WDTPRS POLL: Holy Thursday Foot Washing Rite – what happened?

mandatum, foot waashing, Pope BenedictLet’s return for a moment to your experience of the Triduum and Holy Thurday’s Mass of the Last Supper.

The rite of washing of feet, or Mandatum, is an option in the Roman Rite.  I know of a few places where it is not done.  In fact, we discussed whether or not to do it where I am in New York City.  (We did it.)

Also, the Church’s liturgical law is crystal clear: only males can be chosen for this, and they should be men: viri selectiVir means “man” and cannot, cannot – period – mean a female.

NB: I am not trying to be speciesist.  The Roman Rite still limits this to human beings.  Furthermore, I think the race is still limited to two sexes.  Therefore I edited one of the answer options from “and only males and females were chosen” to “and males and females were chosen”.  Please know that I am trying to overcome my speciesist tendencies.

So, what happened where you went to Holy Thursday’s Mass, assuming, of course, that you went.  Otherwise, if you did not go, perhaps you know what happened by word of mouth or by reading the bulletin, etc.

Chose your answer and add a comment in the combox, below.

Holy Thursday Mass I attended ...

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  1. I wish the whole rite (which completely breaks up the rythym of the liturgy, and reduces the nave to orchestra seating for spectators) would be moved to the Chrism Mass, where the bishop would wash to feet of 12 of his priests.

  2. Legisperitus says:

    Extraordinary form, without Mandatum.

  3. rfox2 says:

    I’m sorry to report that we had some selectae feminae having their feet washed at our Holy Thursday liturgy. This is fairly common in our diocese (Ft. Wayne – South Bend, IN).

    I’ve always been a little confused about this practice of having some women participating in the Holy Thursday foot washing. Apparently our former bishop requested that the rector of the cathedral in South Bend choose some women for the ceremony. And, I’ve heard that the USCCB as a whole, perhaps in the 1980’s, got permission from Rome to have women participate. However, the GIRM is very clear as you’ve pointed out that it must be men, so I’m confused as to why the US bishops can get away with this without a reprimand from the CDF or the Congregation for Divine Worship. I was considering asking our rector about this, but apparently our new bishop is continuing the aberration because I saw 4 or 5 women up at the altar again this last Holy Thursday.

  4. Nora says:

    Our pastor washes the feet of the 12 oldest of the high school altar servers available for the mass (our Senior Service league). Because we only use male servers, the rite is nicely confined to males of the human persuasion. It is not uncommon to hear the boys comparing birth dates to determine in which year they will first be eligible.

  5. tmitchell says:

    Would it be a good idea to add an option to the effect of “the entire congregation was invited to participate?” I understand that this is technically included in the second option, but it seems like it is important to make that distinction.

    At the parish I attended, Father invited everyone to come up and wash each other’s feet. I may have glared at him uncharitably, to my eternal shame.

  6. Mike says:

    I couldn’t make Holy Thursday Mass, but my brother in MA. did: his 60-something Pastor had the congregation come up and have their hands washed. My brother stayed next to his wife, who was tending their baby and didn’t go up.

  7. tjtenor2 says:

    Our pastor washed the feet of twelve altar boys, which I thought was a nice touch (and hey, if it encourages them to pursue holy orders in a few years, that’s even better!).

  8. Lucas says:

    All men here.

    rfox2: I’m surprised that Bishop Rhoades would allow that. Seems out of character for him.

  9. inara says:

    Dr. Peters, I love that idea! I never quite understood how the men whose feet were to be washed should be chosen & it seemed to me they should be of some hierarchical significance, since Jesus washed the feet of his chosen successors…

  10. anna 6 says:

    The entire congregation was invited to come up and wash their hands in bowls of water with rose petals. The pastor and pastoral staff of religious sisters dried their hands, while the two other priests remained on the altar. It was explained that the practice was an interpretation of an ancient monastic tradition.
    Not kidding.

  11. diazt says:

    Both males and females were chosen. And then at foot washing number three, the priest sat down and the washee became the washer for the next in line, who became the washee for the next in line…

    All defended by our liturgical committee (I was silent because I hadn’t yet thought about the issue enough – come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to discuss anything without being ran out as sexist or ritualist) because the Mandatum is not a reenactment of the Gospel pericope and is a sign of our service to our fellow man.

    Fr. Z, is there any interpretations of the Mandatum as specifically connected to the ministerial priesthood, being as it’s always been celebrated on the day of the Chrism Mass (with priestly renewal of vows), the Institution of the Eucharist (priests are kind of important for this one), the rites specific discussion of using men, and it being solely the first priests/bishops who had their feet washed in the Gospel story? The connection may be dashed since it is any male allowed and not someone connected with the priesthood, but I’m curious if there’s not something of that here.

