By Patrick Downes
Catholic Herald of Hawaii
“Hope That Leads to Righteousness” was the theme of the Red Mass on January 17th in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.
Bishop Larry Silva celebrated the annual liturgy invoking the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit for Hawaii’s civic leaders.
The guest speaker was President and Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities Hawaii Robert Van Tassell.
“We are not here to engage in wishful thinking, in fantasies that may or may not come true,” the bishop said in his homily, “but to pursue something much deeper than desires—hope.”
“The symbol of hope is the anchor,” he said, and “while it’s about an unfulfilled future, it’s firmly anchored to something that keeps it from drifting off in fantasies.”
“We are gathered here for this Red Mass because we believe that Jesus Christ Himself is the anchor,” he said.
“If we just have our own ideas or ideologies, we’re likely to fall into bizarre fantasies,” the bishop said. “But if we are anchored in the law of God who made us, knows us and loves us, then there is great reason for hope.”
Alluding to the work of the Hawaii Catholic Charity,” said Bishop Silva, “it is our deepest hope that all in our community will live in dignity and not be robbed of that dignity by debilitating poverty.
“We hope that migrants and refugees will be welcome, just as our own ancestors were welcomed when they were migrants and refugees,” he said.
“We hope that people who are dealing with depression, domestic violence or sex trafficking will be set free,” he said.
Catholic charities in Hawaii “have already accomplished so much by bringing hope into people’s lives, a hope that is rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ.”
Van Tassell continued this theme in his post-Communion address.
“Our employees do this every day, hundreds of times a day,” he said. “They turn despair into hope, hope that transforms, and charity that ultimately leads to justice.”
“There are times when hope and charity are not enough. We must work for justice. We must remove institutional barriers and systems that can impede progress and destroy hope,” Van Tassell said.
He quoted Pope Benedict XVI: “Charity cannot replace justice denied.”
“Today we have leaders with the authority and power to create ways, fund budgets and enact laws that create pathways of hope that lead to justice,” he continued.
Van Tassell traced the 75-year history of Catholic Charities as an agency that responded to the needs of the time, from the social problems of post-WWII and the injustices of plantation life to today’s ills of homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse, and Neglect, and rejection of migrants and refugees.
About 20 officials filled the front pews of the historic church, including two state senators, several state representatives, trustees from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, members of the Honolulu City Council and heads of government departments.
Also present was Ernie Lau, manager and chief engineer of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.
State Senator Brandon Elefante delivered the first reading. The second was read by Honolulu Police Chief Arthur “Joe” Logan.
A dozen priests concelebrated. Ten ecumenical guests from different Christian denominations attended. Hawaiian royal societies were represented by men in yellow and red capes and women in black. The general lay participation was low.
The Mass began with Ikaika Mali’ikapu Bantolina singing a prayer in Hawaiian. The pipe organ then intoned the Hawaiian state anthem “Hawaii Ponoi”.
The music, led by Calvin Liu and Robert Mondoy, was a combination of contemporary anthems and Mondoy’s Hawaiian mele-infused compositions.
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Silva, the priests and other religious leaders shook hands with the public leaders for a final blessing recited by the bishop.
A special collection was added for Hawaii Catholic charities.
The Red Mass has been celebrated in Hawaii since 1955 on the week of the opening of the state legislature.
The tradition was introduced to the United States from Europe about 100 years ago and has become an annual event in Washington, DC and other cities. It is named for the color of the robes used for Masses of the Holy Spirit.