Thursday, March 29, 2018

I WASH SIX--THANK YOU BISHOP LESSARD!

When I was master of ceremonies at our Cathedral from 1985 to 1991, the late Bishop Raymond Lessard only wanted to wash six feet of either men or women. Of course, it is quite common for bishops around the world to wash the feet of 12 men and women.

So I asked Bishop Lessard, why just six?

He said, using 12 is symbolic of the 12 Apostles, the first to receive the fullness of Holy Orders, the first priests and bishops of the Church. Jesus, the High Priest, teaches them that their ministry is not just cultic but also practical--they are not to fear "ritual impurity" as the Jewish priests did. Catholic bishops, priests and deacons are to get their hands dirty ministering to the sick, helping the poor and offering the Word and Sacraments of the Church to those in need of God's salvation. They are to worship God in spirit and truth.

But washing six feet of men or women is a sign that all God's people who in one degree or another share in the baptismal priesthood of the faithful, are not to be "just Sunday" or cultic Catholics but should also get their hands dirty in the world doing the work of Christ especially in their Christian homes, the Church in miniature, and in the public square.

That is why I wash the feet of only six people of either gender as s sign that all of us must imitate Christ in assisting the poor, sick, and needy as well as celebrate Mass each Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, go the Confession regularly, get married in the Church, discern a vocation to the ordained life or religious life, get anointed when sick or dying and live their sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. It's quite simple when you think about it.


14 comments:

TJM said...

I see you don't follow the viri probati tradition. Sad

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

But then, why six, why not five, or seven or three, or even just one?

Sounds pretty arbitrary to me.

Why not retain the symbolism of the 12 apostles, since that was the number chosen by Jesus' as first ambassadors?

Or is it that we have to get away from symbolizing the 12 as men who were the first priests?

Okay. Whatever.

God bless.
bee

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Bee, I could continue to whittle it down until there are no feet to wash, which would suit me just fine! :)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

TJM, publicly showing contempt for deacons, priests and bishops is also against canon law and if I am wrong on that, detraction of any kind goes against the Commandment "Thou shalt not bear false witness." Look that Commandment up in the CCC and you'll see how much it actually applies to. And I believe that rubric was changed by Pope Francis and issued by Cardinal Sarah about three years ago.

Bean said...

Fr. McDonald whines, "TJM, publicly showing contempt for deacons, priests and bishops is also against canon law and if I am wrong on that, detraction of any kind goes against the Commandment "Thou shalt not bear false witness."

Gee, when the shoe is on the other foot, Good Father, you sure get touchy...

TJM said...

Father McDonald,

I think your statement is out of line. Where is the contempt? I think it is sad that the time honored practice using viri probati was abandoned. How did we get Communion in the Hand? The same way we got a change in the use of viri probati, rank disobedience which was then enshrined into practice because the Church caved.

Fr Martin Fox said...

TJM, Bee:

The rubrics in the 1970 Mass do not specify a number. Twelve obviously has significance and is traditional, but to be blunt, the current ritual has very little to do with tradition, so why cavil at the number at this point?

What is sad is that this whole thing has become a point of contention, and has been for some time. As everyone knows, for years there was blatant disobedience on this point, and those who tried to be obedient were mocked and shamed for their obedience. Curiously, the very voices who now bitterly reproach those who criticize the pope are the same who ridiculed those who thought disobeying this rubric was a bad thing. I was sorry the pope elected to change the rubric, but better that than disregard it.

When I first became pastor, I resolved I would obey the rubric. I came to a particular parish where I pondered what sort of reaction I would get if I broke with the prior priest's practice of y'all come. At that moment, I planned out what I would say if I had an outcry that needed to be dealt with:

This ritual is not a mandatory part of the Holy Thursday Mass, and it's meaning is already somewhat confused, inasmuch as the priesthood connection is attenuated. If this ritual becomes a point of conflict, then it is better to omit it. I am perfectly willing to wash any person's feet at any time. We can arrange for a public ceremony in which I wash anyone's feet who wants it. But if my carrying out this ritual as the rubrics specify is a problem, we will omit it.

That never became necessary, as there was no outcry (although I am sure there was murmuring. There is always murmuring.)

Fast forward to my current parish. My predecessor, for similar reasons, omitted it long before I arrived. I have not revived it. And after Pope Francis's decision -- entirely within his authority -- I decided I had even less reason to revive it.

Even at it's best, the ritual can be a distraction from the more important emphases of this solemn Mass. Perhaps that is why it was so long omitted until 1955?

TJM said...

Father Fox,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I agree with you that it's probably better to omit it altogether. I guess we can thank Bugnini, once again, for creating problems.

Happy Easter

Bean said...

When doing what Jesus did at the one of the Most Solemn moments of his time on earth gets called a "distraction," then Houston, we have a really big problem.

Anonymous said...

TJM:
"How did we get communion in the hand?" See THE ORTHODOX CHURCH, 455 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS---has a good write-up on varying practices for distributing communion over the centuries---more based on practical considerations (like time for distributing communion) than doctrinal differences.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Bean:

A priest offering Mass pausing to hear a confession (not allowed, by the way), would likewise be a distraction. That doesn't make either offering Mass or hearing confessions a bad thing. But maybe trying to put them together is?

The reason I said it "can be a distraction" is because it is extremely rare that the foot-washing ritual is carried out in a way that conveys the meaning it had in the Gospel; and it doesn't help that this meaning has been so confused in recent decades.

The ritual is directly tied to Holy Orders. So maybe the ideal way to do it would be in the Cathedral, with the bishop washing the feet of his priests, or else seminarians.

Aside from that, I think it fails to convey what it should. Hence it is a distraction in my judgment.

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

Fr. Fox, thanks for the explanation. Most of the time we laity have no idea of the goings on behind the scenes. Busy with our own lives, we often first hear or see something has changed when we arrive at Mass, and we often have no idea the reasons behind it.

I recall hearing in a class on liturgy a long time ago at Loyola University here in Chicago that the directive, "Do this in remembrance of me." was interpreted by some in the early Church to refer to the washing of the feet, and there was contention about it for a while. I had no reason to doubt the truth of that, but today I cannot find anything on the internet talking about this. The priest professor remarked that we're lucky it was decided the Mandatum referred to the breaking of the bread and blessing of the wine, or we might have altars with troughs of running water we'd be stepping in on Sunday mornings... :-)


God bless.
Bee

TJM said...

Father Fox,

Thanks for your insightful and practical comments. A voice of sanity!!!

Happy Easter

Fr Martin Fox said...

I might add...

Omitting the ritual of washing feet from Holy Thursday Mass does not mean omitting what our Savior did; it continues to be recounted in the Gospel. Thus it can also be given attention -- even great attention -- in the homily.

I am surely not against imitating our Lord's actions. So if anyone ever wants to take up the issue, my response will be that it must certainly be more important to Jesus that we apply the lesson of the Gospel well beyond a ritual at one Mass, one time a year. In other words, if you are fired up about foot-washing, I'm not stopping anyone from washing anyone else's feet anytime, anywhere. Get to it!

And, of course, I think there are even more useful things we can do for one another than wash feet.