Red Mass Sept. 12 honors those in legal profession

Prof. Kenneth J. Pennington spoke at a dinner after the Red Mass.


Lawyers, judges, and others in the legal profession gathered Thursday, Sept. 12, to worship the Supreme Law Giver during a Red Mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.

About 150 attended the liturgy, whose tradition dates back to 13th century England.

In his homily, Bishop Carl A. Kemme talked about how servants are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

“Whether we like to admit it or not, most people at least secretly crave power and authority,” he said talking about how as a child he felt a sense of power, happiness, and exhilaration when a teacher asked him to do something that set him apart from his classmates.

Bishop Carl A. Kemme is framed by two judges at the Red. Mass.

“My simple example reveals, though, a hidden truth: that true power and authority are not taken or assumed, but given and received,” Bishop Kemme said. “I think this provides for us a very important message for our gathering tonight for the annual Red Mass in which we invoke God’s blessings upon all who have been given power and authority in our civil society and government in regard to the rule of law, men and women of the legislature, the judiciary, all lawyers, and officers of the court.”

He pointed out that public officials, who are public servants, must use that power with discernment, with a reflective mind and heart.

Bishop Kemme, speaking to a long row of black-robed judges, with lawyers and other legal professionals behind them, expressed gratitude for their attendance.

“As one myself who has been given power and authority in the community of the church, I urge you to reflect upon that which has been granted to you for the well-being of those you are called to serve. As men and women with power and authority, we must be ever humble, recognizing that we are to be accountable to others and ultimately to God, who is power and authority itself.”

At the end of his homily, Bishop Kemme invoked the blessing and inspiration of St. Thomas More, the patron of those in government and civil service.

A dinner in Good Shepherd Hall followed the Red Mass.

The speaker, Dr. Kenneth J. Pennington, professor of Ecclesiastical and Legal History at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., spoke about the influence and impact of canon law on civil law. Using a slide presentation with images of ancient texts and drawings, the professor talked about the foundations and development of law, especially the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

The event was sponsored by the Diocese of Wichita. The Mass was celebrated with the support of the Saint Thomas More Society of Wichita.