The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Red Mass recognizes two Catholic legal leaders in state

Hale and Badami honored for work in Arkansas legal system spanning decades of service

Published: October 20, 2023         
Katie Zakrzewski
James Badami, a St. Thomas More Society Award recipient, and his wife Bonnie watch the Catholic High School ROTC Color Guard as they hoist flags before the National Anthem during the Red Mass Oct. 6 at Christ the King Church in Little Rock.

The 29th annual Red Mass Oct. 6 at Christ the King Church in Little Rock consisted of judges, lawyers, law professors and students and public officials amidst a sea of red. 

The Red Mass is celebrated as the Solemn Mass of the Holy Spirit and is named for the traditional red color of the vestments worn by clergy during the Mass, representing the tongues of fire symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

The Red Mass historically marked the official opening of the judicial year for the Tribunal of the Holy See. The Red Mass was celebrated for the first time in 1928 in New York City, spreading through the country. It was first celebrated in Arkansas in 1994. The Red Mass provides an opportunity for all public officials and individuals involved in law to gather for God’s blessing and guidance in administering justice.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor celebrated the noon Mass to pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance in the administration of government and justice and for the intercession of St. Thomas More, saying the role of the legal profession was to “defend and preserve the dignity of our fellow citizens and the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good.”

“Most of us want to live good lives, but we usually desire holiness only in a rather vague or general way, so that when difficult situations arise, sometimes we’re not prepared to make the sacrifices that doing the right thing demands, especially when there are people out there who might not like the results,” Bishop Taylor said. “That’s why I have to remind myself — and you — that the only one we really have to please is the Lord. Sometimes, this means embracing the cross, and the one that the Lord wants can be unpopular or easily misconstrued.”

The Red Mass often goes hand-in-hand with the St. Thomas More Society. The society’s namesake was an attorney in medieval England and a devout Catholic. More served as King Henry VIII’s Lord High Chancellor of England and opposed King Henry’s separation from the Catholic Church, refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy to the king. While many noblemen sided with the king to save themselves, More would not betray his faith. He was sentenced to death in 1535 and canonized in 1935.  

Connie Phillips, chair of the Red Mass committee and an adjunct law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law, said St. Thomas More has been significant in her legal career.

“More’s well-known quote is ‘I am the king’s servant, but God’s first,’” Phillips said. “That is what we should do as lawyers. … I’ve found it powerful to be able to train new attorneys and hope that they become good and ethical lawyers.”

Phillips said the Red Mass’s purpose is to remember individuals in the legal field and the people they serve, and “hope that the Holy Spirit will guide them in their work.”

Deacon Jim Goodhart, who is assigned to Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church and Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, both in Little Rock, and is president of the Arkansas chapter of the St. Thomas More Society, said the Red Mass is a reminder for legal professionals to follow the example of St. Thomas More. 

“He stood for helping your fellow man but doing it in a way that was always true to your belief in following Jesus,” Goodhart said. “That example is extremely important today, where people are presented with lots of challenges and struggles in the modern day as to what competes for our time and attention. … There’s lots of pitfalls, but most of us don’t have to make the choice between our king and giving our life.”

Following the Mass, the St. Thomas More Society honored Judge Milas “Butch” Hale III and James A. Badami for their service.

Hale, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock, graduated from Catholic High School in 1977 before earning his law degree from the Bowen Law School in 1983, going on to practice law in North Little Rock. In 1996, he followed in his father’s footsteps and was elected Sherwood District Judge.

Hale said he was in disbelief when he was told he would be honored.

“I was completely taken off guard when Judge Shawn Johnson called me and told me I was going to be one of the recipients of this award, because there are so many more people in this organization that deserve it,” Hale said. “There are so many who are so much more deserving than I am. I kept thinking he dialed the wrong person.”

Badami, a member of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, graduated from New York’s Fordham Law School in 1964 and is licensed to practice law in New York and Arkansas. He served as a military lawyer in the U.S. Army for 25 years before retiring as a colonel. He has been an advocate for the Diocese of Little Rock’s tribunal office, is a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and is also a Knight of the Grand Cross. 

Badami said “being the hands and feet of Jesus” is a crucial role for all members of the legal profession and public service.

“It’s not only for the legal mind, but anybody and everybody,” Badami said. “I’m honored and humbled to be recognized for this award, and I thank the Lord for giving me the talent and the ability to help do his work. We all have to do just a little bit to help our neighbors, or even just the person next to you. Smile at them, be kind to them. If we all did that, the world would be a better place.”

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