25 Jan 2013
Wearing their wigs and crimson robes of office, judges from the High Court of Australia together with justices from the Courts of NSW take part in the procession in what is regarded as one of Sydney's most impressive traditions.
The Red Mass, where the legal profession offer prayers for divine guidance for those seeking or dispensing justice during the coming year, is convened by the St Thomas More Society, and will be celebrated on by the Society's Patron, the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell.
Dating back to 12th century when it was first celebrated at the Papal Courts of Avignon, the Red Mass was first held in Sydney at St Mary's Cathedral on 16 February 1931. Since that time the Red Mass has not only been adopted by other religious denominations but has become an important part of the Church calendar.
An integral part of the city's legal as well as the Church's calendar, the Red Mass is attended by members of Sydney's legal profession as well as those involved in law from all parts of NSW and the Commonwealth. Attendees include leading judges, magistrates, judicial officers from NSW as well as Federal jurisdictions together with the city's barristers and solicitors, professors and lecturers in law at Sydney's universities, newly graduated law students as well as those still studying law.
Many politicians also attend including both the NSW Attorney General and the NSW Shadow Attorney General.
This year not only will Past President of St Thomas More Society, State Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Greg Smith participate at next week's Red Mass but he will give one of the readings.
The President of the Law Society of NSW, John Dobson will also be involved in the liturgy as well as the President of the NSW Bar Association, Bernard Coles QC and Professor Gerard Ryan, Emeritus Dean at the University of Notre Dame's School of Law.
For Sydneysiders one of the highlights of the annual Red Mass is the impressive procession that takes place after the NSW and Australia High Court Judges don their crimson robes in the Crypt at St Mary's, and then in full judicial regalia, slowly make their way from the Crypt along the side of the St Mary's and up the steps and through the main doors of the Cathedral.
Another highlight of the Red Mass will be Sydney's renowned Capella Sublima which will perform throughout the Mass. These will include singing many of the sacred texts as well as 16th Century sacred music including "Victoria: Domine non sum dignus."
Based at the University of Sydney and holding regular rehearsals on campus at St John's College, the Capella Sublima ensemble was founded in 2001 by Richard Perrignon who is not only an accomplished musician and composer, but one of the city's leading barristers and a part time lecturer in law at the University of Notre Dame.
Faith, the law, the St Thomas More Society and music are his passions and for the past several weeks, he has not only been busy with his law practice, his duties as a member of Administrative Decisions Tribunal of NSW, Arbitrator with the Workers Compensation Commission and as a Fellow of St John's College at University of Sydney, but has somehow found time to help organise this year's Red Mass and conduct rehearsals of Capella Sublima for the upcoming Mass.
"We will have our final rehearsal today, break for the long weekend and then gather at the Cathedral on Tuesday morning for the Red Mass," says a member of the Ensemble, 36-year-old Murray-Luke Peard.
A maths and computer science graduate who loves Medieval and Renaissance music, and is currently studying for a second degree in music, Murray-Luke is an enthusiastic and active member of Capella Sublima and each year like the rest of the ensemble very much looks forward to performing at the Red Mass.
That same enthusiasm, commitment and dedication is also apparent in his work with the St Thomas More Society. Joining the Society in 1992 when he first was called to the bar, he was elected President in 2009.
"Members of the St Thomas More Society take their inspiration from the selfless and brave example of St Thomas More who was Lord Chancellor of England during the turbulent reign of Henry VIII and the King's marriage to Anne Boleyn," Richard Perrignon explains.
Adopting St Thomas More's words: "the King's Good Servant but God's First" as its motto, the Society helps provide an opportunity for young lawyers to meet older and more experienced lawyers. In addition the Society holds annual retreats, convenes seminars on ethical issues that relate to the law and celebrates St Thomas More's Feast Day with a special Mass on 22 June each year.
The Red Mass which will be held at St Mary's Cathedral at 9.a.m on Tuesday, 29 January. Along with the city's legal profession, the general public is welcome to attend.
SHARED FROM ARCHDIOCESE OF SYDNEY