  12. PS says:

    Cardinal Wuerl has washed the feet of both men and women for as long as I can remember.

  13. Ben Yanke says:

    Bishop Morlino (Madison, WI) washed the feet of 12 men.

    All of them are either seriously discerning the priesthood or had just joined the seminary. Also, during the foot washing, we had the offertory proper, then we had an english choral version of Ubi caritas! Not that I’m excited about that or anything…

  14. Christine says:

    We did not do the foot washing on Holy Thursday. Our former pastor would wash the feet of both men and women and our current pastor has not done it at all since he has taken over the parish.

  15. biberin says:

    Our former pastor used to do the thing where the whole congregation rotates through washing each others’ feet. The current pastor started out a couple years ago with a sign-up sheet that called for 3 each, adult and child, male and female, and only the pastor washed their feet. This year the signup sheet didn’t specify, and we ended up with 10 women and girls, one adult man, and one little boy.

  16. amenamen says:

    Viri selecti. Feet. 12.

    @”The entire congregation was invited to come up and wash their hands in bowls of water with rose petals … Not kidding.”

    Biblical precedents:
    Peter wanted his hands and his head washed. Nope.
    Pilate washed his hands. Er, um.
    Rose petals? Um. Um. Was this idea introduced by the women religious or the priest?

  17. guildwyn says:

    At the USCCB site, specifically at this link,


    you will find these paragraphs:

    Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the “Teacher and Lord” who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality,2 the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more. In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service.
    While this variation may differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men (“viri selecti”), it may nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, “who came to serve and not to be served,” that all members of the Church must serve one another in love.

    This was written in 1987.

    It’s difficult, in my opinion, for lay persons to know what is and isn’t allowed, what is licit or illicit, or even what is optional and what is required. What resources would you recommend for understanding the liturgy?

  18. Theodore says:

    I went to a parish with a friend who was my sponsor for RCIA, St. Mark’s in Boise, Idaho. They also had liturgical dancers as part of the service.

    I asked him about both afterwards. He was a bit chagrined that both of them happened but said it’s the idea of the head priest.

  19. Yorkmum says:

    You missed an option in the poll Fr!
    Foot washing was done and people were invited to volunteer themselves without any reference to gender of the volunteers – the congregation was asked to limit the volunteers to 12, the number of seats placed out. Men and women volunteered.

  20. moon1234 says:

    Extraordinary form, without Mandatum as well. Fr. Actually explained that this part is optional and we would not be doing it.

  21. bueccd says:

    In our parish, the foot washing ceremony was shared by the presiding priest and our 2 deacons. They went out into the congregation and each washed two sets of people. Those whose feet were washed included both men and women. 1 group was a family that included the children, another group was a couple children representing the students of the parish church.

    I try not to get too worked about about these liturgical issues — not because I don’t think they’re important but more because I got to the point where I was too distracted. I could not attend ANY liturgy without seeing something done improperly. This past Thursday, curiosity got the better of me so I looked up the documentation when I got home. How hard can it be to find and follow the proper form?

  22. Margaret says:

    I’m happy to report that the Holy Thursday liturgy I attended was so crowded that I could not see who was getting their feet washed.

    It’s not my normal parish, so I don’t know what’s “normal” for there, but the pastor is a solid guy, Annapolis grad. I could only see women’s feet getting washed if he was pretty newly-installed there and still trying to clean out all the old, lingering “issues.”

  23. Joe Magarac says:

    This Friday’s paper here in Pittsburgh showed a picture of Bishop Zubik washing the feet of several women at Holy Thursday Mass in the Cathedral.

  24. Our parish has had a mixed 12 for the last 2 years. This is a huge improvement over when everyone got their feet washed by everyone else in the parish, with our (previous) pastor doing only one or two, and also having his feet washed by someone.

    I expect this to incite stone-throwing, but I’ve had my feet washed both years. But previous years I refused to participate. I was reticent both times, for various reasons. (Wrote about it on Domestic Vocation last year, revisited it this year.)

  25. Joan M says:

    Foot washing was done by the priest. The way it was effected was the priest along with some of the altar servers went to each of those to be washed. They each sat at the center aisle end of their pew. I think that it was six on either side of the aisle, but not consecutive rows – every second row, in the front half of the church.

    Since for quite some time women have been included in this, I make sure I sit in a pew about 4 rows from the back of the church, at the end of a pew – the end furthest away from the center aisle. This means that it is difficult for me to see who are the people having their feet washed, so that my interior peace is not disturbed. I really have no idea if any women were included, and do not want to know…..

  26. JaneC says:

    My husband was at the walk-through for the Holy Thursday Mass, and was asked to volunteer to have his feet washed. He did. He was then asked whether I would also be willing to participate, and rightly said that I would not. He texted me: “You’re far too pretty to be mistaken for viri selecti.”

