Let’s Do the ‘Washing of the Feet’ Right or Do Away With It Altogether

Chelsea - last supper

So here we are again—approaching Holy Week. A most splendid—the most splendid week of the year! Yes, Christmas brings us the infant God made man, but during this week He fulfills that purpose for which he was conceived of the Virgin Mary. Holy Week, however, comes replete with painful awareness of how many Catholic parishes simply don’t choose to follow the instructions (rubrics anyone?) that clearly give priests the black—exact words to say—and the red—exact instructions for what they (and we, the faithful) are to do. Now before someone says, “But if it’s not expressly forbidden, we can add to the things we can do?” here’s a word: No!

Let’s take some secular examples.

  • A prima ballerina decides that she will enhance the carefully crafted choreography of Swan Lake and just add some cutsie little steps here and there, at her pleasure.
  • A legal secretary decides that her boss’ brief needs a bit of enhancement and throws in a few things she’s learned at night school.
  • A sou chef takes the recipe of his master and tweaks it just a bit.

Pow! All heck would surely break out. Not just because the servant hadn’t done what the master intended but also because the resulting chaos would affect everyone involved.

And so it is with the optional rite of the Washing of the Feet, Mandatum (command), on Holy Thursday. The rubrics are clear; the washing of the feet instructs that the participants be men (viri), twelve if you want to follow Jesus’ lead. Why twelve and why men, you might ask? Well, because a secondary function of our remembrance of that day (aside from the very important institution of the Eucharist), is the institution of the priesthood, initiated with the twelve apostles. Can women become priests? Contrary to liberal wishes the answer has irrevocably been given by Pope John Paul II. Never!

As has been pointed out by Fr. Z:

“…let it be remembered that the Church’s legislation allows for the washing of the feet of only men. MEN = VIRI = MEN. Not manish women or any other critter. Even if some claim to have received permission to wash the feet of women, and even if the claims were true, those permissions would in no way change the law for the rest of the world. Period. Furthermore, I have never seen a letter or a copy of a letter from the Congregation in Rome granting such a permission. I doubt anyone else has either.”

I will add that last year we saw an exception by Pope Francis, whose position as pontiff gives him that right.

Canon lawyer, Dr. Edward Peters has written about it thoroughly and shares the wording of the rubric with us, along with emphasis of the Latin, in which it was written. The word man (viri) can only be interpreted one way, and it’s not mankind (or humankind).

Personally, I’d rather just see this optional rite done away with altogether. Why oh why does the focus always have to be on ‘us’ (the people)? Holy Thursday is about the institution of the priesthood. It is about the institution of the Eucharist. And yet, here we are again. With our self congratulatory songs, choirs up front so that we may focus away from everything that we should be focusing on, Jesus, present to us as food at the foot of the cross! I’m so very frustrated and it takes away my right to worship in the way Mass was intended* (complete with thorough instructions). I’ve seen even babies’ feet washed, mostly women’s feet washed, and commemorative towels given out as ‘door prizes’ for those women and men who participated. I’m beyond frustrated by this lack of saying the black and doing the red.

Rant over…

May we all celebrate a holy, Holy Thursday! Happy Holy Week!

“It is the right of the Christian people themselves that their diocesan bishop should take care to prevent the occurrence of abuses in ecclesiastical discipline, especially as regards the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God, and devotion to the saints.
~ From Redemptionis Sacramentum (Latin, “The Sacrament of Redemption”)
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142 thoughts on “Let’s Do the ‘Washing of the Feet’ Right or Do Away With It Altogether”

  1. Prior to 1955, it was never part of the Mass. It was a beautiful ritual and undertaken in cathedrals, monasteries, seminaries and religious houses. The bishop, abbot, rector or superior would wash the feet of those clerics under him. It was for the priesthood. In 1955, Annibale Bugnini convinced an aging Pius XII to insert this innovation in the Mass, the first time anything was inserted in it, and to change it to the laity being washed. It is optional in both the OF and the EF and optioning it out in the OF certainly, given the antics in Rome, seems like the best thing to do.

  2. Oh, boy. Having read this, what got me is the commemorative towels thing.

    Why does anybody even imagine that the “Francis Effect” necessarily means that this sort of thing is okay? It’s a far cry from washing the feet of women to handing out snazzy consumer duds.

