Foot washing on Holy Thursday. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

In the Roman Rite, the washing of feet on Holy Thursday is an option.  It may be left out without disturbing the integrity of the Holy Thursday Mass of the Last Supper (otherwise, it wouldn’t be a legitimate option).

Watch now as all sorts of people demand that bishops and priests violate the law because of what His Holiness Pope Francis did last year and plans to do this year.  Watch as all manner of clerics hide behind the Pope when they choose openly to break the law and violate their promise to uphold the Church’s laws.

The problem with that is, liturgical law is real law.  It must be obeyed.

The Church’s liturgical law is not ambiguous: only males can be chosen for this optional rite, and they should be men: viri selecti.  Vir means “man”.   Vir cannot, period, mean a female.  And despite what Facebook says, there are two sexes, not dozens.  Also, you really don’t get to choose which you are.  Vir is male.

Also, lest it go unsaid, I am not speciesist, but the Church still limits this foot-washing rite to human beings.

Next, the Pope, who is the Church’s Legislator, can do A, B or C as it pleaseth him to do.  If he wants to set aside the law, so be it.

The rest of us, however, are obligedto obey the law.  The ordained made promises at ordination to obey the Church’s laws.

So, we have a couple choices when it comes to the foot-washing rite (the “Mandatum” or “Command” – whence the word Maundy): don’t do the rite, or do the rite properly.

Two main excuses are offered in defense of the abuse of washing the feet of women.

The first excuse is that of “hospitality”.  “Hospitality” suggests women must be “included”.  Never mind that Mass isn’t that sort of “meal”.  In the USA some might obtusely cite a note – having no canonical authority – from the (then) NCCB’s Committee on Liturgy in 1987 which uses this “hospitality” argument.

The second excuse is that of “inclusive” language, to which some of a certain age still cling.  Keep in mind that quite a few clerics, of a certain age, haven’t really updated themselves by looking at the most recent edition of the Roman Missal, in English much less in Latin.  They are snug in their fading memories that the English words in the now long-obsolete ICEL Sacramentary, “men” and “man”, couldn’t possibly mean “males”!  That would be sexist!  Again, Latin “vir” means “male”.

To repeat, when the Pope decides to derogate for himself from the liturgical law,  that derogation doesn’t abolish the law for everyone else.  The law remains.

We priests – and bishops – must obey the liturgical law which we do not have the authority to break or change.

The Church is not lawless.  The Church is not merely a display case for people’s passing whims and changing fashions.

When and if the Holy Father wants the law to change for everyone, he will make sure that it is changed for everyone in the proper way and he will let everyone in the world know about it.  The Holy Father knows how to change laws and promulgate the changes.  Doing something in private on his own doesn’t change the law.

Until the Roman Pontiff changes the law, the law stands.

Men only, or no foot washing at all.  Those are the two legitimate options.

Fathers, if you are afraid of the women in your parish, just opt out of the foot washing rite entirely.  It is only an option.  Fathers, if you don’t want the headaches and complaints and threats and tears and anger and hate-mail and voice-mail and glares and accusations, just say “no” to the foot washing option.   Let the Mass be the Mass without the controversy.  You are not obliged to violate the law and your promises.

The moderation queue is on.  I’ll let quite a few stack up so that you are, initially at least, responding to the issue rather than to each other.  Patience.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. pfreddys says:

    I agree with you 100%, Father; nonetheless, the Pope’s action is problematic. [Sure it is. The Holy Father, God love him, has by these gestures created an opportunity for antinomians to use the person of the Vicar of Christ as their human shield. Still, we can use the occasion to remind everyone that we are bound to observe the laws as they are.]