    Some other woman’s feet were washed instead. It was not the idea of either of our priests, but the pastor is a kindly man who dislikes conflict, and so allows the parish liturgist to have his own way about everything.

  27. JohnMa says:

    St. Boniface EF in Pittsburgh- No washing of feet.

    As Joe mentioned above the picture in the newspaper had Bp. Zubik washing the feet of several women. I had written him about my territorial parish (St. Thomas More) washing the feet of women during the rite and was told in no uncertain terms that it was permitted.

  28. Lepidus says:

    I wish I could respond to your survey, but you don’t have a selection for going coo-coo. First of all, the readings were done in “continuous format” so everything is “tied together”. What this means is that two readers did the readings with one acting as the narrator and the other the “speaker”. The psalm was interspersed during breaks, including but not limited to, the one between the Old and New Testaments. When it transitioned into the gospel, the deacon stood up to read the quotes of the Lord, while the others continued with the “narrator” and “voice” roles.

    Now, 3/4 way through the gospel portion, Jesus washes the feet. So, we stop the reading at that point. The two priests and the deacon remove their outer vestment and proceed to three chairs set up in front of church. Whoever in the congregation wants to get their feet washed (men, women, children), now walk up to one of these stations. In addition to getting their feet washed by the priest/deacon, they also have the option of, washing somebody else’s feet (like a spouse or child) since we are all “called to serve”. Of course the modern music being sung has some line about “we must wash each other’s feet”. Once everybody who wants it is done, the priests / deacon put their vestments back on and the deacon reads whatever is remaining in the gospel. (I think this started with the “Do you realize what I just did for you” part).

    Now for your next survey, how about one regarding transfer of the Eucharist at the end of Mass. Our Sacramentary-Reading-Challenged pastor consecrates an extra jug or two of the Precious Blood which is then reserved for Good Friday (and the ironic thing being that they ran out on both days).

  29. GirlCanChant says:

    I am happy to say that at 2 of the 3 last parishes I have been at, only men were used for the mandatum. I never knew it was optional. At my college, we hardly had any men, and they had a hard enough time just getting 12 people willing to get their feet washed. Too bad I didn’t know it was an option back then. The third parish I mentioned had the priest washing the feet of the new altar servers (yep, servers – male and female).

  30. Peggy R says:

    I normally avoid our NO parish over the Triduum b/c of mass footwashing described in the bulletin ahead of time. I was asked by a fellow Adorer to participate in post-mass adoration. So, I bucked up and went to our parish. They have utterly misconstrued the meaning of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. [It is about the priesthood. I like Dr. Peters’ idea as well, moving it to the chrism!]

    So, there were “stations” for footwashing. You are to wash the foot of the person behind you. Disgusting. The upside is that barely half the congregation got up to have their foot washed. Mostly women and girls did. The church was fairly full, too. I was worried it would last all night on top of being inappropriate. It did not.

  31. Catholic South says:

    In our parish, the priest washes the feet of twelve men each year: all part of our Knights of Columbus council. He does this as a way of thanking them for all that they do for the parish throughout the year in works of service and charity. Works out nicely.

  32. PghCath says:

    At the OF Mass at my territorial parish, 12 men were chosen, and the pastor and parochial vicar washed their feet without theatrics or hijinks. Couldn’t have been better.

  33. Capt. Morgan says:

    Both male and female, selected before Mass by our Liturgical Committee leader from early bird Parishioners. Same as last year and the year before. Our Priests are Oratorians, but not of the traditional flavor such as Oxford or Canada. :(

  34. Peco says:

    I was surprised to see that there were as many places as there were that actually followed the Churches directive on this. But you have to realize that our parish and diocese seem to always find a way to be disobedient. It is the rare rubric/directive that hasn’t been abused. It has been YEARS (25+) since I have been to a Holy Thursday Mass where there have NOT been both men and women having their feet washed! Our parish originally was going to was EVERYONE’S feet, as they have done a few times in the past. For some reason they backed off this decision the week before Holy Thursday

  35. Agostino says:

    In our Parish we had a mixture, as we always have since I can remember. We had two children in the number this year though, which was new (one young lad, one young girl)

  36. lucy says:

    The catecumens were invited up to have their feet washed. More than 12. Mostly women. Other than that, Thurs evening was fairly well done.

    Friday services was another thing altogether. Changing the words of the Passion, etc.

    May God be pleased to send us a holy and orthodox bishop in the coming months. We wait with hopeful hearts.

  37. Cazienza says:

    EF at St. Agnes’ in Amsterdam. No Mandatum.

