October 3, 2014

Judge, deacon encourages balance of faith and profession

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, center, celebrates the Eucharist during the Red Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne on Sept. 24. Father Mark Gurtner, right, chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society, concelebrated. At left is Deacon Marc Kellams, a special guest at the Red Mass and speaker at the dinner that followed. Deacon Kellams serves St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington, and is circuit court judge in Monroe County. (Photo by Tim Johnson)

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, center, celebrates the Eucharist during the Red Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne on Sept. 24. Father Mark Gurtner, right, chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society, concelebrated. At left is Deacon Marc Kellams, a special guest at the Red Mass and speaker at the dinner that followed. Deacon Kellams serves St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington, and is circuit court judge in Monroe County. (Photo by Tim Johnson)

By Tim Johnson (Today’s Catholic)

FORT WAYNE—Following an ancient custom dating back to the 13th century, attorneys, law professors, high-ranking government officials, guests and others who work in the legal field gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Sept. 24 for the celebration of the Red Mass.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend was the principal celebrant at the liturgy.

The name of the Mass is derived from the red vestments worn by the celebrant. The color symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Red was also featured on the robes worn by judges in the Middle Ages.

The Mass is celebrated to invoke divine guidance from the Holy Spirit and strength during the coming term of the court. In the Catholic tradition, the Holy Spirit is seen as the source of wisdom, understanding, counsel and fortitude. Catholics and other Christians who work in the legal profession have understood these gifts as essential to the dispensation of justice in their work.

Assisting at the Red Mass as a special guest was Deacon Marc Kellams, circuit court judge in Monroe County, Ind., and a deacon of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He serves at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington. Deacon Kellams spoke after the Mass on the topic, “The Balance of Faith and Profession” during a dinner in the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center.

Deacon Kellams has been a member of the bar for 36 years. He was ordained a deacon in 2008.

He said keeping the roles of judge and deacon separate has not been nearly the challenge one might think.

“Fortunately, my judicial responsibilities as a criminal court judge do not include actions that force me into ethical dilemmas,” he said during his presentation.

Deacons are visible while fulfilling their sacramental duties—serving at Mass, baptizing infants, witnessing the exchange of wedding vows and participating in various roles at funeral and committal services.

“The true ministry of a deacon however is one of service,” Deacon Kellams said. “Acts Chapter 6 tells of the need of deacons to assist the Apostles to serve the widows. Thus, the first deacons were chosen to be of service so that the Apostles could better fulfill their responsibilities.”

Each deacon carries out a particular ministry of charity. “Mine is to the elderly and the sick,” he said. “I visit hospitals, eldercare facilities and the homebound. I coordinate a cadre of volunteers, and I spend time with the dying and their families.”

The death of his daughter nearly five years ago to brain cancer has given him special skills and a keen insight into those close to death.

Deacon Kellams asked those gathered if they think of their public service as a calling, and added, “And even further, have you ever contemplated that the work you do has at its center a touch of the divine?”

He quoted Thomas L. Shaffer, professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame, who mused in his book American Lawyers and Their Communities:

“ ‘We American lawyers learn to look at the community of the faithful, rather than from it. We stand in the courthouse looking at the church. We see the particular people, even when we claim to belong to it, from the point of view of the government. When we are able to change the place where we stand, when we walk across the street and look at the courthouse from the church, we notice a couple of things about the way the government in America regards the community of the faithful.’ ”

Deacon Kellams asked, “Do we actually consider our public self and our private self as dual personalities in the body of one person, both secular and religious at the same time?”

The deacon and judge added, in Shaffer’s book, Faith and the Professions, that he actually came to the conclusion that those who practice law had the responsibility to be moral teachers.

“For a long time, I tended to look at my faith as a matter separate from my profession, as something that shaped my private life, something that I shared with family and others of like mind,” the deacon said. “But how is it that one is able to so abstractly divide a life?

“If we are being honest, most of us in public service are here for the simple and often stated motive that we want to be of service to others; that we want to share our talents for the betterment of humankind,” he noted. “And so it is that the lessons of our faith, even if never spoken, and certainly never outrightly attributed—at least by most of us—are intrinsically and fundamentally a part of who we are, and thus of what we do and how we do it.”

Deacon Kellams said, “The Catholic Church is not just an organization I belong to. It is not just something I am or do for one hour every week. It is instead at the very heart of who I am and how I function.

“Now do not misunderstand, I’m not one to speak in religious terms, ‘Christ-speak’ as I call it, dropping the Lord’s name in my comments, and I do not display my faith in a professionally public way, or even in symbolic ways—and in fact I tend to distrust those in the profession who do.

“I choose instead to follow the instruction in Matthew, Chapter 6, that says: ‘Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.’ ”

Deacon Kellams said that he has never held the belief that his faith was to be used as a tool, as a mechanism for changing others, by judicial influence or worse by judicial fiat, into something he found more acceptable.

“Instead, I have endeavored to look upon my faith as a way of influencing and changing the very essence of who I am, not only as a pathway to eternal salvation, but as a way of life; and that through my life I might serve as a positive influence to others.

“Heaven knows how often I have failed at that undertaking, but as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta so gratefully taught, ‘God does not call us to be successful, but to be faithful.’ ”
 

(Tim Johnson is editor of Today’s Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.)

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