Judiciary urged to heed God’s call at Red Mass

October 13, 2015

HOUSTON — In his speech at this year’s Red Mass marking the beginning of the judicial year, the first Catholic Texas governor urged a crowd of mostly judges and lawyers to speak out and stand up boldly for their religious beliefs.

“There’s no reason why we should put our religious beliefs on the shelf and not live them every single day the way they are allowed to in our hearts,” Governor Greg Abbott said.

The governor, praised in an introduction by Judge Michael Massengale for his ongoing fight to protect religious liberty and the unborn, encouraged the judges and lawyers to accept the call of God and to make a difference.

“You have been given both the opportunity and responsibility to ensure justice in this world,” Abbott said. “How you do that depends on how God has told you to serve.” 

Abbott delivered what he referred to as “the Paul Harvey version” of his life, pointing to how the freak accident that left him wheelchair bound, his Catholic faith and the support and spiritual guidance of his wife Cecilia shaped his beliefs and career. 

As attorney general of Texas, Abbott said he was compelled to challenge the atheist who sought to have the 10 Commandments monument on the grounds of the Capitol torn down to defend the role that they played in the development of the laws of the land.

“Yes, I defended them, because it was constitutionally the correct thing to do — as so said the U.S. Supreme Court — and because it was the right thing to do,” Abbot said.

Massengale highlighted Abbott’s success in fighting to keep the words “under God” in the Texas and U.S. Pledges of Allegiance, his efforts to cut state funding to Planned Parenthood and his leadership in defending the constitutionality of the federal ban on partial birth abortions on behalf of Texas and 12 other states.

“There is intense pressure on us to check our religious beliefs at the door and to abandon our core values,” Massengale said. “Our speaker has worked vigorously against that public trend. Governor Abbott has provided a desperately needed example that we can never give into that thinking.” 

Invoking remarks about heeding God’s call, the responsibilities of the judiciary and protecting the unborn, made by Pope Francis during his recent visit to the U.S., Abbott urged the crowd to serve and seek justice. He acknowledged the challenge of answering God’s call in his own life, when “one minute I was running down a path and the next I would never walk again.” 

“First and most obvious, you never know when a tree’s going to come crashing down on your life,” Abbott said. “But that’s a metaphor — a metaphor, for what everyone deals with.” 

Abbott, 57, was paralyzed from the waist down in 1984 when a tree limb fell on him, permanently damaging his spine. He said the jarring change in his life was challenging, not only physically but spiritually. But over time, he said he recognized that God was the one constant in his life, and he learned to accept what God had in store for him.

“I learned how tenuous and fragile life can be, and then realized I was given the gift of life itself and had a responsibility to use it,” Abbott said.

In closing, Abbott said as they begin this judicial year, he hoped they all will have the wisdom to recognize the opportunity to answer God’s call and have the courage to respond to those opportunities. 



On Sept. 29 Governor Greg Abbott addressed the bench and the bar at this year’s Red Mass, celebrating the beginning of the judicial year. About 300 people attended the event, which started with a Mass, conducted by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. The Mass was followed by dinner, catered by Tony Mandola, at the Cathedral Centre.

Dating back to 13th century Europe, the Red Mass marks the traditional beginning of the judicial year with the opening session of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Texas. The clergy were vested in red, as were the judges of the High Court, who conformed to ecclesiastical tradition. As a result, the celebration became known as the Red Mass.