by Joe Bollig
LEAWOOD — Attorneys and politicians are usually on the receiving end of pleas and petitions, but on Oct. 14 it was their turn to ask the favor of the highest court.
Members of the Greater Kansas City area legal and political community gathered at the Church of Nativity in Leawood for a Red Mass.
The main celebrant was Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph; the homilist and concelebrant was Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. Father Francis Hund, pastor of Nativity, also concelebrated.
The earliest recorded Red Mass was celebrated in Paris during the 1200s. But no one really knows who put the red in the Red Mass — unless it comes from the red vestments worn by the celebrants.
“The Red Mass was offered at the beginning of the annual session of court — when judges, attorneys and other public figures gathered to ask for the intervention of the Holy Spirit for the legal community,” said Joshua McCaig, an attorney with Polsinelli Shughart, PC, in Kansas City, Mo.
The color red is traditionally associated with the Holy Spirit, but red is also the color of the robes judges wore in medieval Europe.
Red Masses are celebrated in many parts of the world, but the highest- profile one in the United States takes place annually in Washington, D.C., when the Supreme Court begins its new session in October.
The Catholic Lawyers Guild, which draws members from throughout Greater Kansas City, sponsors the annual liturgy locally. Invited are judges, lawyers, law school deans and professors, students, and current office holders. It is open to members of the public, as well, so they can pray for these individuals.
This year the Mass was scheduled for the evening so more people could attend, and the switch paid off.
“This year was an extraordinary turnout,” said McCaig, a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Kansas City, Mo., and guild president. “Each year it grows in the number of people who participate.”
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann gave an overview that began with Moses’ instruction to the judges of Israel, continued to the life and martyrdom of St. Thomas More, and visited the trial of Jesus before Pilate. The archbishop also touched upon natural law and the tyrannies of the majority and relativism.
“It is in this context,” said the archbishop, “of a crisis of truth and the threat of a tyranny of relativism that you and I live. And you and I have been called to be witnesses of truth — the truth of God’s love revealed for every human being, the truth of inalienable rights that no human being or human institution has the right to deny or diminish.”
“Indeed, we must testify that there are universal truths which are accessible to each and every person through human reason, such as the right to life,” he continued, “the equality of men and women no matter race or ethnicity, the right of parents to educate and form their children. . . . These are rights that are not dependent on divine revelation, but only upon our common human experience.”
This was the first year the Catholic Lawyers Guild has chosen to honor one of its own in a special way by awarding Mario Mandina the St. Thomas More Award.
“The award is given in recognition of an attorney in the Kansas City area who best exemplifies the character of St. Thomas More,” said McCaig.
Mandina, a member of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Blue Springs, Mo., is a well-respected Kansas City attorney, past president of Missouri Lawyers for Life, and co-founder of the National Lawyers’ Association. Mandina is also a longtime usher and lector at his parish, and a member of the Knights of Columbus.
Illness prevented Mandina from accepting the award in person, so his sister Madalaine Mandina accepted it on his behalf.