  3. ““…let it be remembered that the Church’s legislation allows for the washing of the feet of only men. MEN = VIRI = MEN. Not manish women or any other critter. Even if some claim to have received permission to wash the feet of women, and even if the claims were true, those permissions would in no way change the law for the rest of the world. Period. Furthermore, I have never seen a letter or a copy of a letter from the Congregation in Rome granting such a permission. I doubt anyone else has either.”

    I will add that last year we saw an exception by Pope Francis, whose position as pontiff gives him that right.”

    Nonetheless, at least one other bishop has followed the Pope – and stuff Canon Law !

    Here: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/04/17/english-bishop-washes-feet-of-prisoners-at-mass-of-lords-supper/

    “Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth washed the feet of six of the 15 Winchester Prison inmates present at the Mass.

    Before washing their feet, he told them he would ask God to assure them all of His love and mercy.

    He said: “Every disciple of Christ should imitate Jesus Who came not to be served but to serve… today in this Mass, as Jesus lays down His Life for us on the altar and as I your Bishop, like Jesus, go on my knees to wash your feet, I ask God to assure you of His love, to forgive you, to heal you, and, through you, to give strength and consolation to everyone else in this place.””

    ## When a Pope makes the Liturgy an occasion to parade how ‘umble he is, it is not surprising if a lesser bishop abuses the Liturgy too. That there is confusion & demoralisation and abundance of error in the Church, is due almost entirely to bishops like these.

    1. What other rubrics or rules can we disregard?

      Further, if this is such a big deal, why not change the rules? He can do that. So when if the next Pope enforces the current rules, will he be wrong? Or if Pope Francis changes them to include women and the next Pope ignores that to only wash the feet of men, will he be wrong there as well?

      God Bless the Holy Father but the execution on this creates more problems than it solves.

  4. Your articulation of the argument for respecting the rubrics and not making it all about us is eloquent and splendid. However, I think that your attempt to explain Pope Francis’ “lack of saying the black and doing the red” by saying that his “position as pontiff gives him that right” ignores the fact that, in washing the feet of women and others not included in the traditional “viri selecti” definition, Francis was not simply instituting a right of exception; he was CONTINUING a practice he had since the time he was Archbishop (before his “position as pontiff gave him that right”). In so doing, the Pope is implicitly suggesting that we should not be so hung up on the rubrics, and I posit that this is not as bad as you seem to think. The Pope explained his philosophy in his morning sermon (fervorino, if you will) at Domus Sancta Marthae this past April 1. Commenting on the Gospel story in which Jesus heals a paralyzed man but is criticized for performing the miracle on the Sabbath. The Pope warned against a rigid “formalism” that stifles the Church’s mission. To the rule sticklers in the Gospel story, it mattered nothing that the healed man was so happy that “he danced in the middle of the street” because “he was finally free of his physical malady,” said the Pontiffs. The religious authorities reply with coldness: “This is the way things are here, and you must do this!”. The problem, explained Francis is that, “they were only interested in formalities: it was the Sabbath and it was not permitted to perform miracles on the Sabbath! The grace of God cannot act on the Sabbath!”. The Pope equated this attitude with that of Christians who “allow no space for God”. For them, the Pope observed, “the Christian life is a matter of having all one’s documents in order!”. However, in doing so “they close to the door to the grace of God”. And, he added, “we have many of them in the Church!”. Sometimes we have to look beyond the rubrics to see what a pope like Francis or an archbishop like Bergoglio is trying to teach by ignoring the rubric. Have a happy and blessed Triduum!

    1. Same question to you. Why not just change the rubrics in this instance? Wouldn’t that be a better statement? Or do we have to have some rules around to break just to show that we aren’t Pharisees? Who gets to decide which rules are okay to break and which ones we must adhere to?

      Seems like everyone like to always fancy themselves as that revolutionary type who is only going against the legalistic Pharisees. Nobody wants to take up the cause of being and obedient servant to God who both follows the rules He has given us AND still finds a way to love his fellow man?

  5. You’re no doubt disappointed with this headline:
    “Pope to Wash Feet of Libyan Muslim, Ethiopian Woman for Holy Thursday Event”
    The Horror. The Horror.

    1. Indeed, I am.
      I am, however, fairly accustomed to this pope’s view of “outreach” to others. Sad that most of these others haven’t considered Catholic faith more seriously as a result.