  2. wised says:

    Our new pastor has incorporated foot washing this year in our Holy Thursday Mass. He was ordained several years ago and this is his first parish. It has not been included in our Holy Thursday ceremony since we have been members. In his explanation in our bulletin, he stated that the Pope could do what he wants but that we will be following liturgical law and washing the feet of young men. The purpose being to focus on the priesthood. He mentioned the confusion among the laity and handled any brewing controversy very well. We have a vocal feminist element which has intimidated previous pastors. Bless these newly minted priests. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

  3. Fr. John says:

    But Father, I don’t do the “optional” foot washing using the argument, similar to Dr. Peter’s, that it probably best belongs to the Chrism Mass where the Bishop would wash the feet of twelve of his priests. STILL, every year I receive complaints from some, albeit a small minority, who want it done in the parish.
    There doesn’t appear to be any win-win situation, regarding the Mandatum, for the parish priest. (nor for eliminating female servers, nor for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds on a regular basis, nor for the laity presenting a plastic
    Iined pyx during the distribution of Holy Communion (presumably to bring Jesus to the sick) and others. These things are now so deeply rooted they are nearly impossible to eliminate. And, any priest who tries……God help him!)

  4. At the Kensington CA Carmel, where I will celebrate Holy Thursday according to the traditional Dominican Rite for the nuns, there will be no Mandatum.

    Mother will wash the nuns’ feet at another time in their refectory. This seems an excellent solution even in religious houses of men.

  5. MGL says:

    I’m not even sure why anyone would lobby to be granted this “privilege”. Speaking as someone who had had his feet washed on two Holy Thursdays, I can tell you that it’s an excruciatingly humbling experience to sit facing a crowded cathedral, take off your shoes, and wait in line for your bishop or priest to wash your feet. It’s the furthest thing from an empowering experience; I couldn’t wait for it to be over so I could go back to hiding in the crowd.

    In previous years, our pastor had taken 12 men of his own selection for the foot-washing, but this year he called for volunteers from among all parish ministries. (My wife, a reluctant EMHC, received the same message as I did.) Since our pastor takes liturgical law very seriously, I expect this is a directive from our new bishop. Since things are already distressing enough in the Church, and we have no stomach for a liturgical abuse of this magnitude, we have opted (for the first time since becoming Catholic) to substitute a private Holy Thursday devotion for mass attendance.

  6. Liongules says:

    I’m on the pastoral council at my parish and at our meeting this past Sunday our pastor was grumbling about the bishop ordered that this year only the priest can wash feet, no deacons or anyone else allowed, and only the feet of babies will be washed no older children or adults. As far as I know there was no restriction on sex. Last year the entire congregation washed feet. I went up, washed the feet of the person in front of me in line (my wife) and then she washed mine because I was the last one in line and there was no one behind me to wash mine.

  7. aquinasadmirer says:

    As a boy of 13 or 14 years old, I had my feet washed. [Actually, I remember my mom made me pre-wash them because she didn’t want my feet to be filthy for mass :-) ]

    Question: is there an age limit? Would 13 or 14 be too young for me to be called vir ?

    [Yes, I think so, if we are thinking Latinly. Romans put the stages of male life as infans, puer, adolescens, iuvenis, and senex. The puer put on his toga virilis and became vir at 16-18. He would then be considered an adolescens till 30 and a iuvenis till 50, when he would become a senex. There are some different reckonings but they don’t vary too much. Five years more or less. Except vir… that’s, say, 17.]

  8. everett says:

    Much of this goes back to the idea of having liturgy done by committee, rather than by the Missal. [Yep.] I’m not looking forward to this tonight when our parish does its walkthrough of the Triduum where I again anticipate being told by our pastor that he’s simply being pastoral in having women. [There’s that word.]

  9. dans0622 says:

    If there are parishes that once had priests who washed the feet of men, women, children, and now have priests who would only select men, certainly omitting the rite altogether would result in less tumult than “excluding” women. I suppose there would still be some who would say “You’re omitting it because you don’t like women and you hate Vatican II.”

  10. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “Vir cannot, period, mean a female.” Except, for example, where St. Damaris is concerned: “Quidam vero viri adhaerentes ei, crediderunt: in quibus et Dionysius Areopagita, et mulier nomine Damaris, et alii cum eis” (Actus Apostolorum 17:34). (I don’t know if this is Greek influence – for it translates the source accurately, here – or synechdoche or what, but the best Latin dictionary I have to hand notes it as a poetic use, quoting the phrase from what Cicero attributes to Ennius as his epitaph in his Tusculanae Disputationes: “Volito vivu’ per ora virum.”) [Not a good example. Vir is certainly male and the language of law and of rubrics is not poetry.]

