HOMILY: Red Mass, St Mary's Cathedral

The annual Red Mass to mark the beginning of the new legal year in Scotland took place yesterday at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Members of the legal fraternity took part in the traditional procession before Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Leo Cushley. His homily is published below. (Pics: @jamiejkerr).


My dear friends,

A renewed word of welcome to the senators and sheriffs and all those of the Scots legal profession who have joined us for worship today, praying for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as the legal year begins in these days.

Today, we also welcome from the United States justices, judges, attorneys, solicitors and legal academics, from places including the Carolinas, Delaware and Minnesota, who are visiting Scotland, not just for the golf and the fishing, although there may be some of that too; but their main purpose is to connect with colleagues in a sister legal system during visits to our Parliament House here in Edinburgh, the Advocates’ Library and other places at the heart of Scots legal institutions.

You are all very welcome, and I hope you have a very happy stay with us.

As some of you may know, three days ago, I celebrated my tenth anniversary as your archbishop.

I happened to do it on the same day as a private audience with the Holy Father, a pure coincidence, but a happy one.

As most of you know, I left working for Pope Francis to come here as bishop after a total of sixteen years, on and off, spent in Rome.

As a city, it’s a place I know almost better than anywhere else, even Edinburgh, and as you might expect, it’s one of my favourite cities.

But there’s another city just a couple of hours north of it, that is also a great favourite of mine, called Siena.

It is a beautiful place, and I highly recommend it to you for a visit.

It’s a city almost arrested in time, because in 1348, plague struck Siena when it was at the height of its civic and commercial success, and a long twilight of the city began, as it fell gradually under the shadow of its big neighbour Florence, which gradually emerged as the greater city.

That means the centre of Siena today is much as it was in the 14th century.

But while 14th century Edinburgh was probably not a very easy place to be, Siena was at the height of its power, wealthy, beautiful, prosperous.

Its town centre, called the Campo, is still an enormous, handsome space even by today’s standards.  S

haped like a capital D, the famous horse races of the Palio still take place there in the summer, a wonderful spectacle and a centre of civic pride and colour.

And in the Campo there is still the palazzo pubblico, the city hall from that period, a magnificent civic building and tower that dominate the city and its skyline.

For the times, they had a fairly enlightened participative government.

The people of Siena took their politics seriously, they took their laws seriously and they took their Christian faith seriously, and the combination of these three threads made a stout cord that wound the people together in a consensus about what was good and what was bad.

This can be seen in the decoration of the main debating chamber of the palazzo pubblico.

It is covered from floor to ceiling in beautiful affreschi, but what they chose to depict is what interests us here.

There you will find the Allegory of Good and Bad Government, a wonderful set of paintings from 1339 by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.

The figure of Bad Government is depicted as a man, a tyrant, rather like the devil, with the figures of Avarice, Pride and Vainglory to guide him.

Beside him on a bench sit figures like Cruelty, while the figure of Justice is bound and gagged at his feet.

On the opposite wall, meantime, Good Government is shown as a man clothed in black and white, the colours of the city of Siena.

Over his head fly Faith, Hope and Charity - not Avarice, Pride and Vainglory.

Beside Siena sits the figure of Peace at one end of the bench, and Justice at the other; and flanking the city are Magnanimity, Temperance, Prudence, and Fortitude.

We see the citizens of Siena walking with the figure of Concorde, in harmony, obviously, and they live in a well-built city, with sound walls protecting everyone, fields ready for harvest, commerce taking place peacefully, and happy children playing safely.

Over all this sits the figure of Wisdom on high, with her balance, meeting out justice and mercy.

When I was studying the law, I recall how justice (iustitia) was compared to law (lex), as if justice was something we humans could never quite attain.

Justice belonged to an ideal, it was like an eternal truth; all we humans could hope to do was to come up with an ever-shifting approximation of it, in laws (leges, lex), things that were written down, like the Romans’ Twelve Tables.

Humans were to do their utmost to approach the eternal ideal, but such laws were always in need of vigilance, fair application, and occasional review and reform, so that they might remain as close to Justice’s ideal as possible.