    2. And is this “outreach” less legitimate than outreach? And how would this be said given that Catholic churches throughout the world report record numbers of people returning to mass. The Horror. The Horror.

    3. If we would consider this “outreach” to be legitimate and effective, I’d like to see the results. If you’ve seen reports from around the world showing record numbers of people returning to mass, please cite the reports.
      Please document collection amounts that’ve risen significantly, show the increases in people who’ve sought Confirmation, Baptism, and Matrimony. Show me the larger number of faithful who’ve been flocking to Confession lines, then seeking Mass. Show me the increase in the amount of time, money, or effort being offered to the Church for Her use.

      Please also show me the hordes of people who’ve begun returning to Mass and aren’t insistent about changing the rubrics all over. Please show me the hordes who’ve acquired proper catechesis and have begun living the faith. Please show me the new hordes who aren’t howling about how their “rights” have been infringed by “medieval” practices.

      I have heard reports from around the world too. Most of those reports suggest that the “Francis Effect” has provoked people to embrace “spirituality”, but not active Catholic faith.
      In this sense then, I say this “outreach” has been rather more mixed in result.

    4. Uh huh.
      I had a bad feeling you’d answer with something like this. I ask for a demonstration of faith as demonstrated by a large number of people seeking to live out Catholic faith in all it’s glory and trial. I receive links to articles that highlight a very few people who’ve been on a reversion path for some time or a large group of people who’ve been enchanted by Pope Francis during his first year, not drawn by Catholic teaching.

      I see no conversions by Mjuslims, no efforts by anyone to learn how men and women being different might be important, exceedingly little concern for changing lives in the painful ways that faith genuinely demands.

      In other words, I see in these articles the same thing I’ve seen before in the world. I notice that none of these articles discuss fidelity to faith after Francis began to re-emphasize how he hasn’t changed the Church’s teachings and won’t begin doing so.

      I’ll be interested in seeing how many of these people stick around when the world begins to hate them for their “medieval” beliefs.
      I’m glad these folks have returned. I’m not very optimistic about how many will remain for more than two years.

    5. The “Francis effect” makes for a good headline, but almost all of those I have talked to who have converted, and many who returned to the church, were already in the process before Francis became Pope. Looking at statistics recently, it seems like the effect of larger numbers of converts and reverts has been going on for at least a few years.

      If anything, I’d say the media coverage around the death of Pope John Paul II and around the Papacy of Benedict XVI brought Catholicism to the forefront of many people’s mind and started them on the path even before Pope Francis was elected.

      I think it’s wonderful that the Church is getting some good press these days and I like the focus on the poor and how we need to give and not focus on building up wealth, but we need to be careful that the emphasis on social justice doesn’t become a backdoor for liberal/progressive social values to slip in and replace a focus on truth with one on niceness. In other words, serve the poor and less fortunate but meet their spiritual needs as well as the physical by teaching them the truth of the faith and not being afraid to call sin a sin and warn them of the need for repentance.

      What scares me about some of what I’ve seen out of the new people supporting the Pope are those that believe everything they need in the media and are now supporting the church only so far as they believe that it is a way to promote changes like female priests, abortion, and gay marriage so that their religious agenda lines up with their political/social agenda.

    6. I don’t think you have the faintest idea of what a Pharisee would actually say in Christ’s time. You’re simply insistent on branding me as Pharisaic because I don’t seek to change the Church’s practice to satisfy you.
      I’d rather be your idea of a Pharisee and live out the Church’s full
      teaching than change the rules to satisfy the howls of poorly catechized

    7. I might ask you the same. I didn’t know we’d begun discussing how “Catholic” we each are. I thought this a discussion about the merits of the rubrics of the Washing of Feet.

    8. And I respectfully disagree with most of your perspective and those of Fr. Zuhlsdorf, Michael Voris, Cardinal Burke, et al but I am no less Catholic than any of you.

    9. Again, a fairly typical response: Insist that you respect someone, then demonstrate a summary dismissal and condemnation of the substance of the ideas that’ve been presented. Declaring yourself to be no less Catholic merely suggests that you’re determined to refer to yourself as one of the faithful, but you’ll be busted if you’ll actually live by the Church’s teachings.
      I don’t know what you expect to accomplish by this, but I must say that your arguments don’t persuade me that you’re concerned about eternal life.

