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Bishop delivers homily at ‘Red Mass’ in Topeka

Governor Brownback, legislators, in attendance

The Most Rev. John B. Brungardt delivered the homily at the “Red Mass” Feb. 9 at St. Joseph Parish in Topeka. The Red Mass is celebrated as a way to invoke the Holy Spirit, in this case, the Holy Spirit’s guidance upon Governor Sam Brownback, legislators and other public servants, as they serve the common good of the State of Kansas. The event was sponsored by the Kansas Catholic Conference. The governor, legislators, and other community leaders attended the Mass. Following is Bishop Brungardt’s homily in its entirety:
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Welcome to all: Governor Brownback, legislators, judges, attorneys, staff, Kansas Catholic Conference, family, friends; welcome to this “Red Mass,” a votive Mass invoking the Holy Spirit’s protection and guidance upon those working in government and law.  I’m Bishop John Brungardt of the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City; with me are Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, Bishop Michael Jackels of the Diocese of Wichita, and Father Barry Brinkman of the Diocese of Salina (filling in for Bishop-elect Edward Weisenburger, named February 6th by Pope Benedict XVI as the new bishop of Salina).  Thank you all for your dedication to public office and public service in the great state of Kansas; we are blessed to have your commitment to improving the common good of our state.
As Catholic and Christians, we invoke, we call upon, the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, for guidance in our lives.  We marvel at the Pentecost event, as the apostles were “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Each of us received the Spirit at our baptism:  “Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1226).  In the sacrament of confirmation, we were strengthened with the gifts of the Holy Spirit through the holy anointing to imitate Christ and to spread and defend the Catholic Faith.  Today we ask for this Loving Spirit’s strength and protection as we help the common good of the state of Kansas.  As Catholics, the Spirit will assist us, in our homes, parishes, and our professional lives, to spread and defend the faith given us by our Savior Jesus Christ.
Conscience What gifts do we ask from the Holy Spirit?  A key need for us is a well-formed conscience.  “Conscience is a judgment of reason by which the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act” (CCC #1796).  This judgment of reason cannot come in a vacuum.  We ask the Holy Spirit help us form our conscience.  How do we do this?  An example to start:
Jim is a morality professor at a Catholic institution of higher learning.  He tells the story of a neighbor, Bob, who was chatting with him on the front porch one evening.  
-- Bob said: “Jim, I think I am going to get a vasectomy!”  
-- Deacon Jim, being a good morality professor, responded: “Is that so.”
Bob – “Yeah, I read in People magazine, that my favorite actor, he got a vasectomy!”
Deacon Jim – “You don’t say.”
Bob – “You know, George, down the street, he got a vasectomy!”
Deacon Jim – Finally – “Bob, have you spoken to your wife about this?”
Bob – Silence.
Later that week, Bob returned to Jim and told him “Jim, I decided not to get a vasectomy.”
Jim gently pointed out to Bob that he was missing something very important in his conscience formation, his spouse, to whom God joined Bob in marriage, a man and a woman united under God until death.  To this couple, God gave the gifts of love, of fertility, and of openness to children.  Bob’s wife helped him judge the moral quality of his proposed act, and he found that a vasectomy was not of truth, that his favorite actor and George down the street had bought into a lie.
This example shows that, in addition to the Holy Spirit, we are “aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church” (CCC #1785).  A spouse is one key witness.  What other witnesses and authoritative teachings of the Church do you consult?  How do you form your conscience as governor, legislators, judges, leaders of government, and attorneys?  I can only guess at some: research reports, constituent consults, party platforms, party bosses (I don’t really know who/what they are!), polls, national leadership, etc.  Do we also spend time reading Church teaching from our popes or bishops?  Do we speak with our priests and pastors concerning the moral implications of the issues?  I think I speak for the other bishops of Kansas that we would be glad to speak with you about you conscience formation.
A key “consult” is with the Word of God.  “The Word of God is a light for our path.  We must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice.  This is how moral conscience is formed” (CCC #1802).  Let us be nourished by the Word of God in the Bible, in Sacred Scriptures, daily, to receive the wisdom of the Spirit.  Let us pray for His guidance.
HHS Mandate of January 20, 2012
A counter-example:  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on January 20 that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and contraception.  Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those so-called “services” in the health policies they write.  And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as part of their policies.
The Administration’s decision has been debated intensely these past weeks, and people of faith from across the political spectrum have asked, “How can the government require an act that is against my conscience?”  Our Catholic Church teaches that man “must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience.  Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters” (CCC #1782).  How have President Obama and Secretary Sebelius missed the first amendment to the Bill of Rights in forming their consciences?
We ask the Holy Spirit to guide our response to this affront to acting within our consciences, to this attack on our religious liberty on which this country was founded.  
May the “Spirit of truth” lead us.  May we form our consciences with the truth, with the Scripture, with prayer, with the guidance of the Spirit as we serve the public good of the State of Kansas.  Let us trust in our Loving God, and pray “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”

Editor’s Note: See Bishop Brungardt’s letter to the faithful regarding the contraception mandate on Page 1.

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