  11. Supertradmum says:

    Option is a great idea. I have not liked this “ritual”, remembering pre-foot washing days. It seems to interrupt the Mass, and Christ did it at a point of non-interruption, it seems at the beginning of the Last Supper, where the hands would have been washed. If I am not mistaken, the passage is only in John, whose exact passages we use this week. And, only slaves, children, and students washed the feet of “elders” or rabbis, not those of women, so the inclusion of women is not only illegal for priests, but anachronistic.

    Also, as a woman, I do not want a priest or anyone else washing my feet–seems indecorous. [Thanks for the reference to decorum, which has all but disappeared.]

    I am all for the option status.

  12. Geoffrey says:

    I say this every Holy Week, and with sadness: I think we have lost this battle in the “liturgical wars”… for now, anyway. I have never seen the “mandatum” performed according to the rubrics in all my years attending the Triduum liturgies (of course, I am in California). Generally, the celebrant (and deacon) wash the feet of both lay men and women. Then anyone who wants to comes up from the congregation to do the same, etc. I do not think this will change until orders come from high up, and I don’t see that happening any time soon. Sad, but true.

  13. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I have seen a little girl (maybe 6 or 7), all dressed in pink, barefoot, washing the feet of a middle-aged man at one of the Holy Thursday services put on at the parish in my home town. It was as creepy as any Joe Biden photo op. (The photo is still up on the parish website.) Are there any rules about the ages of those involved in this ritual?

  14. Nicholas says:

    Would I, a 17 year old, count as a vir?

    [Probably. See above.]

  15. Joseph-Mary says:

    I don’t know, father, you sound a little bit like a “doctor of the law” and you know what the pope says about them!!!

  16. capchoirgirl says:

    We only do men at our parish, and no one’s complaining. I always thought it would be easier to just do men, because they don’t have to worry about tights/hose/etc. :) And pedicures!

  17. Imrahil says:

    And until the Roman Pontiff personally repeats the law or has it repeated by an appropriate dicastery in a statement signed by himself, the law is going to be ignored. That’s just how it’s going to be.

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    I will not go through the Biblical analysis I did in this combox, two years ago, but, suffice it to say that there is absolutely no history of washing female feet at the Mandatum either in Scripture or the Church Fathers. It is like liturgical dance – you can dance all you want, just not in Mass. If you have to wash women’s feet, don’t have a Mass at the same time (this was the custom from 1570 to 1955, when the practice was, then, inserted into Mass as an option).

    Even if you want to be uber-liberal and make the Mass into a Seder-like meal, the lamb used in the sacrifice was to be a male (and Christ was male). The people who are getting their feet washed, “have a part,” in Christ in the sense of participating in what He is doing – performing a sacrifice. This is, clearly, a reference to either the male lamb or the male priesthood which is attached to the Mass.

    Thus, there is no problem washing women’s feet outside of Mass, but cannot be done in the context of a Mass.

    The Chicken

  19. juergensen says:

    Increments … It’s how Satan works … [Yes.] Communion in the hand … Altar girls … Meat on Fridays … Confessions by appointment on Tuesdays … Women having their feet washed … Sodomites in the priesthood and episcopacy … Cardinals channeling Luther … It’s a wonder the Church still stands.

  20. Volanges says:

    Last year we only had men volunteer for the mandatum. Father was not happy.

    This year he made it clear he wanted men, women and children. Volanges is not happy.

  21. ASPM Sem says:

    The archdiocesan master of ceremonies requested 12 seminarians as servers. I can’t help but wonder if that means my feet will be washed…

  22. BCSWowbagger says:

    It would be very helpful for Pope Francis to clarify this. The law is taught largely by the example of the lawgiver, so the Pope ought to remind the priests and bishops of the world that they are not empowered to act as he did. Alternatively, if he thinks it is without value, the Pope ought to abolish it for everyone. He must realize that many have (incorrectly) interpreted his actions as abrogating the law, and it would take only a short statement to relieve a great deal of pressure on priests and bishops throughout the West.

