Pope Francis’ sermon for Mass of the Last Supper at Rome’s juvenile prison

Pope Francis’ sermon for Mass of the Last Supper at Rome’s juvenile prison “Casal del Marmo”:

“This is moving, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Peter understands nothing. He refuses but Jesus explains to him. Jesus, God did this, and He Himself explains it to the disciples.. ‘Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do’.

It is the example set by Our Lord, it’s important for Him to wash their feet, because among us the one who is highest up must be at the service of others. This is a symbol, it is a sign – washing your feet means I am at your service. And we are too, among each other, but we don’t have to wash each other’s feet each day. So what does this mean? That we have to help each other…sometimes I would get angry with one someone, but we must let it go and if they ask a favor of do it!

Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty, as a priest and bishop I must be at your service. But it is a duty that comes from my heart and a duty I love. I love doing it because this is what the Lord has taught me. But you too must help us and help each other, always. And thus in helping each other we will do good for each other.

Now we will perform the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet and we must each one of us think, Am I really willing to help others? Just think of that. Think that this sign is Christ’s caress, because Jesus came just for this, to serve us, to help us”.

Combox moderation is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Francis, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Phil_NL says:

    oremus pro pontifice

  2. Paddy says:

    I once read that according to tradition only men were allowed to have their feet washed on Holy Thursday….has Pope Francis given this tradition up and are all parished now allowed to follow this practice?

  3. Rellis says:

    I don’t think anyone disputes what he says here is true.

    Most of us, I dare say, are more concerned about the fact that the supreme legislator just violated his own law. In so doing, he is making faithful Catholics (including priests) who have been struggling to uphold the rubrics here look foolish. This is a good example of scandal doing its work.

    Ed Peters has the best take on this so far:


  4. GordonB says:

    My hypothetical response to Pope Francis: “But doesn’t serving us mean giving the faithful the liturgy that your Bride has put forth?”

  5. Anabela says:

    All we can do in this case is remain with the Lord in His Gethsemane. Sometimes I think Pope Emeritus Benedict is also in Gethsemane at this time, suffering physically and perhaps more interiorly in his prayer for the Church. It seems the Church is now entering into its Calvary and like Mary, St. John and the Faithful we just need to remain in interior prayer and suffer with Christ in reparation for all our sins and for the sins of our Church.

  6. Katylamb says:

    That’s a beautiful message. I hope the young people take it to heart and it changes their lives.

  7. StJude says:

    What a beautiful thing our Pope did.
    Imagine the impact on those young peoples lives.

  8. Faith says:

    Yes, I get it. We must serve each other. We must help each other. No Christian should put himself above others. God blesses those who honor Him by serving others.

  9. Father Michael says:

    I am deeply concerned that Pope Francis’ actions will be seen as “undoing” all the good Papa Benedetto brought back to the Liturgy. By washing the feet of women, he clearly violated the norms that we priests have so desperately tried to maintain, as we should. Now, with his example, where does that leave us who have tried our best to explain and do the red?

  10. BLB Oregon says:

    Who was allowed to wash the feet of Jesus? A woman who bathed his feet with her tears because of her contrition over her sins. There was mumbling over it, but Our Lord allowed it because it was the means by which her faith and his mercy met to heal her. (He also had a few words for that mumbler, as we will remember.) So when we wash each other’s feet, and we do it with contrition for our sins and gratitude for all the gracious care that we cannot repay or that we have repaid with sin, that is how Our Lord allows us to wash his feet. If we do that, our sins will be forgiven.

    I like the idea of moving the foot washing to the Chrism Mass. At Mass tonight, our homilist reminded us that if Jesus was washing everyone’s feet, that meant that no one who had set up the feast had thought to provide Our Lord this normal part of hospitality. He said, “They were probably arguing over who was the most important.” This thought of his would fit very well into having the foot washing at the Chrism Mass, and it would not engender any jealousy between male and female members of the laity, as is in some cases a near occasion of sin, it would seem.

