I was right on the verge of extending my time in Rome through Holy Week… right on the verge…. then I got on the airplane at the appointed time, which I properly guessed (the day after the “inaugural” Mass). I made the right choice, seems. There is no guessing what is going to happen next.
FRANCIS WILL SAY HOLY THURSDAY MASS IN A ROMAN PRISON
Vatican City, 21 March 2013 (VIS) – On Holy Thursday, 28 March, the Holy Father Francis will celebrate the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning and then, at 5:30pm in the afternoon, will go to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Casal del Marmo youth detention centre instead of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, where it had been traditionally held in past years. [This is great, but the Pope is Bishop of Rome – as he has been reminding us – and St. John Lateran is the Cathedral of Rome. I’m just sayin’… UPDATE… In the combox we learn that the Mass was scheduled for the Vatican Basilca. More below.]
The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is characterized by the announcement of the commandment of love and the gesture of washing the feet. [No, actually, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is not “characterized” by the washing of feet, because that rite is an option. The Holy Thursday Mass is not characterized by an option. It is characterized by the establishment by the Lord of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders and the beginning of His Passion. I say this even though I am firmly rooted in St. Augustine’s commentary on the Gospel of John, in which the great bishop speaks of the need for ministry that gets down into the dirt.] In his ministry as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio used to celebrate the Mass in a prison or hospital or hospice for the poor and marginalized. With this celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will continue his custom, which is characterized by its humble context. [His custom… but previous Bishops of Rome pretty firmly established a custom of being at St. John Lateran.]
The other Holy Week celebrations will be held according to tradition, as established in a notification by the Office of Liturgical Celebrations.
Pope Benedict XVI also visited the Casal del Marmo youth detention centre, on 18 March in 2007, to celebrate Mass in the Chapel of the Merciful Father.
This is a pretty dramatic move by the Holy Father.
Look. I understand what Francis is doing here. Fine. But in making such a dramatic change, I fear that he runs the risk of making these changes all about him, rather than some other message he wants to convey. The same goes for all the other changes he is making. The papacy isn’t just his own thing to do with what it pleaseth him to do. The changes can become distractions, especially the way the media will handle them.
We will also have to see if he issues a Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday, as did his predecessors.
In the meantime, we may soon see the appointment of a new Secretary of State, which will tell us a great deal about where Francis is going to aim the Church… and the Roman Curia. That move will make a bigger impression on me than celebrating Holy Thursday Mass in a prison. That will tell he if he means business …or business as usual.
Apparently the Mass of the Last Supper was to be at the Vatican Basilica. Perhaps this was because Francis had not formally taken possession of his Cathedral, St John Lateran. That throws a new dimension into his decision. Since he wasn’t going to be at the Lateran anyway, why not…