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Hundreds at Red Mass blessing legal workers

Bishop William Murphy offers his blessings to judges

Bishop William Murphy offers his blessings to judges during the Red Mass at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Garden City. (Oct. 2, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hundreds of Nassau's judges, lawyers and court personnel of different religious persuasions gathered at a Garden City church Tuesday night for a centuries-old tradition -- blessing the legal system.

The Red Mass, celebrated by Bishop William Murphy at the St. Joseph Church in Garden City, calls upon God to "grant the gifts of enlightenment, prudence and compassion to lawyers pleading their cases and to judges adjudicating those cases," according to a document issued by the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

The tradition, in which priests wear red robes, dates to the early 13th century in England, France and Italy, said Mark Brosnan, an officer with Nassau's Catholic Lawyers Guild.

Honorees this year are the Rev. Msgr. Francis Caldwell and attorney Christopher McGrath, Brosnan said.

Nassau Supreme Court Judge Denise Sher, one of more than 30 local judges who planned to attend, said although she is Jewish she goes to the ceremony annually as a chance to bond with her colleagues.

"It brings the bench and the bar together," Sher said, adding that no matter what one's religious beliefs, "sometimes it is faith that gives us the strength to do what we do."

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