  11. jameeka says:

    I think I understand the symbolism of washing the apostles’ feet, because Jesus explained it.
    I do not understand the kissing of feet.
    As a lowly laywoman, the only feet I have kissed are my children’s when they were babies.
    A father might kiss his child’s feet, a lover might kiss the foot of his beloved, a servant ? would they kiss their master’s feet?
    I am kind of confused.

  12. Anchorite says:

    From the start you had showed us that for priests the true humility, the true service to us Catholics, the true change comes in utmost perfection in celebrating the Mass. You said: “Save the Liturgy, Save the World!” You had been so specific on who and how and when the blue vestments can/should be used.
    The content of Francis’s message is pretty clear – you will find hardly anyone missing his message. In fact, it is as plain and clear as a platitude can be, bordering on being a thought-terminating cliché: “Help one another … This is what I do. And I do it with my heart.”
    What you might be ignoring are the elephants in the room. Not one, but several – too many for such a small space on that Holy Thursday:
    – the man was elected to papacy, yet he is obviously uncomfortable to even call himself a Pope, let alone live in where a pope should live, dress like one, and behave like one (that bow to Mugabe was as bizarre as Obama’s profound bow to the Saudi king or Japanese emperor).
    – breaking Church’s rules in front of the world (that frowns on them) and the believers (that can’t help but break them due to a devastatingly thorough self-annihilation of Catholic identity).
    – washing the feet of girls and Muslims.
    Now, I understand the rationale of coming to prison. I even understand popes’ rationale behind kissing Quran, praying in mosques and synagogues, and calling for “dialogue,” but what strikes me is how WRONG (on so many levels) it is to co-opt a jailed young Muslim girl into the “message!”

  13. As orthodox Christians enter into the 3rd week of Lent and Roman Catholic brethren are celebrating the Paschal Triduum I wish to offer this prayer of St. Ephraim of Syria:
    O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit sloth, despondency. ambition, and vain talk.
    But give rather to thy servant the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.
    Yeah O Lord, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother, for Thou art Holy unto ages of ages. Amen.
    Peace be unto all!

  14. Bressani56 says:

    It seems to me that Pope Pius X, who was a man totally and completely dedicated to poverty (read his biography!!!) also made sure to honor God in the Liturgy. I really feel that Pius X understood Matthew 26:7-13. He understood that God must always come first.

  15. Katylamb says:

    Jameeka, the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them on her hair also kissed them many times, according to Luke. She was serving Jesus. Jesus said the owner of the house hadn’t washed or annointed his feet, but she did. She was behaving like a humble servant to her master.
    The message I get from the pope isn’t that we should go around kissing each others feet, obviously. The message is (as he said) that we should humbly serve one another. The foot washing and kissing is symbolic.

  16. Katylamb says:

    As far as the unspoken message of his actions to priests and others, I’m thinking it could be this: I am the pope and therefore I have the power to dispense myself from a rule for what I consider a good reason. When you get to be pope you can do the same.
    I think that the priests who will take advantage of the fact that the pope broke a rule have probably been doing that themselves all along anyway. The faithful priests won’t take it as a green light to go ahead and do it too- unless the pope changes the rule for everyone.
    I am defending the pope- yup. I’m a papist. I’ve have seen elsewhere that word used as an insult to Catholics who love the pope by other Catholics, which I found shocking. It used to be that Protestants used that word to insult Catholics. I’ve read by some of the same people that God isn’t really in charge of the Church and just sort of hangs around in an advisory capacity. I don’t believe that. Just as Jesus chose Peter, with his faults, God still choses the others too. If they have been sinful or even very sinful people, so what? What did they teach that was wrong? Isn’t the Church still together after all these years? I am so happy that I can read all the teachings of this wonderful Holy Father- just like I could with dear Benedict. His words above are beautiful and true. They inspire me to try to be a better person and to try to please Jesus. I love Pope Francis.

