October 17, 2014

Lentz honored at Red Mass, lawyers encouraged to stay close to God

Annette “Mickey” Lentz shows the 2014 Woman for All Seasons Award that she received from the St. Thomas More Society of Indianapolis on Oct. 2. The society honored Lentz, the chancellor of the archdiocese, for her commitment to promote justice in the community. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Annette “Mickey” Lentz shows the 2014 Woman for All Seasons Award that she received from the St. Thomas More Society of Indianapolis on Oct. 2. The society honored Lentz, the chancellor of the archdiocese, for her commitment to promote justice in the community. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

Annette “Mickey” Lentz knows the story of A Man for All Seasons, the play and movie that capture St. Thomas More’s courageous commitment to God and the Church—even when his refusal to support King Henry VIII’s decision to divorce, remarry and claim supremacy over the Church of England led to his death.

In her 53 years of serving the archdiocese as a teacher, principal, director of Catholic education and now as chancellor, Lentz has been inspired by St. Thomas More as she’s faced difficult challenges and choices.

Knowing her commitment to her values, the St. Thomas More Society of Indianapolis honored Lentz with its 2014 Woman for All Seasons Award during its annual dinner and recognition ceremony on Oct. 2.

“St. Thomas More is known for the saying, ‘I’m the king’s good servant, but I’m God’s first,’ ” noted Deacon David Henn, a lawyer, in paying tribute to Lentz at the dinner. “There is no one among us who has devoted more of their life to the service of mankind while always honoring her faith and her love and devotion to God and his Church.”

Humbled and touched by the honor, Lentz told the crowd of judges, lawyers and law students how she feels the presence of St. Thomas More when she makes tough decisions.

“He had challenges. We have challenges. But in the long run, he never ever sacrificed good, just, moral values,” Lentz said. “For me, it’s all about personal integrity. And I think that if each day I can in some way impart that to others then I’m truly doing my work for the Church—and doing it as a ministry and not a job.”

Lentz’s honor was part of an evening of celebration by Indianapolis Catholics in the legal profession that began with the annual Red Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis.

With its roots in the 13th century, the Red Mass continues the tradition of “invoking God’s blessing and divine guidance upon those charged with the pursuit of justice.”

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin touched upon “God’s blessing,” the example of St. Thomas More and the theme of human justice and divine justice in his homily during the Red Mass.

“In the fabulous play of Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More teaches his daughter, Meg: ‘God made the angels to show him splendor as he made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But man he made to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind,’ ” the archbishop quoted.

Archbishop Tobin turned his focus on the 100-plus lawyers at the Mass.

“Lawyers are surely among those who can empathize with this insight of a saintly lawyer in God’s creative intentions. The law demands that you use your minds in an intellectual adventure of understanding and application.

“However, More was also destroyed by the law that is manipulated by a despot to crush any opposition to his will. Law can be employed unjustly. Used by a ruler or a hostile majority against a defenseless individual or minority, law and its coercive force can show an ugly face. It can be a weapon that is used to smite those who differ from us. Even St. Thomas More could not save himself from the law wielded in this way.”

The archbishop then compared human justice with God’s justice.

“Even at its best, however, the law must admit that it achieves only a rough or limited justice, when it is compared to the justice of God himself. For, in a characteristic of God that we do not often speak about—his simplicity—God unites all his qualities in a single splendor. In him, we see the perfect union of both justice and mercy.

“The ideal of human justice is that it be impartial. God’s justice is far from impartial. It is entirely on our side. God wants the salvation of all people. He so loved the world that he sent his only son—so completely is God with us. Even the careful weighing of reward for effort, which is so much a part of human justice, is not a calculus that God engages in.”

The archbishop asked the members of the legal profession to acknowledge “that understanding and application [of the law] is not enough.

“To practice their art, they must be connected to the One who is perfect justice, mercy and love. Because our angels in heaven always gaze upon his face, they must help us in all ways possible. Stay connected to God and his Church. You will have everything you need.”

The call for a deeper connection to faith and civility in the legal profession was also shared by former Indiana Supreme Court chief justice Brent Dickson, who gave the keynote speech for the St. Thomas More Society Dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Union Station.

Dickson contrasted how lawyers are often depicted in popular media and culture as “disrespectful, dishonest, aggressive and greedy,” while the writings of St. Paul call for people to show humility, compassion, gentleness and patience toward others.

“Because public respect and confidence in the legal profession is being jeopardized by unfair portrayals of lawyers as uncivil—and unfortunately sometimes by the thoughtless acts of other lawyers—it’s all the more important that we lawyers live our professional and our personal lives demonstrating for society that for lawyers civility is a profoundly important, pervasive value.”

Now an associate judge with the state’s Supreme Court, Dickson encouraged the audience to let “our actions give the public a real-life experience to replace the negative portrayals about lawyers and judges.

“Waging civility is both our opportunity and our responsibility as lawyers and human beings to enhance the public confidence in our calling and in the American justice system.” †

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