by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — It might have been her first time reading the prayer of the faithful, but Kellie Warren, a parishioner of St. Michael the Archangel in Leawood and a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, touched those gathered as she tearfully read the intercessions.
She found particularly emotional those that elicited prayers for members of the Kansas Legislature and their families during the annual Red Mass celebrated Jan. 21 by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at Mater DeiAssumption Church in Topeka.
The Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Gerald Vincke of the Diocese of Salina, Bishop John Brungardt of the Diocese of Dodge City and Father John Pilcher, pastor of Mater Dei in Topeka. Father Bruce Ansems served as the master of ceremonies.
The Mass was sponsored by the Kansas Catholic Conference and was celebrated specifically for judges, attorneys and government officials a little more than a week after the official start of the legislative session, which began Jan. 13.
In his opening remarks, Archbishop Naumann said the Mass also offered those gathered for a special committee hearing on the proposed “Value Them Both” constitutional amendment an opportunity to unite in prayer for its successful passage.
Later, in his homily, the archbishop thanked those who serve as legislators and “all those in public office.”
“We are grateful to you for taking up this work,” he added. “We know it involves a lot of sacrifices for individuals and families to serve in public life, and so we thank you for that, and we pray for you not just today, but on a daily basis.”
Elsewhere, the archbishop discussed how St. Agnes, on whose feast day the Mass was celebrated, provided those gathered a role model for those who wish to promote the sanctity of human life.
“Today, we celebrate this feast of St. Agnes, a 12-year-old martyr, one of the earliest martyrs of the church. St. Paul tells us in Corinthians that God uses the foolish to shame the wise and the weak to vanquish the strong, the lowly and despised to humble those who think they are really something.”
Paraphrasing the story of Gideon’s army as detailed in the Book of Judges, the archbishop said that Gideon’s army was trimmed from 22,000 down to 300 men, but still emerged victorious.
“If we, who advocate for the sanctity of human life, face this daunting task of amending the Kansas constitution feel weak against the power of our opponents, if we feel not that well-connected with those in power or we feel despised or looked down upon, we should rejoice because we’re perfect for God’s army then,” the archbishop said.
“The Lord sees differently than the world sees,” Archbishop Naumann continued. “The more ill-equipped we seem in the world’s estimation, the better suited we are to make it clear that it’s really God working through us.
“And so, with that confidence, we can take on any challenge.”
The archbishop compared St. Agnes to today’s youth, who attend the annual gatherings that take place across the country every January to commemorate the Supreme Court’s 1973 legalization of abortion.
“She was too young to testify in court. Our young people may be too young to actually vote at this time, and yet, their witness can be strong,” said the archbishop. “Like St. Agnes, many of the young people manifest [more] wisdom than many of us who are much older as they stand for the sanctity of life, for those who are vulnerable.”
“On this feast of St. Agnes,” he concluded, “as we strive to amend the Kansas constitution so that Kansans, through their elected representatives, can determine public policy regarding abortion, rather than a court inventing a right to abortion and imposing it on the citizens of Kansas . . . let us ask St. Agnes to intercede for us to have the strength, the wisdom, and the courage for this battle — which is really a battle for the soul of our state and our country.”
After Mass, Warren said she is “always moved by being among people of faith,” and she appreciated the “public support for our faith.”