  17. Pingback: Holy Week (Batman!) | The Very Hungry

  18. Ralph says:

    I am very disappointed. I think we will look back on this moment when Pope Francis washed the feet of a woman as a critical turning point in the wrong direction.
    I am trying to be positive and a good Catholic and be obedient to the Pope, but this is hard.

  19. Kathleen10 says:

    Jameeka, I’m with you, and with pretty much everyone else on this. I’m confused, and worried.
    Who would elect someone to the See of Peter without investigating and knowing this type of information. Are Cardinals not able to do research while in conclave? Are they not able to pray, discern, but also “vet”? Do they not have staff that can assist with acquiring important information about a Cardinal’s past practices, habits, style, patterns of conducting oneself? Do they not know each other? Does no one talk?
    So this was what the Cardinals decided would be a good idea. Not intended to make a vulgar comparison, but, American Democrats decided Barack Obama would be a good president for the US, and here he is. Many drank the Kool-aid, and agreed. Hope and change. He wasn’t properly vetted by the American public, who might have cared about the fact that he was THE most extreme pro-abortionist senator of four months, ever. But the media talked about his puppy and his daughters, instead of the fact that he voted to deny human care to babies aborted who lived. No care. Leave them on the table or throw them out. So Barack Obama’s methodology was well hidden from the public. Or, the public didn’t care, still thought electing him was a good idea. Even scarier.
    But as scary as President Obama is, I find the fact that the people elected him even more scary. And I find a comparison to Pope Francis. He didn’t elect himself. He was chosen.
    I am fairly well stunned.

  20. Angie Mcs says:

    Forgive me for bringing up this subject, as i do wish Pope Francis health and a long life. I also admire him, pray for him and understand that he has to do what is in his heart. But none of us, even popes, know when our time will come. He is 76. One day we will need another Pope.

    What will happen if and when the next pope moves back into the Papal Apartments, wears the traditional vestments, conducts masses as his predecessors have? Will he be considered unhumble, arrogant? Will all his goodness be put aside by so many liberals because he chooses to wear red shoes ( gasp). Will the Church be considered uncompassionate? Someone on this blog said something similar, only using Pope Emeritus Benedict as an example: if France is humble, what does that infer about Benedict etc.? Popes are part of a long chain of men. They are of course individuals and have the right to express themselves but they are not islands unto themselves.

    @ rellis, I don’t think anyone who has tried to faithfully follow the rubrics, priests or laity, can ever look foolish, not to Him. He knows.

  21. Quanah says:

    Throughout the Church’s history Her words, gestures, and rituals have changed. There are also cases in which words, gestures, and rituals remain unchanged, but their meaning changes or takes on a different nuance. My hunch is that we are beginning to see that here with the ritual of the washing of the feet. However, an authentic change in the nuance of its meaning, not an artificial one imposed by liberal secular agendas. In the grand scheme of things washing the feet of a woman during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is minor.

    When thinking about what the Holy Father did, we should also remember much more important changes from the history of our Church, such as the use of consubstantial in the Nicene Creed. Many bishops, priests, and theologians at that time had a problem with Nicaea, not because they agreed with Arius, but because “consubstantial” was a word used by sabellians. People like St. Athanasius had the ingenuity to see how the word could be used to properly understand the relationship between the Father and the Son. He then had to work for decades to get other orthodox Christians on board. Incidentally, St. Gregory the Theologian was unsuccessful to get orthodox bishops, priests, and theologians to confess that the Holy Spirit was also consubstantial with the Father. Not even St. Basil the Great would say it in his defense of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Yet today we take calling the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit consubstantial for granted.

  22. ocalatrad says:

    I don’t think “help each other” is the kind of firm truth for which martyrs give their lives. I just sense a total lack of comprehension on the part of our Holy Father of things so basic to any Catholic. It really saddens me. I’m especially grieved about these priests who feel like they’re having the rug pulled out from under them.