    10. A VERY odd statement indeed.
      One that would seem to draw a distinction between Christ and His Church. Unfortunately, we believe that Christ gave us our Holy Father, Peter’s successor, who cannot contradict what Christ, Himself, said. Not on matters of faith and morals anyway.
      I can understand your anger and frustration. I can’t understand the source of trying to split Christ from the Head of His Church.

    11. Not really. Not a new way of doing things that hasn’t been done before or should be repeated by priests and bishops the world over. I’d be very happy if he’d provide a good example of how a faithful Catholic can actually be happy and follow rubrics.
      I’m rather weary of the more liberal-appearing “outreach” idea.

    12. Yes, really. When judgement day comes and God asks, “why did you follow the faith as closely as you did?” I hope one’s answer would be better than, “I followed the rubrics, dear Lord.”

    13. I’m having a tough time making sense of this comment, to be honest with you.
      It almost appears as though you believe rubrics and faith to be legal transactions, some kind of thing like, “Kneel NOW or go to hell!”. That’s not what rubrics do at all. I have to think the question would be directed toward someone who’d stood on the brink of Purgatory, who needed purification for heaven: “Why did you reject the rubrics that aimed to lead you to me?”. Rubrics aren’t objects to condemn you, but practical tips to guide you toward God (Christ) on a more direct path; they’re aimed at aiding us to receive God’s grace in ways we couldn’t or can’t easily discern for ourselves.

    14. Sounds like you have poorly conceived notion of what rubrics are. I can’t help you if you reject catechesis.

    15. No, I think you’ve done a fabulous job as describing what rubrics are. And when the final count is in and God does ask “why did you follow the faith so closely?’ I’m given to think he’d prefer an answer a bit better than, “I just followed the rubrics, dear Lord.” And further, “Why did you believe, my son?” We should have a bit better response than, “I was told to, dear Lord.”

    16. “When the final count is in”?
      Final count of what?
      Following rubrics in Mass doesn’t work like counting merits or demerits at military boot camp.

      We don’t gain or lose grace by following or snubbing the rules of what our Church has handed down to us. Not in the sense you seem to imply.

      “We should have a bit better response than, ‘I was told to, dear Lord.'”
      Why? He, Himself, told us to believe in Him on many occasions. Look in the Gospel of John, Chs, 3, 5, 6, and 11 for a few examples. He instituted the Church as a means of providing us a clear, definitive path to eternal life in heaven. Over time, we’ve determined various rules, rubrics, that better allow us to come as close to Him as we can.
      I can’t imagine a better answer than,”Well, I just followed the rubrics, Lord.” That’s WHY they exist!

      What would you consider a better answer?

    17. “record numbers of people returning to Mass”
      Show the math please (real stats). A recent survey in the US showed no change since the current pontificate.

    18. John, I believe one commonality between our views is best realized from the movie ‘the Apostle’ feat. Robert Duvall. After arriving in Bayou Boutte he happens upon and observes the blessing of fishing boats. He remarks, “you do it your way, I do it mine. But we get it done, don’t we?” Indeed the job gets done and people flock to our Lord at the hands of those who lead them. Likewise, I am not tied to antiquated, painfully exacting rubrics nor do I attend a parish that is. If your parish’s celebration of mass is resplendently opulent, yet fervently prayerful, and offers rigid fidelity to rubrics; have at it. Enjoy it. Many of us don’t (and won’t). And I’m certain ‘when the final count is in’ [in the context of a colloquialism in reference to ‘Judgment’] we’ll see many familiar faces from many diverse parishes independent of their fidelity to rubrics. And likewise, ‘when the final count is in’ [in the context of a colloquialism in reference to a tally], God may well be concerned with those leaders of the Church who won souls versus those who pushed souls away.

    19. “Indeed the job gets done and people flock to our Lord at the hands of
      those who lead them. Likewise, I am not tied to antiquated, painfully
      exacting rubrics nor do I attend a parish that is.”

      Thus has run the rigidity of the “Spirit of Vatican II”. More thorough presentations of Mass must be adamantly shunned, to be replaced by “simpler”, “more relevant” practices. Trouble is, too many of us have found the “new, relevant” practices to be every bit as patronizing and disgusting as the old practices have been alleged to be.