The peoples of the ancient world knew and understood this well.

The people of the Christian world knew and understood this too.

And so too it is in the Siena fresco. As I said, the figure representing the city of Siena has watching over him Faith, Hope and Charity.

These are what are usually called the Christian virtues, and beside him sit the “natural” virtues of temperance and prudence and fortitude.

When these things become laws, and when they are accepted by the people and regularly maintained by the state, the peace and the prosperity of the land follow.

But if Pride and Avarice and Vanity sit in their place, and become guides to our citizens and our politicians, then we must all beware, because all will suffer.

Our first reading today is one of those occasions when the reading of the day speaks very eloquently to our occasion here.

This passage Isaiah 55 says directly to all of us, “Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near.  Let the wicked man abandon his way, the evil man his thoughts”.

This is a plea to turn back to the Lord, who will hear us and who will help us to repair what we have broken or lost in our pride and our vanity.

It is also a call to look to the betterment of laws, so that they do not remain merely leges, lex, law, but strive better to approach the true, eternal justice that they aim to imitate.

Isaiah then says, “Let [the evil man] turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him, to our God who is rich in forgiving; for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways”.

The Lord is willing to take us back, but we must approach this subject, so often out of our reach, with with great care and humility.  As if to make us “put back” the blithe spirits of faith, hope and charity over our polity, the Lord then says through Isaiah, “Yes, the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts”.

So today, my friends, we remind ourselves of the great and important work of the distinguished people we see here before us.

We remind ourselves how they serve our society by the just application of the laws of the land.

We pray for them and for the legislators who create the laws to be applied; and above all we pray that, in order to have a society truly blessed by justice and peace, and magnanimity and prudence and temperance and fortitude, the members of the judiciary, here present, will be guided by the greatest wisdom of all, the sophia of the Holy Spirit in their work of behalf of all the whole people.

May the Holy Spirit guide you and keep you all in the coming year.  Thank you for listening, and God bless you!

WATCH: Mgr Burke previews special October event

A special series of talks takes place at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh in October. Register here.

In this video Mgr Patrick Burke takes a deep dive into the background and aim of the event: to help bring us closer to Jesus, by exploring the Gospel of Mark.

WATCH: Altar Servers' Day

Altar servers from across the Archdiocese enjoyed a day of games, training and prayer at The Gillis Centre at the weekend.

Thanks to Fr Martin Eckersley of St Francis Xavier's in Falkirk for leading the day and to the priests and parents who came along to help make it a joyous event!



GALLERY: Ordination of Douglas Robertson as Deacon

Congratulations to Douglas Robertson who was ordained a Deacon by Archbishop Cushley at St Michael's Church in Linlithgow on Saturday.

His ministry as a permanent deacon will be at St Michael's where he will assist Canon Paul Kelly.

Deacon Douglas said: "I would like to thank everyone, most especially my wife Margaret and all members of my family. I humbly ask you to keep me in your prayers."

Find out more about Douglas and the Permanent Diaconate here.




Lobby your MSP against assisted suicide

The Catholic Parliamentary Office has called on parishioners across Scotland to lobby MSPs against dangerous proposals to legalise assisted suicide. 

A briefing, which has been sent to every Catholic parish in the country, asks parishioners to contact local MSPs, either as individuals or as part of an organised parish group.

Anthony Horan, Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, said:  “The Catholic community in Scotland was key to stopping assisted suicide in 2010 and 2015.

"We need them to step up once again.

"Please help us to stop death by prescription in Scotland and to call for better palliative care instead. We should be caring for people, not killing them.”

Among the dangers outlined in the briefing:

The church also points out that assisted suicide is uncontrollable.

In every country where assisted suicide and/or euthanasia is legal, safeguards have been eroded and eligibility criteria expanded to now include people with arthritis, anorexia, autism and dementia. It has also been extended to include children. 

Liam McArthur MSP is expected to publish a Bill later this year proposing the legalisation of assisted suicide. 

Catholic parishioners and others are urged to visit the website Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office website for guidance on contacting MSPs.