  38. scholastica says:

    Dr. Peter’s idea of moving this ritual to the Chrism mass is the best idea I’ve heard of. The symbolism would then be more closely related to what Jesus actually did.
    I am the “liturgist” at my rural parish and while we are changing brick by brick (making some happy and some unhappy). I’ve finally decided that without a resident pastor, some of these battles are not mine to fight, specifically those which the church has made allowances for such as altar girls and women (yep, we’ve got both), communion in the hand, emhc’s, female lectors, and yes, foot washing of women! I realize that the girm doesn’t allow for it, but the practice in the us has become so common and the since usccb supports it as does our local bishop, it’s not something I can change without pastoral authority. So, I was the one who “invited” parishioners (just 6) to have their feet washed and of course it was all women and children. I did ask some men, but they refused. Before doing this, I asked the priest who was to celebrate the mass what his preferences were (hoping for some priestly authority), but his response was that if Cardinal ______ could do it he didn’t see why he shouldn’t.
    I’m not sexist, in fact I am a female human being and very happy to be one never mind Freud. I do believe that we’re getting it all wrong with the roles of men and women and am now struggling to keep my boys as altar servers amongst the altar serving women and girls that are prejudiced against them and convinced they (the women) do a better job. Obviously, we are NO.
    Personally, I am very tired of the weak, “While it is praiseworthy to retain the use of ___________, it is permissible to have _____________.” It’s impossible to argue with this unless people truly are interested in following the spirit of the Liturgy rather than looking for loopholes to be “creative”.

  39. Philangelus says:

    No foot-washing.

    The priest read a different Gospel reading than the foot-washing, also. He read Jesus opening the scroll to Isaiah and saying “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Is that a valid alternate Gospel for Holy Thursday?

  40. ipadre says:

    Do the red, say the black!

    I washed feed – “Vir”

  41. wmeyer says:

    In my parish, the feet of the elect were washed by the priests. At dismissal, the elect then washed the feet of the candidates and of the RCIA team.

  42. Christine says:

    Reading about all of these Holy Thursday Masses make me sad. Are there ANY NO parishes in this country that do what they are supposed to do the way they are supposed to do it? I am holding on to my Easter joy, but hearing about things like this really make it hard.

  43. pookiesmom says:

    Beautiful EF Mass, our FSSP celebrant explained the Mandatum was usually set aside for Bishops/priests or Abbots/monks unless there was a pastoral reason–therefore it was not happening at our Holy Thursday Mass.

  44. Andy Milam says:

    This might be a little tough to stomach…I was at my parent’s parish and the pastor didn’t choose anyone. He asked for anyone who wanted their feet washed to come forward as a representative of the parish family.

    About 25 people came forward there was 1 man and about 11 children; the rest were women.

    I suffer the fact that I must go to my parent’s parish when I am home, so I take my 1962 missal along and pray from it while the goofiness insues. I have written him before and nothing changes, so it is either don’t go to Mass or go to Mass and worship interiorly. I choose the latter. Eyes closed, head down.

  45. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Christine, I didn’t go this year but our parish in central Ohio does men only foot washing, has only male altar servers, etc. Long lines for confessions, etc. There is very little silliness there. There is a little but you know who the culprits are and can avoid them as there are several priests.

  46. No foot washing at my parish for as long as I’ve been a member – 5 years. I think I remember reading somewhere that in the Eastern Churches the Mandatum is done at the Cathedral church, the bishop washing the feet of twelve priests/deacons/seminarians.

  47. Geoffrey says:

    I voted “included the footwashing rite, and males and females were chosen.” This was of course at the Ordinary Form. I think the poll-options should have distinguished this, as I am sure only men were selected in the Extraordinary Form. Well, I would hope. I personally know of one EF Mass that had a female altar server, so you never know…

    Oh, and where I attended, the footwashing was opened up to anyone who wanted to participate, with the general rule that if you washed the foot of someone, your foot had to be washed as well. And the clergy also took part.

  48. Stephen Matthew says:

    I attended Holy Thursday Mass at the Cathedral of my diocese, with the present bishop as celebrant, the rector and bishop emeritus as concelebrants along with a deacon, and the feet of 12 persons from the congregation were washed, and unless appearences were unusually deceptive, both men and women had their feet washed by the bishop.

  49. 3D says:

    In the pre-Bugnini rites (pre-1955), the mandatum (washing of the feet) was optional outside of Mass. Bugnini & Co. inserted it as an option within the Mass itself.

  50. AJ says:

    Only 12 men we’re used for the Mandatum I attended but my siblings did no have the same thing. They live in another state and as it went, after going home from the Mass they attended, they called me to ask if the NEW things they saw at their Mass was right. They attended the service at their Cathedral. According to them, the two principal celebrants – the Archbishop and one of his Auxiliary Bishop – went down and removed their vestments and washed the feet of men, women, children, and elderly on two separate spots in front of the altar.