  23. IoannesPetrus says:

    Earlier today I called my parish to remind the priests (who also serve a neighbouring parish) of this. Call me out-of-place, but I felt it was necessary for “a whole host” of reasons—as my archbishop would put it—in regards to the diocese and the country. Actually it worked last year, but now things between the parish and me are… er…

    The secretary, perhaps surprised at the request and in spite of the explanation therein, ‘answered’ me—um, Miss? I didn’t ask a question—by saying that the selection of men and women is done in her parish (a different one, on account of diocesan policy). I said that’s not what “the book” says; she said that one doesn’t have to follow everything in it. “I have to disagree with you there”, I said finally, adding that in such a case there’s no point in following the book at all.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have called the Missal “the book”—now it makes me remember Steinbeck’s The Pearl—, but even now in retrospect and given my experience I don’t think it would’ve mattered. The issue here is (literally) a “he said, she said” treatment of the sacred liturgy which, if that weren’t bad enough, is not based on the pillars of Scripture or Tradition.

    In other words: I think my (local) Church needs help, but she doesn’t know it, so naturally she doesn’t ask (God) for it. Otherwise—rather: even so—she would be open to it.

  24. edm says:

    The problem is that the law applies to everyone. No one is above the law and to do otherwise sets a poor example.

  25. Father Bartoloma says:

    A lost battle.
    We can basically put these bullet shells and broken swords up on the shelf next to communion in the hand and altar girls.

  26. rollingrj says:

    Dr. Edward Peters lays out the messy groundwork, which may be good for keeping the discussion on track: A Footfight.

  27. cyrillist says:

    Father, what you say is true, but… doesn’t it appear that the Pope’s disregard of the law is intended to encourage others to disregard the law as well? The first time he washed the feet of women and Muslims, people speculated, “Well, he just became Pope after all, he’ll have time during the next year to change the law.” And of course, he didn’t. To my mind, his leaving the mandatum rules in place and then breaking them is completely deliberate. If he changed the law, then he’d be expected to follow it, and I think that he’d rather not. Remember the “doctors of the law.” He doesn’t like seem to law much. Hagan lio…

  28. cyrillist says:

    Argh – “He doesn’t seem to like law much,” I meant. Hagan lio indeed!

  29. iamlucky13 says:

    “When and if the Holy Father wants the law to change for everyone, he will make sure that it is changed for everyone in the proper way and he will let everyone in the world know about it. The Holy Father knows how to change laws and promulgate the changes. Doing something in private on his own doesn’t change the law.”

    I suspect it would help greatly if somebody with the appropriate level of influence would explain this to Pope Francis unambiguously. It’s not clear to me that he really thought through last year’s Holy Thursday Mass, much less the concerns raised afterwards.

    He may not care to put any thought into, considering it legalistic. However, his job duties touch not merely on the pastoral, but on the legal, too. In fact, it seems to me that the Church’s laws assist him in his pastoral care by helping give us consistent guidance in our worship, faith, and actions.

    If he doesn’t address it, I think the most likely outcome is further division, as some priests ignore the rubrics, some follow it, leading to loud objections from some, and others may decline the option, hoping to avoid controversy, but inevitably will be portrayed by some as “boycotting” women, even if they actually would prefer the rubric be changed.

    I also admit, that among the many liturgical abuses I’ve seen, including women in the washing of the feet is one of the least bothersome. I’m not saying I approve of ignoring the rubric, but simply that it does not strike me as overtly disrespectful, and does not tend to profane any of the sacraments.

  30. St. Rafael says:

    I would only comment that it is not a good thing for a pope to break Church law. In fact, it’s a scandal. A pope should follow his own law until he changes it. Being pope, there’s not anything that can be done as far as punishment, but the faithful have the right voice their objection to his actions. Through persuasion and shame, he can hear how scandalous people find his actions.

  31. Except if the pope hasn’t actually changed the law isn’t he obligated to obey existing law until he changes it? Or is he trying to make a statement that has nothing to do with reaching out to the females and mostly to do with demonstrating to the ‘pharisaic’ who are ‘all law and no love’ that the law is essentially dispensable? And if so why not just change the law first and then carry out the deed? From what I can tell, he’s trying to demonstrate his attitude towards the law as to be shunned if it can be justified in the name of charity. It appears like he’s trying to effect some change in people’s attitudes to the rules, which is a dangerous thing to do given the current condition of the world.

