Cardinal O’Malley celebrates 20th Red Mass honoring five area individuals

By Linda Andrade Rodrigues
Special to The Anchor

FALL RIVER, Mass. — Last weekend Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., returned to Fall River.

While serving as bishop of the Diocese of Fall River in 1997, he celebrated the first Red Mass here, and he returned to St. Mary’s Cathedral to serve as principal celebrant and homilist on its 20th anniversary.

Originating in 13th-century Europe to acknowledge dedicated service to the legal profession, the Red Mass brings together those working in areas of law and justice across Southeastern Massachusetts.

 “There are eight lawyers in my family,” Cardinal O’Malley told the congregation. “It’s a miracle that I escaped a similar fate.”

Judges, lawyers, public officials, law faculty members and their families rocked with laughter, grateful to have “Bishop Sean” back in their midst.

“I want to give a special warm welcome to his eminence Cardinal O’Malley who returns on this joyous occasion,” said Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V. “The last time you were here was exactly two years ago for my installation as the Bishop of Fall River. So in some ways we have two anniversaries today. Thank you for returning to Fall River and leading us in this special Mass.”

Cardinal O’Malley congratulated the bishop on his second anniversary.

“This gives me an opportunity to say how grateful we are for your presence here — such a blessing for all of us,” he said. “I’m also delighted to see the Missionaries of Charity here. I called Mother Teresa and told her that I was going to Fall River at a very difficult time in that diocese and asked her to please send her Sisters ­— and they are still here. Sisters, I congratulate you on the canonization of Mother Teresa. Thank you for all you do.”

The observance of the Red Mass in the Diocese of Fall River was not Cardinal’s O’Malley’s first celebration.

“As a young bishop in the West Indies, it was a great success,” he recalled. “Everyone came to church dressed in red: the governor, senator, judges and lawyers.”

 The Red Mass was simulcast live on Catholic TV and radio.

“Unfortunately, the broadcaster was not familiar with the Catholic Daughters, whom he called the Ladies of the Night,” he said. “The Catholic Daughters were not amused.”

Congratulating the five worthy recipients of this year’s St. Thomas More Awards, Cardinal O’Malley said that their work is not just a career but a profession and vocation. He explained that the Jewish people use the words “Tikkun Olam” to describe this concept, defined by acts of kindness performed to repair the world.

“It’s a task that our God has given us,” he said. “As Catholics we talk about building a civilization of love, and you have a very special role in the betterment of society: the protection of people’s rights. So many aspects of the welfare of our entire community are affected.”

He added that one of the important aspects in Catholic teachings is that we must work together for the common good.

“We already know that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we are doing for Christ,” he said. “The prophets always speak to us about our obligation to care for the poor.”

He said that as a child one of his favorite Gospel stories was about a group of men who carried their friend, a paralytic, to Jesus.

 “The Gospel often talks about the crowds and contrasts it with the community,” he said. “The crowd is always pushing people away from the Lord. They made it impossible to get near Jesus. So they went on the roof and lowered him down to the floor. I’d like to have friends like that.” 

According to Pope Francis, mercy is the Face of God.

 “We must work to heal the deep divisions in our country and world,” said the cardinal. “Even after electing the first black president, there are still so many people who feel alienated. Turning the crowd into one great community is the great challenge we face. To live is to be united with others by bonds of faith.”

Then, Cardinal O’Malley told a story. 

 He said that a man who was very sick went to the doctor, and consequently, he needed a series of tests. The doctor spoke to the man’s wife and told her that the only way her husband would survive is if she took very good care of him, which included preparing his favorite meals, allowing him to go hunting and fishing with his friends, letting him have the remote control and keeping her mother away from him. After the tests, the man asked his wife what the doctor had told her. She said: “Honey, you are going to die.”

Laughter resounded to the rafters of the great cathedral. 

“If we don’t practice mercy, if we don’t turn the other cheek, then the patient will die,” Cardinal O’Malley pointed out. 

He said that in the Eucharist, Christ makes a gift of Himself for us. 

“Let us strive to make ourselves a gift for others,” he said. “That will save us and bring hope to a broken world. God bless you.” 

Following the Mass, the St. Thomas More Awards were presented. 

Bishop da Cunha blessed the medals and prayed that the recipients remain humble in heart as faithful members of the legal profession.

Distinguished Jurist is the Honorable Kathryn E. Hand, who presides at Massachusetts Trial Court, District Court Department in Barnstable; Distinguished Attorney is Frank C. Corso, Esq., who leads Corso Law, LLC, with offices in Rehoboth and Boston; Distinguished Court Employee is Michael Borden, a probation officer in the Fall River Division of the Trial Court; Distinguished Ecumenical Award Recipient is Margaret Xifaras, Esq., a partner in the law firm of Lang, Xifaras & Bullard in New Bedford; and the recipient of the Joseph P. Harrington Founder’s Award is Father Jay T. Maddock, pastor of Holy Name Parish and pastoral administrator of St. Bernadette’s Parish in Fall River who serves in the Chancery Office and Diocesan Tribunal.

New Bedford attorney Michael Harrington also announced a new annual award for Catholic high school students to be named in Cardinal O’Malley’s honor.

The awards, unique to our diocese’s Red Mass, are named for St. Thomas More, an English layman and lawyer of the 16th century, who was executed for his opposition to the request of King Henry VIII for a divorce, and for refusal to renounce papal authority.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts