual)
Patton Boggs, LLP (Law Firm)
The Law Foundation of Prince George County (Corporate)
DC Bar Pro Bono Program (Corporate)
+ Milan Miskovsky was awarded the JCS Medal for service to the program.

2000 Recipients
Susan M. Hoffman (Individual)
Bernard J. Casey (Individual)
The Honorable Henry J. Monahan (Individual)
Stephen M. Benham (Individual)
McKenna & Cuneo LLP (Law Firm)

1999 Recipients
James Feroli (Individual)
Theodore C. Hirt (Individual)
Robert Lannan, III (Individual)
Duncan Whitaker (Individual)
Shook Hardy and Bacon LLP (Law Firm)

1998 Recipients
John J. Beins (Individual)
Sean P. Murphy (Individual)
Crowell & Moring LLP (Law Firm)

1997 Recipients
Timothy B. Shea (Individual)
Libby S. Saypol (Individual)
Ginsburg, Feldman & Bress (Law Firm)

1996 Recipients
John D. Hardy (Individual)
Ellen Miskovsky Kentz (Individual)
McKenna & Cuneo (Law Firm)

1995 Recipients
Alice Patricia Frohman (Individual)
Howrey & Simon LLP (Law Firm)

1994 Recipients
Brad Di. Amico, Esq. (Individual)
Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn (Law Firm)

1993 Recipients
Barbara Lee Smith (Individual)
Winston & Strawn LLP (Law Firm)

1992 Recipients
Alice Patricia Frohman (Individual)
Marilyn Ann Vroom (Individual)
Howrey & Simon LLP (Law Firm)

1991 Recipients
Frank McGuire (Individual)
Michael F. Moses (Individual)
Patton, Boggs & Blow (Law Firm)
Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin & Kahn (Law Firm)