  32. cpttom says:

    My family and I will again attend Holy Thursday at a neighboring parish, as my parish continues to have the foot washing floor show that includes the priest washing the feet of twelve men and women and then they call people up from the congregation and have the first set of people wash the next set of people’s feet and so on until they finally decide that’s enough. Usually takes 45 minutes for just this silliness that brings the Mass to a screeching halt and the mood for “Holy” Thursday is gone. It is a shame.

    The next parish over does not do the foot washing ceremony at all and avoids the dramatics. Pity, because the actual foot washing (priest washing the feet of 12 men) can be an appropriate expression of Christian servant/leadership and priesthood , but no, it has to be turned into another narcissistic egalitarian exercise. *sigh*

  33. Baritone says:

    Fr. Z, thank you for a very clear explanation of the Church’s law. What bothers me is that the Pope seems to like to lead by example, and when he sets the law aside for himself without making it clear that he is not setting the law aside for the clergy in general (or even making it clear he is setting the law aside for himself), I can see how it could lead to confusion, irrespective of which law the Pope is laying aside. To be clear, I am not trying to defend those who would break the law.

    Some food for thought: The apostles, who were all men, were the ones who had their feet washed by Christ, but it was a woman (Mary Magdalene) who washed the Lord’s feet (with her tears). By all accounts, the ladies did much better at calvary than the men, who, by and large, ran away…or worse. In my opinion, the ladies should not feel left out; we men are the ones who needed the lesson in humility, self-sacrifice, and the service of our neighbor.

  34. JofA says:

    Thank you Fr. Z for this posting. I have been struggling with the “innovation” at my local parish where our priest for the second year in a row will have not just 12 …. but 24 kids at this very significant ritual winch Our Lord himself performed . Yes, not 12 men but 24 kids (boys and girls) representing the 12 apostles and 12 saints related with the passion of Our Lord. Unfortunately this is how little by title we start pulling away of the Sacred Liturgy in the name of making us “feel good” because now we have to be “entertained” at Mass.
    I refuse to participate on this innovations, we will be attending a different parish in the area where the Washing of the Feet will be done on 12 MEN as Our Blessed Lord Jesus did.
    I’d like to hear your opinion . What am I supposed to do? After all Pope Francis said at WYD in Rio … “Go and make a mess in your Diocese” , I must be obedient and bring this up to the Bishop, correct?
    Dominus Vobiscum

  35. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    Tomorrow evening, I’m having my feet washed. I’m not looking forward to it, but I volunteered as a favor to my pastor, who was having great difficulty getting people to have their feet washed. I don’t plan to do it again, at least in this parish.

    I’ll save you the suspense…it will be men and women getting their feet washed. I’m not sure what guidelines come from downtown, and I just want to get this over with.

    Some years back, my wife and I were part of a parish that did the clown car experience of everybody in the church getting either hands or feet washed. It was a joke. I still cringe when I think of it.

    For a time I simply took it for granted that both men and women would have their feet washed on Holy Thursday. I’m somewhat conflicted. Too, I’m not terribly enthused about anyone touching my feet (except for my wife.) Having to sit through the doggerel of songs they play whilst foot washing is carried out is another reason I want to scream. If we sing “Sacrament of Service” this year, it’s going to be all I can do to sit through it.

    Whoever is reading my little rant – in all seriousness – please, please pray for me. I’m very conflicted right now, I’m on the verge of leaving the parish I am in, and it’s very hard for me to remain charitable. Please pray for me. I would be so grateful. THANK YOU and God love you, each and every one.

  36. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    Dear Baritone,

    Men and women need examples of humility, self sacrifice, and service to neighbor. I do think you make an excellent point about Mary washing the Lord’s feet with her tears. Well said.

