Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian

While the Gospel (Lk 12:49-53) proclaimed for Thursday, Oct. 26 spoke of fire and divisions, Father Wayne Ball, homilist for the celebration of the 34th Annual Red Mass, cautioned the more than 60 people in attendance at St. Mary Church, Richmond, that every passage had “to be understood as part of the unity of the whole of Scripture.”

Participants pray during the Red Mass, celebrated Thursday, Oct. 26.

“Jesus is not speaking of fire to burn down buildings; he is speaking of the fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire from which the Church is born,” he said, adding the “Spirit sanctifies, the Spirit unifies.”

Noting the divisions about which Jesus speaks in the Gospel, Father Ball said people must remember that in John’s Gospel, “over and over (Jesus) asks the Father for one thing: ‘that they may be one as you and I are one.’”

He continued, “Tonight, as we gather, we should not be contributors to (those divisions). We are called to be instruments of the Holy Spirit to bring together people together.”

Father Ball, a judge in the Diocese of Richmond’s marriage tribunal, told the congregation that as lawyers, they speak of facts and law.

“We are people who believe facts exist. There is such a thing as the truth — something which is knowable,” he said. “We should always be searching for the truth. The facts of the situation. We should not simply get lost in this morass of it’s all about how we feel.”

Father Ball said law can seem “uncertain, unhinged” at times, but that Catholics view it differently.

“We remember that for us there is a certainty, there is a groundedness, foundation … because for us every human law must be something more than the whim of legislators,” he said. “Every human law, if it is to be a just law, must be grounded in something greater. That something greater is the law that God himself has written in the hearts of every man and woman.”

Father Ball told the congregation to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

“… be instruments of that Spirit to speak that truth, to speak the Gospel, to speak in a way that others can truly listen, and open hearts and minds to recognize that which our faith has proclaimed for 2,000 years,” he said. “The facts and the law are grounded in the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

In the evening’s dinner address, Hadely Arkes, founder and director of the James Wilson Institute on Natural Rights and the American Founding, spoke about Natural Law as the basis on which all law is founded. He provided an extensive explanation, drawing upon the words of John Marshall, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, philosophers and theologians and using a variety of legal arguments, of how Natural Law is above all manmade law.

In referencing St. Thomas Aquinas, he said, “Divine law is to be known through revelation. Natural Law will be known to that reasoning that is accessible to human beings.”

While the judiciary looks to the Constitution in forming legal rulings, Arkes reminded the audience that one must look even further when examining rights.

“Truths were there before we had the Constitution. Rights were there before we had the Constitution and rights that would be there even if there were no Constitution,” he said.