    They also mentioned a lot of oddities that happened during the Mass but other than coming also from that State and being a former seminarian there, I was assigned to the Cathedral and knowing who the Rector and Liturgist is, I told them just to pray and attend the rest of the Triduum at another parish that I thought would have less abuses and innovations.

  51. @Christine
    Here’s something to cheer you up: The Holy Thursday Mass at my parish was OF but…was celebrated ad orientem, communion was received at the communion rail, and the Gloria, Sanctus, Mysterium Fidei, Agnus Dei, and Pater Noster were chanted in Latin! Is it any wonder, then, that only 12 chosen men had their feet washed? We’re also working on the EF. Deo Gratias–I feel so blessed!

  52. benedetta says:

    Have seen the co-ed version for certain privileged ladies and have seen all-male as well. Overall I would go with Mr. Peter’s liturgical wish. But, does anyone else, particularly females, strike this as very weird, to have a man with whom you do not live with /are married to, and a priest, no less, touch your bare foot? I am well aware of what Jesus did and what was done to his feet and to his head (before and after His crucifixion). But are we a bunch of like civil-war re-enactors primarily? If it is purely to re-enact then it says males. If it is about the liturgy and the prayer then it says males. If it’s about something else, there are many many other avenues and venues and occasions, it seems.

  53. Fire-breathing feminist that I am, this is one liturgy I hope never to have to participate in. Being a female saves me from that fate. I know for a fact, if I were having my feet washed by the Pope (and quite apart from being in awe of B16 and all girly-gigglish), I am frightfully ticklish on the soles of my feet. How would it look if I burst into giggles shrieks when the Vicar of Christ touches my feet? No. Let the men do it. It should be restricted to males simply because it’s too much fuss getting one’s feet out and exposed when you have to deal with panty hose and high heels. What? And then get back into your heels when it’s over? Are they crazy? No. Do the red. Make it a ‘guy’ thing.

  54. LaxMom25 says:

    Our pastor pre-selected 12 Altar Boys (we have no altar girls). Most were elementary-middle school age; I cannot recall any of our older servers present.

  55. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    Everyone was invited to come forward if they wished, there were roughly 10 “stations” for washing, with some manned by priests and deacons, others by laypeople (mostly female).

    It was a huge spectacle, took a large time to wash the majority of the 5-600 person congregation, and involved a herd of altar servers (no less than 12) shuttling buckets of dirty water out, and bringing in pitchers of fresh clean water.

  56. Brad says:

    Everyone in the pews, men and women, not limited to twelve, invited to come up and do it to each other.

  57. amenamen says:

    @ Benedetta: I am not female, but, yes, it strikes me as “very weird.”

    Why am I reminded of Imelda Marcos?

  58. APX says:

    We had 12 volunteers, mostly whom were women. Only one foot per person was washed, and despite having two priests, it was the deacons who did it. It was actually a really big disturbance. Very loud and it was more like we took a break in Mass for people to get up and walk around.

  59. cmcbocds says:

    There are two cathedrals in the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend. Bishop Rhoades celebrated Holy Thursday Mass in the OF at the Cathedral in Fort Wayne and included the Mandatum. The twelve were comprised of the seminarians of the diocese. No women.

    As an added bonus, half of the homily was on the need to receive Holy Communion worthily and included stress on the need for confession as part of one’s preparation.

    Rfox2: I am sad to read that your experiences in the western part of the diocese don’t reflect the positive changes we’ve seen here since Bishop Rhoades arrived.

  60. benedetta says:

    amenamen, Very funny. Happened to flip through the magazine “Real Simple” recently that featured a (pricey) storage ottoman which features all these pockets inside for storing (or I guess, hiding) the excess of your shoe collection.

    I mean, handshakes are lovely, hugs are great, in Italy and where we just wish we were, the double sided kiss, it’s all great, but, no, I am not interested in offering my (smelly) bare foot to my pastor for washing, even for the sake of liturgical correctness. Even if upon viewing my presence all would bow down and kiss my sandal and do as I say…

    Don’t do as I say. Just do the black…what Fr. Z says…

  61. Deacon and priest took turns washing each other’s feet then sat down. Rest of congregation invited to come wash feet with anyone they loved. Which led to a lot of married couples coming up together and eventually someone asking me did I want them to wash my feet (I’m a widow)? Since there were only about forty people there and the deacon seemed to want everyone to go up, I decided to take up my 5 year old son and washed his foot and he washed mine. Silly but better than someone else insisting they wash my feet.

  62. EXCHIEF says:

    Or how about the Cathedral Parish where the Rector (we currently have no Bishop and the Diocesan “Administrator” is a train wreck) washed the feet of a dozen CHILDREN of both sexes?