    At the same time, I’ve heard so often the arguments about women staying at the Cross, and Jesus’ male disciples fleeing. It’s a worn out argument. What about the women in the crowd who were shouting for Jesus to be crucified? Nobody ever mentions them. What about the pagan Centurion who confessed Christ at the Cross? What about the fact that the people at the Cross, be they men or women, were concerned with much more important things right in front of them than being preoccupied with who was and was not at the Cross.

    When people ask what a woman’s place in the Church is, I say, down on her knees at the foot of the Cross, same as the men, begging God’s mercy. Just sayin’.

  37. Athelstan says:

    Fathers, if you are afraid of the women in your parish, just opt out of the foot washing rite entirely.

    Alas, even this is not a foolproof (complaint-proof) option. I know of at least one instance where a pastor opting out entirely still triggered some indignant complaints from parishioners. Apparently no Maundy Thursday Mass that did NOT involve half a dozen women getting their feet washed could be accepted peaceably.

    That said, it’s still likely to give you a lower radar profile to tradition-seeking missiles, so I’d probably take this option if it were me. Just realize (as I think most priests do) that there’s always the risk of complaints, no matter what you do or how good your people skills are. Especially if you have a parish with its fair share of well entrenched progressive-minded folks of the sort that we all are too familiar with.

  38. ctln says:

    I wanted to share a fascinating reflection from Magnificat before yesterday’s Mass readings.

    “We have grown accustomed to make a clear distinction between Peter the rock and Peter the denier of Christ- the denier of Christ: that is Peter as he was before Easter; the rock: that is Peter as he was after Pentecost, the Peter of whom we have constructed a singularly idealistic image. But, in reality, he was at both times both of these… Has it not been thus throughout the history of the Church that the Pope, the successor of Peter, has been at once Petra and Skandalon- both the rock of God and a stumbling-block? In fact, the faithful will always have to reckon with this paradox of the divine dispensation that shames their pride again and again.” Pope Benedict XVI

  39. Catholic Student-at-Law says:

    And at the end of Palm Sunday mass our otherwise excellent pastor asked for “men, women boys and girls” to sign up to the represent the apostles at Holy Thursday Mass. He cited Pope Francis’s example explicitly as the reason why it is now open to women and girls. Sigh.

  40. Washing the feet of women is the least of the problems.

    I know of parishes in which they also wash hands; there are places where everyone, somehow, gets involved washing everyone else’s hands; and there are parishes where the unbaptized (catechumens from RCIA) are included.

  41. I have had mostly good experiences with this. In my first pastorate, it was customary to have only men’s feet washed, so I made no change. That parish was joined to another, with me as pastor, and the newly included parish had done all manner of things. I extended the traditional practice to the new parish; a few grumblings. (The usual suspects had far better reasons not to be happy with me.)
    My next parish didn’t do the foot-washing; the next one, did, but it was always a chore getting people. So I opted to wash the feet of the deacons and two servers (male).

    At my present parish, my predecessor opted out, and in this climate, I am going to continue his wisdom. And if anyone asks, I’ll explain that I think it’s the best way to avoid any division or contention. If anyone really pitches a fit, I’m tempted to say, “I’ll wash your feet anytime you like. Shall we make an appointment?”

  42. JMJT says:

    To follow up on the question on age limit. Father you have answered that “Vir” means those aged 17 and older. If there was a 5 year allowance (just hypothetically) the youngest “Vir” or man would be age 12. That seems to agree with the Jewish idea of age 12 being when a boy can be called a man.
    In one EF parish, a very big deal was made to explain that the Latin said, “Vir” meaning men, so no women could be included, but then the Priest called for “only men and boys” who were selected ahead of time to have their feet washed.” Then boys as young at 8 were included. I was told that it would be good for vocations to include boys. But how can one complain on the basis that the law does not allow for women, if one also violates the law in other ways that one excuses. Is there a valid point that it was a tradition to allow youths/boys to have their feet washed? Was there ever a tradition of youths like Altar boys being selected?

