The Holy Spirit, faith and law honored at annual Red Mass

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann reads the second half of the Eucharistic Prayer during the Red Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Nov. 3. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY —The Catholic Bar Association held its second annual convention Nov. 2- 4 here in Kansas City, with nearly 200 attorneys, judges and students, arriving throughout the weekend to participate, pray together and listen to the speakers.  The annual Red Mass was celebrated Nov. 3 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas as principal celebrant and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore concelebrating and guest homilist. Other priests assisting at the Mass included Fathers Charles Rowe, diocesan Vicar General for Pastoral Affairs; Ken Riley, diocesan Vicar General for Administration and Chancellor, and Randolph Sly, pastor, Our Lady of Sorrows Parish.

The Red Mass is a centuries-old tradition; first celebrated in 1245 at the Cathedral of St. Denis in Paris. Churches across Europe picked it up and every year, just before the opening of the term of Court, the Red Mass was celebrated. Priests wore red vestments, reminiscent of the robes worn by judges and of the tongues of fire sent by the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost. In 1310, during the reign of King Edward II, the celebration of the Red Mass began in England. Celebrated in the fall, the Red Mass marked the official opening of the judicial year of the Sacred Roman Rota, the Tribunal of the Holy See.

The first Red Mass in the United States was celebrated in 1928 at the Church of St. Andrew in New York City. Interestingly, above the entrance to the church, an inscription in Latin reads “Beati qvi ambvlant in lege Domini,” meaning “Blessed are they who walk in the law of the Lord.”
By 1943, celebration of the Red Mass had spread to Topeka, Kansas, and sometime in the early 1950s, the celebration of the Red Mass in the Diocese of Kansas City began. At the time, it was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, downtown. The annual Red Mass continued through the 1960s and 70s, but at some point in the 1980s, it ceased.

Local attorney Martin Meyers recalled attending the Red Mass as a young lawyer with his father and wanted to reinstitute it. In 2006, the Red Mass was celebrated for the first time in over 25 years. The most recent Red Masses have been celebrated at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. Today the Red Mass is celebrated every autumn in more than half the states in this nation.

Attorney Joshua McCaig of Polsinelli P.C., in Kansas City, established the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kansas City in 2007 but soon saw a need for a national or even international association of Catholic attorneys. During a March 2015 meeting at Polsinelli P.C., the Catholic Bar Association was organized. McCaig, now Interim President of the CBA Board of Directors, said he envisioned the CBA providing a community where legal professionals could grow in their relationship with Christ and members could challenge each other to live out their Catholic faith, both in their private lives and in their profession.

When the CBA was established, there were more than 60 independent Catholic lawyers’ groups in the U.S., including Kansas City’s Catholic Lawyers Guild, but no national or international organization solely geared to creating a community of Catholic legal professionals.

Networking and future meetings led to the establishment of the Catholic Bar Association on July 6, 2015. The CBA’s inaugural conference was held in Kansas City last fall.

In his homily Nov. 3, Archbishop Lori, who also serves as chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said that in the 17th century the Jesuits founded a college at St. Omer, France, to educate the sons of Catholic families in colonial America. Prominent among those who sent their sons to St. Omer was the Carroll family of Maryland.

Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori approaches the altar in procession at the beginning of the annual Red Mass. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

Some 275 years ago, young Daniel Carroll arrived at St. Omer. Daniel would one day sign both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. He was followed by John Carroll, the first Catholic Archbishop in the United States and Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. “… these young men received a splendid formation in the wisdom of the ancients, in literature and drama, and in scientific discovery, an education that harmoniously combined faith and reason,” and a daily round of spiritual exercises.

Archbishop Lori continued, “…the founders of our country … like us, were flawed human beings, with moral blind-spots, foibles, and failings. Yet there is a providential quality about their formation and their achievements that we should continue to cherish and to hand on to each successive generation, even amid the rush-to-judgment about historical figures currently in vogue. For although … formed in different schools and took differing approaches to religious faith, … like the Carrolls, they came to embrace two convictions critical to a limited government that recognizes the God-given rights, freedoms, and responsibilities of its citizens: The first was that human nature, though flawed, is rational and open to moral reasoning and truth, not of the relativist variety and not dependent on any particular religious denomination. The second was that religion, with its stress on morality and virtue, is good, very good, both for human nature and for society in general. As George Washington said, ‘there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness.’”

Both convictions played a role in the framing of the U.S. government, the archbishop said, “with checks and balances to ensure that power would not be concentrated in the hands of a few privileged individuals or groups. They were realists when it came to human nature and so they sought to build a system that would limit the human quest for power. They were intent on a form of political self-government that would require the consent of the governed and thereby protect the freedoms with which the Creator endowed each person. Yet, the founders also understood that limited self-government required citizens to govern themselves as individuals, families, and communities. Political self-government, they knew, would require moral self-government.

“Liberty and limited government hinge on the human capacity for virtue and on the readiness of citizens to use their freedom in pursuit of goodness and truth.”

Archbishop Lori said, “I believe it was for this reason that the founders valued religious freedom and came to enshrine it in the First Amendment. In declining to adopt an established religion, the founders did not seek to marginalize religious faith nor seek to neutralize religious disputes in society. What they did aim to do was to give citizens and their churches the freedom surely to worship as they saw fit, but also to engage in the work of forming character … a work carried out beyond church walls and beyond congregational boundaries, surely for the salvation of souls but also for the sake of human dignity and the common good.

“… there are many people quietly living heroic lives of virtue in a spirit of service, and many families, schools, and institutions of service devoting themselves to the formation of moral character and the raising up of leaders for the future of church, state, and society itself.
“Yet, do we not also see how disordered thinking and living … has gained a foothold in our country, leading to deep divisions in society, to bitterness and violence, thus endangering our freedoms? … How sad that so many opinion leaders in our culture have so little appreciation for the wisdom of our founders and the genius of our form of government. Do we not look on with dismay as many intermediate institutions in society, such as the family, churches, and faith-based schools suffer declines and no longer perform their critical role of forming citizens capable of moral self-government and thus political self-government? The struggle to preserve religious freedom does not so much concern the survival of religious institutions for their own sake as it does the survival of a form of government deemed by Abraham Lincoln as ‘the last best hope of earth.’”

Following the Red Mass was a dinner at the Marriot Hotel downtown, with Jan Figel, European Commission Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion as the keynote speaker.



No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

October 23, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph