Thursday, April 3, 2014


The Mandatum for Holy Thursday, which refers to the "washing of the feet" during the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper is an optional ritual. The priest can decide to have it or not.

Every year, certain liturgical types get all bent out of shape if their version of the Mandatum and their understanding of the rubrics isn't followed explicitly.

As most of you know, I can see both sides of every issue.

Holy Thursday is the celebration of two sacraments that require, let me repeat, require each other. The first Sacrament Jesus' instituted on Holy Thursday is that of Holy Orders, the priesthood. Because through this Sacrament which Christ institutes, priests from that day forward will do what Jesus requires them to do when He institutes the second sacrament of Holy Thursday, the Most Holy Eucharist.

While Jesus certainly wants the Christian priesthood He institutes to be in continuity with the Old Testament version, He does not want the Sacrament of Holy Orders to be only about worship and ritual purity. He wants His new order of priesthood to be of service to the needy, the disenfranchised, those who live on the margins of society, what Pope Francis calls the periphery.

So as High Priest and example to all in Holy Orders, Jesus shows not only the early ritual of the Holy Eucharist but also the aspect of service symbolized by Him washing the feet of the apostles. They are to do the same for those they will shepherd.

The optional ritual of washing feet on Holy Thursday can be approached in two ways.

First it could be celebrated in a literal way as Jesus does at the Last Supper with the bishop/priest washing the feet of 12 other priests. In local parishes, where it is impossible to find 12 priests or transitional deacons, altar boys have substituted. In recent times twelve lay men who have no intention of becoming priests are chosen.

This is perfectly legitimate and ties in well with the literal theme of the Liturgy and the reenactment of what Jesus actually did at the Last Supper for His twelve Apostles.

Or the other aspect of the Washing of the Feet by Jesus could be celebrated, that all followers of Christ by virtue of the universal priesthood of the laity are called to go and wash feet as a symbol of their service to the needy, whether the need be spiritual or material.

In this case, the priest would wash the feet of men and women, boys and girls as a sign of the Church washing the feet of all, no matter their religion or gender. This is what Pope Francis did last year and the power of his symbol in washing the feet of two Muslim women in addition to the others. It was a sign of what Pope Francis understand his new ministry as the Bishop of Rome to be, to be a servant to those in need. All bishops, priests and deacons are suppose to do that! The laity are too!

Many places have the bishop or priest washing the feet of men and women, usually Catholic men and women. Fewer now wash the feet of altar boys. Even fewer wash only the feet of all priests, transitional deacons or seminarians.

It can be diverse in the manner in which it is ritualized. It is optional. But no matter how it is done, the first priority is to remind those in Holy Orders that worship and service go hand-in-hand. The celebration of the Sacraments and the Word of God is to be coupled with service to those in need.

The other priority is to show all the baptized that faith and good works go hand-in-hand. Catholicism must go to the periphery and serve the needs of all.The Catholic identity of both clergy and laity is to be brought to the public square and not locked up  behind the doors of the Church and kept in the Holy of Holies of the sanctuary!


Anonymous said...

Then the Pope should use his authority to change the rubric. I believe that the majority of traditionally minded Catholics would have no problem with the pope washing the feet of women if he had acted with prudence and formally changed the practice by using his lawful authority to do so. To just violate it is the height of clericalism and arrogance.

Francis may be trying to set an example, but what kind of example does he set when he imposes his own personal views on EVERYTHING he does regardless of established Church practice. The missal which is the result of Vatican II. What is a priest to do? If a priest feels it's better to teach about the Real Presence and decides to forbid the receiving of communion standing and in the hand he would be justified. The message the pope sent is that it apparently doesn't matter that the Church permits options, if a priest doesn't agree with it then he can change it. This of course is in violation of Vatican II. The pope was wrong to impose his personal will. And the fact that he had full knowledge that he would cause confusion and scandal and could care less is horrifying. His motto should be "confusione et scandalum".

Rood Screen said...

"I can see both sides of every issue." Certainly true, and this should be the subtitle on your blog header!

Anonymous said...

I'm with the first comment on this one. He could at least alter the law first, then his actions would be legitimate if nothing else.

Veritas said...

Of course one could just read the rubric, which in Latin is explicit that it be men (this has been discussed every year for the last 7 years that I can atest to on Father Z's website).

Sounds like we're being put on notice: expect change at St Joseph on Holy Thursday.

Gene said...

Fr. did not publish my comment. I'll try again: I found the washing of the Muslim women's feet to be deliberately provocative. Such nonsense is unnecessary and only causes more division.

Православный физик said...

Are we not servants of the Liturgy and not its masters? It would have been no problem if either

a. The foot washing was done BEFORE (or after) Mass, wash any feet you want in this case.

b. The rubric have been altered as to include women

There is zero justification for a liturgical abuses...(physical impediments are not liturgical abuses)...Anon at 7:37 is dead on.

John Nolan said...

Actually, washing and kissing the feet of Moslem women (were they married by the way?) would be more offensive to Moslems than Christians - I would suggest that Pope Francis watch his back.

The footwashing should not be part of the Mass and wasn't until Bugnini put it there. It is an extra-liturgical ceremony performed by (among others) monarchs; Queen Mary Tudor washed the feet of poor women. In convents the Mother Superior washes the feet of the sisters. Who cares if Bugnini's so-called rubrics are ignored?

Rood Screen said...

"The footwashing should not be part of the Mass..." Given its recent insertion, it seems to me that the "liturgical traditionalists" could give the Holy Father some leeway here, especially given the circumstances.

I, for one, think the significance of the sacred footwashing could be explained more thoroughly by the Vatican, with necessary clarifications. Until then, lets just calm down.

Anonymous said...

Overturning the money changes' tables was also "deliberately provocative.". Seems you have a problem with holy men provoking you.... But, that is just what you need!

Gene said...

Christ overturned the money changers' tables because they were committing abuses…get it…abuses…taking liberties. Now, go crawl back under your rock.

Anonymous said...

Gene - There is no doubt that the money changers were committing abuses. That's not the question.

There are times when deliberate provocation is called for. You yourself are the prime practitioner of it on this blog.

You can't complain about deliberate provocation and then turn around and do it repeatedly yourself.

Gene said...

I do not see my comments on the blog as particularly provocative. They reflect a conservative, traditional Catholic/Christian identity. Perhaps my delivery is provocative, which is fine.

Gene said...

RE: Provocative comments. Ignotus' comments over the years have been, by far, the most provocative on the blog. No one else even comes close.