  63. benedetta says:

    Magistra Bona, I too am a fire-breathing feminist, just from the old days…The very old days…Not only do I not think that Roe helped the cause of feminism but it seems pretty obvious that it has interfered with it…Modern feminism has certainly made an idol of abortion hasn’t it.

    You see I’m not the one to dictate “The Liturgy”…say, do…just listen to the sources of the faith which can be trusted. No more “leading with the dissent” liturgies…

  64. Jayna says:

    Men, women, children; we had them all.

  65. ckdexterhaven says:

    In a suburb N. of Raleigh, both men and women had their feet washed. I was kind of surprised, b/c the priest is normally a pretty straight up guy. Thanks to him, we have the St. Michael hymnals, during early daily Mass in Lent, he said the Mass Ad Orientem. This priest had a pretty big job when he came to this parish, I suspect he’s a brick by brick guy. (crossing fingers) Maybe next year it’ll be men only.

  66. Good news and bad news.

    Bad news: there was a sign-up sheet in the sacristy for anyone who wanted to have his or her feet washed.

    Good news: no one signed up, so it was omitted.

    Bad news: next year Father is going to get 12 students from the elementary school, and the words “Last Supper pageant” were distinctly uttered.

  67. skull kid says:

    Get this: in my parish, the priest got 12 people – men, women, and children, to come up and wash each other’s feet.

  68. my kidz mom says:

    From the Diocese of Phx website: “In 1996, the U.S. bishops proposed a modification that would allow for the washing of women’s and children’s feet during the Holy Thursday service. This proposal received the necessary support of more than two-thirds of the U.S. bishops. Recognizing the support of the USCCB and in keeping with the tradition of the Diocese of Phoenix, Bishop Olmsted allows for the washing of women’s and children’s feet in the Diocese of Phoenix.”

  69. chloesmom says:

    In our parish, the pastor washed the feet of 12 boys and girls (mostly girls) who are preparing for Confirmation. No sign of viri, selecti or otherwise – just a bunch of rather ill-behaved teenagers who looked as if they didn’t have a blessed clue what was going on. Sigh … business as usual.

  70. Kent says:

    Men and women both at our Holy Thursday Mass. One of the things that annoys me most is our priest does not really wash feet. He walks along with a pitcher of water and pours it over the feet and moves one to the next foot while the altar servers supply towels. Takes all of five minutes. Can’t imagine Jesus doing it that way.

  71. Laura R. says:

    I answered “males and females” in the poll; these were all children who have recently made their first communions, ages presumably around 7.

  72. Steven says:

    Sacred Heart Cathedral had both…It was about half men and half women. Most were RCIA candidates who were soon to be received into the Church. From what our MC said (not regarding this, but the Masses in general) I gather that we are still trying to get back to “correct” (which was our goal this year…although there were some quirks). Some rather strange things have been done in the past that we are slowly eradicating.

  73. MaryW says:

    Very beautiful Mass in the OF followed by Benediction and Adoration – the only flaw being the washing of both male and female feet. Offered it up, did not want it to spoil my evening.

  74. I think both men and women had their feet washed at the parish where I attended Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This was 4-language (English, Spanish, Greek, and Latin) Mass with the Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei all completely in Latin (and sung beautifully) and, in his homily, the priest actually made a point of mentioning that Latin is still the official language of the Roman Rite, so I just counted my blessings that I hadn’t landed at a really nutty parish where everyone joined in the foot-washing festivities. When one hears of that silliness, the meaning of vir starts to seem insignificant by comparison (though I guess I should stress only by comparison).

  75. Mindyleigh says:

    We had a gorgeous Mass at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage. The Archbishop washed the feet of twelve men, including the five priests and one monk present. I experienced it as though I were there when Jesus Himself did it. It was amazing and an entirely different experience from my first Holy Thursday last year where women and men had their feet washed.

  76. 12 people, all men, washed by the officiating priest. The parish I was at last year had one guy and two women.

    I grew up in a different denomination, where everyone washed everyone else’s feet, so it took me until this Thursday, seeing it done properly, for me to figure out why it was supposed to be *men*. Now it seems like a complete no-brainer.

  77. dcs says:

    Given that Our Lord washed the feet of the Apostles, and St. Mary Magdalen washed Our Lord’s feet, wouldn’t it be most appropriate for the women of the parish to wash the priest’s feet rather than the other way around?

  78. ssoldie says:

    dcs: you missed it completely. Ah! yes, and such unity we have in the American catholic church today. Thank you I will take the 1962 Roman Missal, and also SSPX and FSSP.

  79. Totus Tuus says:

    Our bishop (Vasquez, of Austin) washed the feet of twelve men. We also had all male altar servers and beautiful, liturgically correct music, Deo Gratias!