Bishops ask for prayers during Synod

The Bishops of Scotland have asked for prayers during next month's Synod in Rome.

They have been at the Royal Scots College in Salamanca for their annual service week, reflecting on the working document for the Synod.

It follows a meeting of diocesan Synodality representatives recently in Airdrie.

A Facebook post on the page of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland said: "(The Bishops) agreed that this is an opportunity to respond to the pastoral reality of the Church, praying together and listening to the Holy Spirit.

"At the heart of the process is prayer, discernment and openness.

"The People of God - lay faithful, religious and clergy - on every continent, needs to be involved in this Synodal process."

It continued: "The Bishops of Scotland ask all Catholics in Scotland, and Scots of all faiths...to pray for the Synod on Synodality especially during the month of October.

"All are asked to pray, every day of the Synod, the following prayer which has been invoked at Church Councils over the centuries, Ad Sumus Sancte Spiritus (see below).

Guided by Holy Spirit

Bishop Brian McGee (Argyll & the Isles) who chairs the Bishops’ Conference Synodality Group, will represent the Church in Scotland at the Synod (hear what he's said about the Synod here).

The Bishops said: "The benefits of modern technology permit everyone to participate and perhaps, for the first time, allow the fullest expression of the reforms of the second Vatican Council to bear fruit in the Church.

"At the heart of the process is prayer, discernment and openness.

From left Archbishop William Nolan (Glasgow), Archbishop Leo Cushley (St Andrews & Edinburgh), Bishop Joseph Toal (Motherwell), Fr William McFadden (Galloway), Bishop Brian McGee (Argyll & the Isles, Bishop John Keenan (Paisley) and Bishop Hugh Gilbert OSB (Aberdeen).

"The beauty, goodness and truth of our Catholic faith cannot be contained by one opinion or ideology.

It appeals to the world to let the Holy Spirit guide us to the Jesus Christ, our way, our truth and our life.

"God knows what He wants for the Church more than we do.

"Through spiritual conversation we can discover and cherish that gift of faith which is open to all people of good will.

The journey of faith is rarely a straight road but requires patience and mutual support.

"It also treasures and is directed by the journey taken before us, by saints and sinners, a journey of forgiveness and renewal."

Ad Sumus Sancte Spiritus:

We stand before You, Holy Spirit, as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us, make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful; do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth and what is right.
All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever.

GALLERY: Venerable Margaret Sinclair Pilgrimage

People gathered at St Patrick's in Edinburgh on Sunday for the Annual National Venerable Margaret Sinclair Pilgrimage.

The event is to pray for the beatification of Margaret Sinclair (1900-1925), a woman who grew up in the Cowgate and attended St Patrick's Church.

Margaret displayed an example of holiness amid the ordinariness of working class life. Read her story here.

The tomb of the nun is located at the Church and each year people from across Scotland gather to pray there.

Pope Paul VI declares that Margaret practised the Christian virtues to a heroic degree and she was given the title: ‘The Venerable Margaret Sinclair’.

In 2015 Archbishop Cushley relaunched the campaign to beatify Venerable Margaret and appointed Fr Joseph McAuley of the Archdiocese of Glasgow to be his Episcopal Delegate for the Promotion of the Cause of Venerable Margaret Sinclair.

The Pilgrimage included a Holy Hour, a reflection, benediction and Mass celebrated by Archbishop Cushley.

All pictures: Sancta Familia Media.

Read the latest news on the work of SPRED

The latest SPRED newsletter is out now and highlights its 25 years in the Archdiocese.

The editorial reads: "What a wonderful way to start our new SPRED year! Not only did we celebrate a new SPRED year with our Commissioning Mass on Wednesday 30 August but we also celebrated 25 years of SPRED in the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh.

"We had the joy of gathering with old friends and new, guests from other SPRED groups and a really special guest, our founder Sister Cecilia Dowd.

"We were also delighted that our former director  Emma Robertson joined us too. Archbishop Leo Cushley celebrated Mass and was joined by Fr Jeremy Milne, Fr Tony Lappin, Canon Brian Gowans, Fr Jamie Boyle, Fr Alex Davie and Deacon Tom McEvoy."

