Rachel Batdorff
Freelance Writer
October 12, 2016 // Uncategorized

Red Mass celebrated with focus relevant to elections

Rachel Batdorff
Freelance Writer

By Rachel Batdorff

Father Runyon reads from the Gospel of Matthew during the Red Mass on Oct. 3.

The Monday, Oct. 3, Red Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, was celebrated with  specific reflection on the life and message of St. Thomas More, patron saint of politicians, statesmen and lawyers.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Mass celebrant, spoke during his homily about St. Thomas More and referenced the nation’s upcoming elections. Also in attendance was special guest Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference.

The Red Mass included readings from Deuteronomy, 2 Corinthians and Matthew, as well as sacred music from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Choir.

During the homily, Bishop Rhoades remarked extensively on the example set by the life of St. Thomas More.

“The first thing I propose from the example of Saint Thomas More is keeping your priorities straight, in proper order,” he said. “This is the order: God first, family and friendship second, profession third.”

The life and martyrdom death of St. Thomas More can only be understood through the priority he gave God. “He put God before Caesar, his conscience before the state, and ethics before politics,” Bishop Rhoades said. Putting his faith first eventually cost him his life. St. Thomas More loved his family deeply, but could not accept their pleas to save his life by signing the Oath of Supremacy and accepting Henry VIII’s claim to be head of the Church of England.

Faith without works is dead, the bishop went on to say.

“To be living, faith must not be limited to one hour of church on Sunday. If it is real, it is lived, put into practice, in our whole life, in relation to our family, our work, our politics, our economics.”

The topic of separating one’s faith from one’s actions — specifically politics — was presented as well.

“For a politician to say that he or she is personally opposed to an evil, like abortion or euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, and then cooperate with the evil with the excuse of not imposing one’s morality on others, is not only a weakness in courage, it is a betrayal of conscience, a denial of truth, and an acquiescence to a false notion of freedom.” Doing so is the exact opposite of what St. Thomas More lived and died for.  “One becomes a counter witness to the Gospel,” Bishop Rhoades added. “To be heedless to human dignity is to be headless of God the Creator, no matter how one seeks to justify it.”

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Father Jacob Runyon, both in red, begin the celebration of the diocese’s annual Fort Wayne-area Red Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

St. Thomas More was a servant of the truth and a man of authentic faith and right reason. Faith and reason cannot be separated, Bishop Rhoades said.

“Some worry about the dangers of religion, the danger of bringing faith into politics.” He went on to acknowledge the dangers of religious fanaticism and added that by reason, such faith is a distortion of the true face of God. One must guard against those who make God into their own image and likeness in order to justify hate and violence.

“The true God, known by authentic faith and right reason, has a will that conforms to His being and essence as pure goodness and perfect love,” the bishop pointed out.

Bishop Rhoades then discussed the state of the situation faced by the United States and other Western nations: Reason is often truncated, and science and technology are exalted without any moral constraints, he noted.

“When the mind is closed to God, when faith is excluded from public discourse, the existence of objective standards of morality is often denied. God is seen as irrelevant to public life,” he commented.

Without God, society becomes disoriented. Society redefines marriage and escapes into things such as drugs and pornography, robbed of real greatness.

Bishop Rhoades referenced Pope Benedict XVI’s statement, “If there is not objective morality, law has the ground taken from under its feet.”

St. Thomas More loved his wife and children with great devotion. He put his prayer life before his work, setting daily hours in his schedule for prayer. He also showed love for the poor.

“Blessed with material wealth, he always remained detached from that wealth,” the Bishop remarked of the saint. “He would invite the poor into his home to eat at his table. He set up a special house to care for the age and infirm in the neighborhood.”

As referenced in Thomas More’s book, Utopia, the bishop quoted: “For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for their crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be conclude from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

The Mass concluded with an invitation to pray and learn from St. Thomas More.

“Pope Francis revealed some time ago that he prays to Saint Thomas More every day,” said the bishop. “I invite you to do the same and to learn from him to be servants of the truth, witnesses of the beauty and joy of the Gospel, and to make his priorities your own in this proper order: God first, family, profession.”





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