  80. Norah says:

    St Mary Star of the Sea West Melbourne, Australia only men. Beautiful liturgy and music, totally in accord with the rubrics. The parish is under the care of priests from Opus Dei.

  81. GordonB says:

    Male and Female, the ratio was even 8 women to 4 men. At least its a better ration than our altar boy to altar girl ration which is more like 4-1 at most masses—

  82. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    OF in NJ. 6 men, 6 women. About 2 kids involved (from the Confirmation prep in the Religious Ed Program, who fully understood what was going on).
    As MC, I “get back” at the mixed group of “washees” by having only male servers for this Mass, every year. And let me tell you, walking in behind that group of boys, led by a seminarian, and in front of our 2 Deacons and celebrant, was positively sublime.

  83. scholastica says:


    But, does anyone else, particularly females, strike this as very weird, to have a man with whom you do not live with /are married to, and a priest, no less, touch your bare foot?

    Besides the gross liturgical distortion of the practices witnessed by most and related here, yes, I am with you. It seems completely inappropriate to have any man, but especially a priest who is consecrated to God in celibacy, to be at the foot of a woman who is not his wife, touching her in an intimate gesture. I find it very confusing and feel so sorry for the priests who are put in this awkward position.

  84. APX says:

    But, does anyone else, particularly females, strike this as very weird, to have a man with whom you do not live with /are married to, and a priest, no less, touch your bare foot?
    When you put it that way…yes. I just don’t like having my feet touched, period. I don ‘t really consider them to be all that intimate, though.

  85. kallman says:

    Sydney Australia. Mandatum during EF Mass after the sermon. I had my foot washed and kissed by the Superior General Father who was celebrant. 12 men. A very humbling and moving experience.

  86. Gregg the Obscure says:

    In past years, we had the loopy thing of everybody being called up to wash someone’s feet only to then get their own feet washed. Now that we have a more reverent pastor, there were twelve selecti, though not all of them viri. Baby steps for a parish that has long been a hotbed of goofiness. (I’m there for family reasons. Better to attend with my wife than go to the FSSP parish or even the reverent Latin OF at Holy Ghost without her.)

  87. Jon says:

    EF, Harrisburg, no Mandatum.

  88. Gail F says:

    I did not go this year but our parish always has three “washing stations” (chairs, bowls and pitchers) set up and begins with the priests washing the feet of Parish Council members, who then wash the feet of three more Parish Council members, etc., and when all the PC members are through anyone from the pews can come up and follow the same procedure. The priests (we usually have three) wait and when each line has only one person in it get behind them and wash the last person’s feet, then take the chair and the water away. When I’ve been there, it was always about half men and half women, and everyone was solemn and reverent. It was quite moving, in a way. However, from the very first time I went (when I did not know people were not supposed to do it that way) I was struck by how much more moving it was to see when the priests in their vestments were kneeling to wash the feet of the lay people than it was when the lay people washed each other’s feet. Not knowing anything about the actual rules, I was quite struck by that. Strangely, other than this custom the Thursday liturgy is the most “traditional” in our parish. The other ones have wild music, women with incense bowls, etc. This year I was spared the “priestess with the incense bowl” on Easter morning because there was no incense at all — not really an improvement. No Sequence or Collect either, although we had a big “reflection song” that was really a bravura performance by the choir making reflection impossible. I don’t see why 1) we can’t just have songs like that after the mass and 2) if the mass is “too long” anyone thinks it is okay to skip part of it so you can have more music.

  89. rob_p says:

    The bishop of Lansing, and the rector of the cathedral washed twelve persons’ feet, six each.

  90. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    In our parish the elderly priest didn’t perform the footwashing rite, but even if he had there would have been no question of washing women’s feet. To borrow an idea from Father’s posts elsewhere, tar and feathers don’t come off easily.

  91. Supertradmum says:

    The monks at Buckfast have shown how the NO can be done with great reverence and orthodoxy. Six laymen had their feet washed by the Abbot. . Although no mandatory, in this case, the action did add to the Holy Thursday liturgy

  92. irishgirl says:

    Didn’t have Holy Thursday Mass, so no ‘feet washing’.

  93. AnAmericanMother says:

    No footwashing at our parish. Used to be, not any more.

    I do not know for a fact, but suspect that the ladies of a certain age and inclination made such a stink over the “vir” requirement that the rector gave it up as a bad job rather than break the rules.

    One of the drawbacks of having a very large parish is that somebody, somewhere, is making trouble pretty much all the time and you can’t fix everything. I really do sympathize with our rector, you can’t keep 2,000 families happy no matter WHAT you do.

  94. AnAmericanMother says:

    OK, looks like somebody left a tag open.