  43. Last year, I was disappointed when I went to a parish where one of the priests who offers the extraordinary form in our diocese was assigned as pastor. I had hoped he would stick to vir, but he also did non-vir. I would go to an all-extraordinary form parish for Holy Thursday, but the closest one I know is an hour and a half and two toll bridges from here. We also had a very traditional, orthodox pastor in another nearby parish, and he did only vir, but he has since been replaced by a more, er, pastoral pastor, and I don’t even want to go look there for fear of bursting into tears. I am still weighing my options for tomorrow night. Not going at all gets tempting as it is not required, but why should the silly people chase the rest of us out of what we non-silly people have just as much right to having as anyone else?

  44. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Father Augustin Thompson O.P. comments, “Mother will wash the nuns’ feet at another time in their refectory. This seems an excellent solution even in religious houses of men.”

    The Masked Chicken says, “there is no problem washing women’s feet outside of Mass, but cannot be done in the context of a Mass.”

    The Wikipedia article on the “Royal Maundy” notes, “Records from 1556 show that Mary washed the feet of forty-one poor women (reflecting her age) while “ever on her knees”, and gave them forty-one pence each, as well as gifts of bread, fish, and clothing, donating her own gown to the woman said to be poorest of all.”

    While in his 1912 “Washing of Feet and Hands” article in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Herbert Thurston noted, “Most of the sovereigns of Europe used also formerly to perform the maundy. The custom is still retained at the Austrian and Spanish courts.”

    Might an elaboration of various forms of ‘pedilavium’ outside the context of the Maundy Thursday Mass take some of the pressure off?

  45. Sue in soCal says:

    Why should we expect liturgical law be obeyed when our own bishops encourage people to ignore civil law when it comes to immigration and applaud our president when he circumvents immigration law? As you sow, so shall you reap. . .

  46. Jack Orlando says:

    Tonight’s foot washing ceremony is a good litmus test for your pastor.

    1. If he obeys Church law and washes only the feet of 12 men (What the GIRM stipulates), he may be a conservative, perhaps a traditionalist, and is at least obedient.
    2. If he washes women’s feet, he is modernist and liberal, and then you should move on to another parish, however far you must drive. (and if the drive is over an hour/50 miles, give your money to the FSSP and let your liberal/modernist pastor know it).
    3. If he omits the rite (which is allowed by the GIRM), he
    (i) might be really a liberal yet doesn’t want to break liturgical law
    (ii. might have a very liberal parish
    (iii) doesn’t want conflict, or
    (iv) he just couldn’t find twelve men (and whose fault is that?).

  47. Dr. Lee Fratantuono says:

    The Pre-Pacellian episcopal ceremonial speaks of “tredecim pauperes” for the Mandatum (which was not celebrated within Mass until the 1950s).

  48. janeway529 says:

    As two “by-the-book” bishops have told me in private conversation, “We follow Pope Francis, not the MC.”

  49. jameeka says:

    Praise the Lord, best Holy Thursday Mass in my memory. Archbishop washing the feet of five ordained men(viri?) and profound homily.

  50. Dutchman says:

    At my parish in Miami, it was 11 women and one token male, perhaps to represent Judas.

  51. Pingback: Dirty Feet « The Sheep of Kephas

  52. Fr Peter, OPWest says:

    I am a newly ordained priest assigned to a parish where for years the practice has been for men and women’s feet to be washed. As associate pastor, I was assigned the Holy Thursday mass this year and told my superior/pastor that going by the rubric, at least as far as I was concerned, was a case of conscience for me. So last night I washed the feet of six (not 12, but the rubrics don’t stipulate a number) men.

    Where folks have asked me, on the grounds that the symbolism at work is “service” so women ought to be included, I don’t deny the service aspect but remind them that Holy Thursday also commemorates the institution of the priesthood and eucharist. *Pace* Ed Peter’s helpful comments, reminding them of this dimension of the liturgy brings into the relief that the symbolism at work is not simply “service” broadly speaking, but Christ’s institution of the priesthood. If they have a problem with *that* being limited to men, then that is a separate issue that should be pastorally dealt with outside the liturgy…

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  54. Pingback: Washing of women’s feet on Maundy Thursday – Pope Francis does it. Again. And Indian women activists hope to be ordained as priests | EPHESIANS-511.NET- A Roman Catholic Ministry Exposing Errors in the Indian Church

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