  23. Lepidus says:

    Ignoring the washing of the feet of the women and Mohammedans, I would like to make another observation. As our parish made Holy Thursday all about the free-for-all foot washing, readings in “continuous format” and choir concerts (not to mention the reservation of the Precious Blood) the attendance numbers have dropped significantly (as in less people there than at your standard 7:30AM Sunday Mass). I don’t think the Holy Father helped the situation this year. Having what amounts to a private Mass during the High Holy Days, suggests that maybe this one isn’t so important.

  24. Lucas Whittaker says:

    Papa Francis’ question for us, “Am I really willing to help others?”, seems to me to be the central question that we should ask ourselves each day in the interest of opening our heart in the most receptive way to Jesus. Love of God is a mystery, but a sign of that love becomes visible in our willingness to become available to our neighbor. I imagine that those young men and women at that prison had their own hearts opened somewhat further by the kindness shown to them by Pope Francis.

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    Angie Mcs,

    We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it. God has it under control anyway, I think.

    I’m not a huge George Weigel fan, but I think he’s nailed it this time. He says that we are well advanced in a massive paradigm change, one that doesn’t have anything to do with progressive or conservative church. A quote:

    …As the distinctive “form” of patristic Catholicism succeeded primitive Christianity, and the distinctive “form” of medieval Christianity succeeded patristic Christianity, to be succeeded in turn by the distinctive “form” of Counter-Reformation Catholicism after the fracture of western Christendom, so, now the distinctive “form” of Counter-Reformation Christianity is being succeeded by the distinctive “form” of Evangelical Catholicism. This movement is both internally driven (the Church seeking to be a more perfect witness to her divine Spouse) and a response to the ambient culture in which the Gospel must be preached (a culture now increasingly hostile to the faith). “

    The Church has a repeating pattern of growth and regression and anyone who’s studied Church history can readily see it. A period of regression is always followed by a crisis, then a flurry of activity and a new way of understanding the Gospel, a whole bunch of saints, new forms of consecrated religious life, and then a long solid period of growth. This development is right on schedule. These things happen every several hundred years, and seem to be compacting slightly as history proceeds from the Resurrection til now. It’s been just about 400 years since the last huge paradigm change, which was the Counter-Reformation. We are lucky to see this, no matter how confusing and painful it might seem now.

  26. EmmettB says:

    And standing behind him, beside his feet, she began to wash his feet with tears, and she wiped them with the hair of her head, and she kissed his feet, and she anointed them with ointment. (Luke 7:38 CPDV)

    This discussion is Sophistry. In his ministry before the Last Supper a woman washed the feet of Jesus. If our tradition is so fragile we can not follow Jesus’ teaching [?!?] there is something wrong that needs to be reexamined in the light of Christ away from Libralism and Traditionalism. [This is confused.]

  27. Katylamb says:

    “And we are too, among each other, but we don’t have to wash each other’s feet each day. So what does this mean? That we have to help each other…”

    I’ve been pondering this and how to put it into practice more. It’s not as easy as it sounds. What does it actually mean? Serve each other…how? I understand about feeding the hungry, food bank, that kind of thing, money for this or that, rosaries for prisoners, and so forth, but he says that if someone who has offended you asks a favor of you, to do it.
    I have tended over the years not to try to meet new people, to just stick to the people I know. I don’t know anything about some of our new neighbors, for example, except that one of them is not careful of her dog and it is always running loose. She irritates me. Should I be doing something other than whine to my husband about her? This sermon of his has made me think- wonder if I’m doing all I should. Despite my anxiety over his actions, I like his words.

  28. Katylamb says:

    May I clarify this? By saying Pope Francis has made me think, I am NOT in any way saying that Pope Benedict didn’t make me think. Far from it. Pope Benedict made me think as well and I also liked his words.

Comments are closed.