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At Red Mass, Bishop Jugis entreats all to follow God’s moral law
CHARLOTTE — State Rep. Ruth Samuelson of Mecklenburg County received the 2011 St. Thomas More Society of Charlotte Award Sept. 29 following an annual gathering of Catholic legal professionals and the celebration of what's commonly called the "Red Mass" at St. Patrick Cathedral.
Pictured: In his homily during the eighth annual Red Mass with the St. Thomas More Society and the local legal community Sept. 29, Charlotte Bishop Peter J. Jugis spoke about the Source of moral law and warned that when we are out of touch with God's moral law, human dignity is threatened. The Red Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral was followed by a banquet in which state Rep. Ruth Samuelson was given the 2011 St. Thomas More Society of Charlotte Award. (Patricia L. Guilfoyle, Catholic News Herald)
Samuelson was instrumental in the recent passage by the N.C. General Assembly of the Woman's Right to Know Act, which provides pregnant women considering an abortion with information that could save the life of the unborn child, including requiring them to wait 24 hours and requiring abortionists to display and describe an ultrasound image of the baby.
The St. Thomas More Award, named for the patron saint of politicians and statesmen, is given annually to a person who exemplifies service to Truth in the area of law.
Earlier on Sept. 29, a lawsuit that seeks to stop North Carolina from implementing the Right to Know Act was filed in federal court in Raleigh by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood Health Systems, Planned Parenthood of Central N.C., and the Center for Reproductive Rights. They contend the law is unconstitutional, alleging it violates the rights of abortion facilities and women. (Read more about the lawsuit against the Woman's Right to Know Act filed Sept. 29.)
Gov. Beverly Perdue had vetoed the act passed by the state legislature earlier this year, but state legislators narrowly overrode her veto.
Charlotte's eighth annual Red Mass was celebrated by Bishop Peter J. Jugis and concelebrated by Benedictine Abbot Placid Solari, chancellor of Belmont Abbey College.
It's called the Red Mass because the clergy wear red vestments, symbolizing the flames of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Since the 13th century the Red Mass has marked the opening of the term of courts in Europe, and in the early 20th century the tradition spread to the U.S. It provides the legal, political and law enforcement communities with an opportunity to reflect on their faith and ask God for wisdom as they administer the law.
During his homily, Bishop Jugis referred to Pope Benedict XVI's recent speech to the German parliament during his September trip to his homeland, in which the pope reflected on the divine source of all law.
Bishop Jugis said the pope asked, "How do we recognize what is right? How do we discern between good and evil, between what is truly right and what may appear right?"
The answer lies in the fact that the law is not a human invention. Its source is God, he said. Just as God reveals Himself in the order of nature, so too does He reveal Himself in the natural moral law. When we are out of touch with that moral law, our human dignity is threatened, he said.
"How can laws allow the denial of the right to life of the innocent human being, or allow experimentation on human subjects, in the case of embryonic stem-cell research, or allow the denial of hydration and nutrition to the seriously ill, or change the definition of marriage?" Bishop Jugis asked. "Something is very wrong with our appreciation for the inviolable human dignity of the little ones, of the weak, of the fragile. We cannot live in a concrete bunker with laws of our own making that are divorced from God or not in accord with the order of nature, of which we are part."
He concluded, "In this Mass, we ask the Holy Spirit to help you in your work for true justice in our society, and I wish to encourage you in your work, that more and more our laws and our legal system will reflect the wisdom of the loving Creator."
Following Mass, Samuelson said she was honored to receive the award, especially as she strives to live out her Christian faith within her career as a state legislator. Like a lawyer in a courtroom, she said, she aims to argue the case for what's right, true and just – with the "judge" being contemporary society and the "jury" being individuals in society.
Society is changing rapidly, she noted, and those who want to stand up for the moral law must understand how to get their message across effectively if they are to prevail. They cannot rely solely on religious terminology or personal beliefs; they must base their arguments on reason to be persuasive.
Samuelson has lived in Charlotte nearly all her life. After graduating from West Charlotte High School, she attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in speech communications. She attends Uptown Church where she is active with several ministries. She and her husband Ken Samuelson have four grown children.
St. Thomas More was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author and statesman. He opposed King Henry VIII's separation from the Catholic Church and denied that the king could become head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London and in 1535 he was tried for treason and beheaded.
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor
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