      If you think the newer approach “gets the job done”, I think a statistical analysis of the Church’s membership might demonstrate quite the opposite. I’ve seen a competent demonstration, based on parish records from all over the nation, that demonstrates how faithful people have actually DEPARTED from the Church since Vatican II. In a sense, we can understand this; considering the number of people who’ve had the Church’s intellectual doors fairly slammed shut in their faces, I think it an act of God that the Church hasn’t merely imploded into oblivion.

      I should think that the “old meanies” who’re alleged to push souls away probably have no greater culpabilitiy than those “new nicies” who’ve not been so very nice.

  6. Well Birgit, congrats on getting a lot of play on this subject. I’ll stick with Francis, however, the EF is a last gasp effort by Trads and Orthodox to . . . coax a butterfly
    back into its cocoon.

    1. You don’t study trends and demographics do you?

      If anything, the Old Mass is closer to what Vatican II called for than the implementation of the Novus Ordo.

    2. But the question is more actuarial, Stu. Based on where religion is going very few will identify with any one church. The Dali Lama said it best when he surmised that “religion” is dead, spirituality is alive and very much a force to be understood. Unless all religions come together to speak with one dogmatic voice the “trend” is much much smaller and
      leaner organized religions with a growing tendency to shop around a lot.

    3. That’s a puzzling assertion about being “actuarial”. Said term usually refers to the number of people who’ve died or will die in a given period of time, not the number of people who follow a particular faith tradition.

      If the Dalai Lama said that “religion” is dead, I think the Dalai Lama might best be explaining how different “religions” might be dying off. I think “religion” may be dying from an inability to present full answers to life’s deepest questions, their inability to present the fullness of revealed Truth. Keep in mind, religions can’t “come together” in the manner you suggest. While Buddhism and Catholicism don’t obviously conflict at every turn, they pose ultimate ends that can’t be reconciled. One cannot logically reconcile belief in eternal life in Heaven or in Hell with a belief in reincarnation. Human beings cannot logically exist in complete communion with God in heaven–nor in complete damnation with Satan in hell–at the same time that one exists as a grasshopper or a cow on earth in a future life.

      We already have one religion that speaks with dogmatic voice in the world. We call it the Roman Catholic Church. …. And other catholic churches in communion with the pope.
      That many other voices may sound out, declaring the Church is “wrong” about this or that, this merely reflects the fallen character of the world.

      If people will not identify with one Church, they incur the (serious) risk of damnation for eternity. It’s not a pretty thought, so we need to present the Church as THE Way, THE Truth, THE Life. That’s precisely what She is, warts and all.

    4. Most reincarnate as human, it is the luckiest of births for if one is
      born into a holy and righteous family advancement to a higher
      spiritual plane is likely. Purgatory is a cop-out. Rebirth is a bold
      truth that is easily imputed to many of the ‘words in red’ in the
      gospels. The four major faiths to include eastern deism will not
      die out but a major trans dogmatic agreement is in the future
      and will be led by the CC. Meanwhile, organized religion is a
      continuing recruitment ad with the number of orthodox falling
      faster than the rest based on the kind of rigidity you present.
      Now, I’ll leave you with a Happy Easter and peace sign as this
      thread is over for me.

    5. I must say, this latest offering appears to me as a mash of ideas being jammed together; not very easy to make sense of all of it. I’m thinking you may not comprehend what “dogma” refers to; I don’t think Catholic faithful could legitimately sign to an agreement about many specifics.
      How would one legitimately prove having existed in a previous life or having been reborn to a higher spiritual plane?

    6. John, amongst us are “old souls” Do you think the music of
      Mozart who began writing symphonies at age 5 is just a freak
      of proditial genetics ? Do you think the great leaders of mankind did not come down, as did the prophets, with foreknowledge that was gained in another life or from another mission ? When Jesus said that “some of you will be here when I come again” is it even a stretch to say that all of us, from those humans who act like animals to those who are living saints do not need a much higher spiritual human being to jog mankind’s collective conscience into a higher gear ? What is imprinted on our souls during the course of a life are both lessons and skills gained by our tears and inspirations. Do you really think that these unique experiances in both sin and redemptive suffering are to be wasted as in not needed again on a human plane ? Deep in the bowels of Catholic dogma are the seeds of transcendental knowledge – which is not for everyone – that sprout over all time in those whose “ground” is fertile enough to grow them. And on the other side are those who will never get it, their free will will keep them coming back until the end of days. When JP2 put the Buddah on the altar at Assisi he was incorporating a universal concept into the purview of the CC. It will take much time for it to flower but bloom it will.

