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Bishop Fisher

Courage of Thomas More examined at Red Mass

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With a portrait of St. Thomas More nearby, Bishop Michael W. Fisher delivers a homily about repentance and redemption at the annual Red Mass held at St. Joseph Cathedral. The annual Mass recognizes those in the legal profession.

Area lawyers, judges and public officials of all faiths were welcomed at St. Joseph Cathedral for the annual Red Mass, sponsored by the St. Thomas More Guild of Western New York, an association of Catholic lawyers.

In his homily, Bishop Michael W. Fisher spoke of redemption being at the core of the Christian faith. But, to gain forgiveness, one must repent “to fully acknowledge the wrongs we have committed in both thought and deed and with a firm and sincere resolve to turn away from sin and reject what has led us from the ways of God and resulted in harm toward others.

“This is, quite frankly, where we as Church find ourselves in the wake of the closing of the Child Victims Act and the accounting we Church leaders must provide to those harmed by unconscionable acts by those who presented themselves as servants of the Church, however long ago they were committed. We are – and have been – in a period of repentance for the sins committed and for the failings of leaders who did not grasp or were unwilling to acknowledge the gravity of the horrendous acts committed and who favored the Church’s reputation over justice for those harmed,” the bishop continued.

The Honorable Emilio Colaiacovo speaks on the life of St. Thomas More during the Red Mass held on Sept. 15.

“As I hope you have heard me express since becoming the pastor and shepherd of this diocese some eight months ago – we have no greater priority than to work toward the forgiveness and healing of those who have experienced the physical, emotional and spiritual pain of abuse. Their lives will never be the same and the wounds inflicted will likely never fully heal. To them, I offer my full and heartfelt apology for the evil that was inflicted on them and for the suffering they have had to endure.”

The Honorable Emilio Colaiacovo, JSC, currently, president of Supreme Court Judges Association, gave some background on St. Thomas More and his relevance in today’s society. More was sentenced to death for not bowing to the demands of King Henry VIII. “He died the king’s good servant, but God’s first,” Colaiacovo said.

Colaiacovo spoke of attending Mass in Saratoga, where the pastor quoted G.K. Chesterton who said, “Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death. But, he is not so important as he will be in about 100 years’ time.”

“Today, it appears that that tension between conscience and society is more acute than ever. Today, almost 100 years after Chesterton’s comment, in some quarters we witness Christians and Catholics being encouraged to repudiate their convictions and urged to go against their conscience. Often these efforts are found in the magnanimous crowds that cheer the fashionable, lamenting that we no longer need to abide by our traditions or scruples. That they are dated, obsolete, and no longer applicable in today’s evolving society. This pressure is not new. Many attempted to coerce Thomas More into going along with what the king ordained. ‘You don’t have to believe in it,’ they said. ‘Just go along with it.” More refused to be bullied, adhered to his convictions, and ultimately gave his life rather than surrender what he held dearly.”  

Bishop Michael W. Fisher congratulates two of three St. Thomas More Scholarship winners. Aiden Robb from St. Amelia School received the grade school award. Erin McMaster from Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, received the high school award. Not pictured is Julie Benz of Salve Regina University, who accepted the college award. The annual Red Mass is sponsored by the St. Thomas More Guild. (Photos by Patrick J. Buechi)

He mentioned that in Chesterton’s day, the influenza epidemic killed thousands, communism was rising, and technology was rapidly advancing.

“Perhaps we can channel our inner Thomas More and be more charitable towards one another, friendlier, more understanding, and certainly more respectful of our diverse opinions and beliefs,” Colaiacovo said.

The St. Thomas More Guild invites all judges, lawyers, paralegals, law students, and all others associated with the administration of justice in the diocese to join in its activities. The guild has given scholarships to Catholic grammar, high school, college and law school students. This year’s scholarships went to Aiden Robb of St. Amelia School, Tonawanda; Erin T. McMaster of Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart; and Jane Benz of Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island.

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