I’ve known about the Red Mass ever since the great episode of the West Wing celebrating the event. It always seemed odd to me that, in a country so anti-Catholic, the highest court in the land would open its annual conventions with a Catholic mass. In general the Catholism of the Supreme Court amazes me. Currently six of the nine justices are Catholic. This is over twice the proportion of the appromate 30% of Congress that is Catholic (in 2004 according to the Catholic News Service). Part of me likes to think that Catholics are just more inclined to the strict adherence to rules and regulations having been trained under the cannonical approach of the church. More likely, if one is an intellectual superstar with political aspirations and Catholic, the odds are better to go the judical route rather than trying to get elected to a major office.
The Red Mass, according to Wikipedia, is a Catholic mass offered annually for judges, lawyers, students, and government officials. The officiants of the mass traditionally wear red robes symbolizing the tongues of fire that descended on the apostles at the Pentacost. The mass first dates back to thirteenth-century France. In the United States, the Supreme Court attends mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew on the Sunday before the first Monday in October. Court members, and any other politicans, attend as private citizens, not government officials, to quell any issues of separation of Church and State.