    7. “Do you think the music of
      Mozart who began writing symphonies at age 5 is just a freak
      of proditial genetics? …et al”

      No, I think the genius of Mozart and great leaders came from graces given by God, Himself, for the betterment of mankind.

      “some of you will be here when I come again”
      You’ve misquoted the verse horridly. More correctly, He says, “…there are some of those standing here today who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming into HIs kingdom”.
      Exact interpretations may vary somewhat, but he’s referring to His resurrection and the Church that’ll begin after His ascension, not that souls will be reincarnated.

      Most of the rest of this comment seems to pose a mishmash of ideas that essentially undermine Christ’s Divinity and identity as the second person of the Trinity.

      John Paul II placing a Buddha on an altar did not cause Buddhism to become a co-redeeming faith or philosophy. Rather, he aimed to pray in a way that Buddhists would understand more effectively, that they’d have cause to understand that their prayers to Buddha ultimately went not to Buddha, but to God.
      Sad that you and others insist on degrading the value of Catholic faith to satisfy universalist wishes.
      All faiths and philosophies are not equal.

    8. You are impossibly orthodox.and lack any trace of human immagination which Einstein contends ” is more important
      than knowledge.” I must give you up for the remainder of
      Lent and through Pentacost which by the way is the true institution of the priesthood.

    9. The less spirituality the better, unless it is Catholic. “Spirituality” purely as such is the gateway to every kind of obscenity and vileness. The Cathars were “spiritual” , just like the Manichees & Gnostics before them: the Church had great trouble with those three, because their lie was close to the truth. “Spirituality” purely as such is the latest onset of this plague. Catholic spirituality is the only thing strong enough to meet it on its own terms – apart from dogma.

      Only the Catholic Church, and no other, anywhere, ever, is the Church of Christ – accept no substitutes.

    10. Actually, Catholicism does not divorce spirituality from religious expression. The two go together.

      Spirituality must have a meaning and point beyond itself. A constant learning and development of a deeper spirituality also needs ritual and discipline, not impatient insistence on novelty and fad.

      Having the fullness of the Truth is not to say that everybody else is “like, TOTALLY WRONG,’ but that the bigness of Catholic orthodoxy can both meet others where they are AND know where it wants to invite them to go. Catholicism is always the “yes, but… there’s MORE.” It is a specific optic which therefore requires specific rubrics. But Francis and Benedict emphasized one thing among many in common: engage directly with Jesus Christ, learn to let Him be truly Himself, and the orthodoxy will come. Dogma and doctrine aren’t “rules” to Tell Us What To Do in some adolescent understanding of the matter, but to tell us and remind us of Who He IS.

    11. You consider the Extraordinary Form a last gasp by Trads and Orthodox? Oh dear!
      I currently “reside” at a Novus Ordo parish because I found it before I learned enough about FSSP. If Benedict XVI had set forth Summorum Pontificum about 7 months earlier, or if I’d know more about FSSP when I found this parish, I might have registered with the FSSP parish instead. I didn’t switch before–and haven’t–mostly because I’m sick of parish-shopping.

      Be advised though, I’m currently pursuing an MBA; when I’m finished, I’ll need to consider various job opportunities.
      If I discern that there’s a decent role someplace else and also discern that FSSP, ICK, or even a diocesan parish offer a traditional Mass, I likely will pursue that route.

      I’m sick and tired of all the abuse that I’m forced to tolerate with the Novus Ordo.

    12. My point John is that there will be a parish venue for all types Catholics.
      The EF will always be there but mainstream – esp ie: in two centuries – worship ( I believe) will see the emergence of a trans religious Catholic
      worship service that will be attended by far more faithful than all the others combined.

    13. I rather hope that in two centuries, we’ll have eliminated this business of “different types of Catholics” of the Roman rite. I’m rather hoping that Vatican II’s direction for the Mass to grow organically from the traditional form will have been followed with much greater discipline and the “spirit of innovation” of the Ordinary Form will have been laid to rest. Whatever intentions may have been with the Novus Ordo, I’m afraid they’ve been very badly misdone.

