Asked and Answered

Andrew Moore on UDM Law’s Red Mass

The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law will host its 100th annual Red Mass on Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 5 - 6 p.m. at Saints Peter and Paul Jesuit Church located at 629 E. Jefferson Avenue in downtown Detroit. The Red Mass is an occasion for judges, lawyers, and officials of all faiths to pray together for guidance at the beginning of the new judicial term and join in the Renewal of the Lawyer’s Oath of Commitment. This year’s Oath will be led by the Honorable Michael F. Cavanagh, Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Professor Andrew Moore started at the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) School of Law in 1998 after earning a master’s degree in law at Columbia University School of Law. In addition to being a faculty member, Professor Moore serves as the University Minister for the law school campus. Professor Moore’s work as University Minister includes planning the two large liturgical events of the school year, Red Mass and the Baccalaureate Liturgy, as well as serving as the faculty advisor for the St. Thomas More Society.

Thorpe: This is the 100th year for the Red Mass at the school. To what do you attribute the longevity of the event?

Moore: Actually, according to the history of the University, the 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.

Thorpe: How does this milestone for the Mass relate to other school centennial events? Can you tell us about the UDM Law Centennial Leadership Committee’s role?

Moore: 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 which we have offered as part of our presence in this City. The Centennial Leadership Committee is pleased to include Red Mass in the list of celebratory events for this year, although there will be a separate Centennial Mass for the University community on Oct. 28.

Thorpe: The Red Mass tradition goes all the way back to 13th century Europe. Can you tell us a bit about that history? What is the origin of the name?

Moore: 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.

 Thorpe: Why is the “Renewal of the Lawyer’s Oath of Commitment” part of the program?

 Moore: 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. Renewing the Oath of Commitment connects the request for spiritual guidance with the fundamental purpose of providing a system of justice for our community.

Thorpe: Was it hard to convince Justice Cavanagh to “headline” the event?

Moore: Every year, the Renewal of the Lawyer’s Oath of Commitment is lead by a high ranking member of the judiciary. We are proud that our alumnus, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Michael Cavanagh, is able to do so, as he has done many times in the past. It is considered an honor to lead the other members of the Bar in the Oath. Justice Cavanagh is a member of the Centennial Leadership Committee for the School of Law, and his participation in Red Mass along with many other members of the judiciary is very important to us.

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