The University of Detroit Mercy's first Red Mass was celebrated on September 7, 1877, the very first year the University was in operation. It reflects the University's commitment to its Roman Catholic heritage from the very beginning. While many things have changed, this founding vision remains the same. The School of Law began hosting the Mass when it began operation in 1912.
It's a part of the celebration that emphasizes the religious roots of the University and the School of Law. However, it is not only a Mass for the School of Law, but for all of the judges, lawyers, law students, and those who work in our justice system in the city of Detroit. It is a service to the Archdiocese that we have offered as part of our presence in this city.
The name "Red Mass" comes from the color of the vestments that the priest wears. The priest wears red because the Mass is held specially to invoke the Holy Spirit in guiding judges and lawyers during the coming year. The color red symbolizes the Holy Spirit since scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire and descended on the twelve disciples.
When the Mass initially started in Europe, the judges wore red robes as well. The Mass coincided with the beginning of the judicial term for the courts. We try to keep that tradition alive by hosting it on the last Tuesday in September each year.
Since the Mass calls on divine guidance for members of the legal profession, it is appropriate for all those licensed by the State Bar to recall the fundamental values and obligations that come with the privilege of belonging to the profession. Every year, the Renewal of the Lawyer's Oath of Commitment is lead by a high ranking member of the judiciary. Renewing the Oath of Commitment connects the request for spiritual guidance with the fundamental purpose of providing a system of justice for our community.
At the end of each academic year, the law school community gathers in thanksgiving to recognize the graduating class. The Liturgy is an integral part of the graduation ceremonies and begins the celebration by providing an opportunity for the graduates and their families to pray together. It is an opportunity to recognize the blessings they have received and ask for guidance and support in the coming transition to future opportunities and challenges.
The Liturgy is held next door to the law school at Ss. Peter & Paul Jesuit Church with a priest from the Jesuit community at Detroit Mercy presiding. Members of the graduating class are invited to serve as readers, gift bearers, and in other roles to help make the Liturgy an act of service as well as a expression of thanks to God.