  95. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Forgot to mention that I was really hoping for more mention of what the Holy Father said about foot-washing in his latest book.

  96. scarda says:

    At our parish on Holy Thursday not only did the women whose feet were being washed outnumber the men, not only did the Mass include Christmas music, but the holy water fonts had been emptied specifically for the Triduum. The priest emeritus will abide no orthodoxy.

    We count ourselves blessed that the usual ‘crucifix’ with the Risen Lord plastic action figure was suppressed for the procession of the Blessed Sacrament from the sanctuary.

  97. dcs says:


    but the holy water fonts had been emptied specifically for the Triduum

    That is normal, even traditional.

  98. salve95 says:

    At the church I went to, it was I think about 4 viri mulieresque voluntarios fuerunt. (Did I get that right?)

    I think it was outnumbered 3-1 women to men. At the church I went to last year it was 12 viri (selecti vel voluntari? Non nosco.)

    I’m going to have to point out that aside from the whole viri/mulieres issue, the selecti part really ought to be emphasized.

  99. Benjamin says:

    Triduum Sacrum completely in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (it was unspeakable, utterly moving, unforgettable & all the rest you could imagine), 12 viri selecti getting their feet washed properly.

  100. HyacinthClare says:

    On the pew-end at the front of our church (EF only, FSSP), the sign read “duodecem viri”. The twelve chosen gentlemen gathered there without further direction. I thought that was cool; but then, everything our church does is cool. Thanks to Fr. Shannon for reminding me this morning exactly what the sign said!

  101. bdchatfi says:

    I attended a local parish in Daegu South Korea where I am currently teaching English. The Rite was in the Ordinary Form. There were 5 men and 7 women who’s feet were washed by the priest. These were all adults and leaders in the parish community, no youths. I have only been to a Holy Thursday Mass one time before at a very liberal parish in Michigan in which EVERYBODY’S feet were washed. After that experience I did not want to attend another Holy Thursday service after I heard read about the rules for it here on WDTPRS. Thank you Fr Z for teaching the Catholic Faith. Your blog helped me to convert from a Methodist to join the True Church.

  102. JimP says:

    At my parish in CA (Diocese of Orange), the priests and deacons washed the feet of 12 selected men and women. It was a great improvement over a previous parish in which chairs were placed at the ends of several pews for anyone who wanted to join the queue. That really took a long time and disrupted the continuity of the liturgy – more like an intermission than part of the Mass.

  103. Patti Day says:

    At my parish, the priest washed the feet of six, three males, three females.
    Last year (my first time attending Holy Thursday Mass for a very long time) I went to another parish, where every person was invited and it seemed every person participated. I did so, but must admit that it was because I didn’t want to be a spoiler. It took a very long time, since the church was packed.

  104. cl00bie says:

    Food washing was done by both the pastor and the deacon. A “cross section of the parish” was selected to have their feet washed, young and old, male and female. And the deacon used a plastic cup in a plastic dish washing tub :(.

  105. Emilio III says:

    Our pastor washed the feet of two other priests and three deacons, obviously all men. So far so good. But then six altar servers brought additional pitchers and basins and lots of towels and the pastor asked the entire congregation to come forward to have their feet washed by the six clerics “as if you were coming up to Communion”. Some came up. This was followed by a request for a group hug or something like that. “Show more enthusiasm than at the Sign of Peace!” Fortunately my mother did not have a heart attack or (even worse) assault a clergyman, though if looks could kill…

  106. mcdawson says:

    In response to the USCCB post cited above, quite frankly, I find the USCCB reference to an “answer” from the Chairman of the Bishops committee published in a 1987 BCL Newsletter lacking. See http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/q&a/general/feet.shtml

    Of note is that prior to quoting this “answer” from the chairman, the USCCB acknowledges that the Holy See requires the feet of “viri selecti” be washed. But then the site claims that despite this directive, the chairman has addressed this issue and implies that his response is normative.

    However, the BCL newsletter was written in response to the general inquiry, “What is the significance of the Holy Thursday foot washing rite?” Thus, it was not written to directly address this issue (as the site claims) and what is more, this language cites no authority other than “custom[]” and “develop[ment]” upon which to base the propriety of washing women’s feet.

    It seems (surprise surprise) the USCCB is grasping for the authoritative straw, as it were, to justify its position, but it simply isn’t there. Moreover, the chairman’s “answer” was issued before the circular letter, Paschales Solemnitatis, was released (See http://www.anchornews.org/columns/liturgical_mcnamara/washing-womens-feet-on-holy.html).

    Ultimately, the USCCB’s reasoning is circular:

    -Washing women’s feet is a charitable extension of the law of love
    -the law of love is why we wash women’s feet
    -therefore washing women’s feet is ok.

    Not sure what weight this holds.

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