SPRED helps people with learning disabilities develop their faith and spirituality in the Archdiocese.

Read the SPRED September newsletter here. Read more about the Silver Jubilee Mass here.

National Safeguarding Conference

The 2023 National Safeguarding Conference will take place on Saturday 18 November in Glasgow.

The annual event is for clergy, religious, PSCs, parish volunteers, employees and all who have a role in the Church’s safeguarding efforts in Scotland.

The theme is 'Once Chance to Change: Trauma Informed Responses to Disclosures of Abuse.'

Organisers say: "The conference is designed as an in-person event in order to encourage networking and facilitate rich discussion on the range of scenarios to be presented.

"By attending you can benefit from expert input, practical discussion and take-away resources on trauma-informed responses to disclosures of abuse."

The Conference Fee is £25 and you are encouraged to book now while places are available.

National Safeguarding Conference, University of Strathclyde's Technology & Innovation Centre, 99 George Street, Glasgow, G1 1RD. Register here.

Vocations Week: Becoming a Deacon

Douglas Robertson is being ordained a permanent deacon at St Michael's Church in Linlithgow on Saturday. We spoke to him about his journey to the diaconate.

What parish do you attend?
St Michael’s in Linlithgow. I have been a parishioner here for over 30 years.

What is a deacon, and what do they do?
Deacons (the word comes from the Greek word diakonia, meaning 'service') are ordained clergy who are not priests, but assist the priest at Mass by proclaiming the Gospel, reading the Intercessions, distributing Communion and dismissing the Faithful. A deacon assists the priest outside of Mass by administering the Sacrament of Baptism, bringing Viaticum to the dying, presiding for prayer services, officiating at funerals and burial services and witnessing marriages. As ministers of service, deacons perform charitable works such as visiting the sick, sacramental preparation and outreach to the poor.

Wherever I have been I have appreciated the many people who have taken the time to quietly encourage me.

What was your day job?
I worked in IT for forty years, in a number of different jobs and for several companies, starting with Rolls-Royce in Glasgow and ending with Lloyds Bank in Edinburgh.

Why did you decide to apply for the diaconate?
Looking back I feel that my whole life was leading up to this point. My faith journey took me from being a child attending Church of Scotland Sunday school, and not wanting to be there, to a teenager who went to Scripture Union camps, and found a living faith but could not sustain it.

Despite this, my faith was always there and in my early thirties, I wanted to integrate it fully into my life and joined the Catholic Church. This was the start of a wonderful and exciting journey. My faith continued to develop and I found myself saying “God, whatever you want me to do, I will do”. During a conversation with my Parish Priest Canon Paul Kelly he challenged me to go much further than my own limited plans for the future and look at the Permanent Diaconate. The words in Malcolm Muggeridge’s book about Mother Teresa inspired me – “as the whole story of Christendom shows, if everything is asked for, everything – and more – will be accorded; if little, then nothing”. So I applied!

What support have you been given? 
I am so grateful to my wife Margaret, whose own faith and that of her family is so important to me. Her Uncle Monsignor McShane, latterly of St Margaret’s in Clydebank, was a bedrock of the Catholic faith in our lives. Margaret has read my essays, tolerated the hours of study and said the right things when I found the formation challenging. I have had huge support both from this parish with its live faith and committed parishioners and that of my parish placement at St Francis Xavier, Falkirk, where I was provided with an insight into the life of a Deacon in a large parish. Wherever I have been I have appreciated the many people who have taken the time to quietly encourage me.

What are you most looking forward to in your ministry?
Serving my parish!

What advice would you give to married men who are considering the diaconate?
Contact your vocation director, an exciting journey is in front of you.

Douglas Robertson will be ordained a permanent deacon at midday on Saturday 14 September at St Michael's in Linlithgow. Interested in the Permanent Diaconate? Contact Deacon Ronnie Macaulay at macaulay_ronnie@yahoo.co.uk