    14. Bingo. We chose our city and neighborhood based upon being near a FSSP parish. It’s orthodox, growing, active and filled with a lot of young families. (And a disproportionate number of vocations).

    15. And if you take the number of FSSP parishoners, divide it by all the other members of all other denominations in this city, you
      get what for a percentage ? Does it begin with a point 0 or do
      you actually have numbers that equal a whole percentage ?
      I’m happy for you and your growing parish but Catholic devotion
      and worship is much bigger than any one form. Francis is trying
      to tell you it’s what you do outside your church, to the greater
      Catholic or not population that is what is required to tryly be a

    16. Christianity started with only 12 Apostles and grew outward.

      But here is a data point for you. Over 20% of the vocations in the diocese come from my small parish. This is the future of the priesthood. Further, my parish is young and with many families who don’t practice birth control. We have a lot of children. Not the norm in other parishes.

      Young people want holiness and orthodoxy. And while I appreciate you attempting to channel the Pope and tell me what his message is to me, I would recommend that you focus on yourself instead. What we do outside of the parish boundaries starts with how we worship God on the inside. That’s basic Catholicism.

    17. Christianity started with 12, grew to a hundred million, split into
      two factions, then split again a thousand times while other faiths
      emerged, evolved and successfully competed. One in four is a
      Muslim as well as an equal percentage of non Christian religions
      that have not wavered in over 2000 years. You’re just one of
      many whistling in the dark, Stu and Catholicism’s base is not
      conditioned on a static priesthood of orthodox survivors. So lets
      just agree to disagree and happy Easter to all.

    18. I fear you’ve successfully declared a heretical view, James. Catholicism did not split into thousands of differing faiths. Nor do other faith traditions offer the whole of revealed Truth. If one in four persons declare themselves Muslims, let’s remember that such was not the intent of Christ, who said that we should all be one.
      Varying faith traditions came about from various human sins, various refusals of one teaching of Christ or another.

      You’re correct in thinking that Catholicism isn’t based on a static priesthood of survivors. No, Catholic faith is based on a dynamic acceptance of the whole of God’s message of love for all humanity. I think it quite sad that many self-proclaimed Christians and Muslims don’t understand who and what God really is and what He taught.

  7. Alleluiamaranatha

    My latest one-liner concerning these type of discussions: “If you don’t want Cafeteria Catholics, don’t be a dafeteria Bishop, Priest, Seminary, liturgist or catechist–seek truth”! Agree with you completely Birgit!

  8. rodlarocque1931

    I really don’t understand this co-opting of the feet washing ceremony by liberal Catholics to try and make it into something it isn’t. Our Lord did this to show his love for the apostles and to show them that they, through their ordination, share a bond with him. I suppose one could try and read into it something about service to others, but really it is more about the inner dynamics of the priesthood.
    In any event, “service to others” is an expression of faith lived out in the world through grace, but it certainly isn’t the beginning and end of Christianity. Our Lord came to save souls, that is it… Service to others has always been a strategy to win the hearts and minds of sinners to convert, and Christians co-opted service as a way of encountering Our Lord in the world, but again this is all about being a missionary to save souls, not to make a heaven here on earth.
    This is why the Church holds up the contemplative life as an ideal, if the church was all about service the contemplative monasteries would have been declared heretical.

  9. AugustineThomas

    Thanks Novus Ordo Catholics for making everything about heresy! (If you all start going to the proper Mass, you may find your unquenchable desire for heresy receding.)

    1. Do you even realize how angry you sound? I would rather worship at my Novus Ordo Mass with peace and joy in my heart, than worry if all the “rubrics” we’re being carefully followed somewhere else.

    2. Don’t over steer in the other direction.

      Let’s have both. Joy in our heart and follow all of the rubrics. It can be done.

    3. AMEN.

      Actually, sobriety concentrates joy, makes it more tangible. Joy is not the same as “having fun.”

    4. I believe that rubrics were instituted in earlier Christian eras when the variances at Mass, and the resultant shifts in belief became a hindrance to the unity of the Church. Following them is not hard, or a burden. Just do what they say. Quite simple. Nothing to worry about, just do them.

    5. Do you realize how intolerant YOU sound? I have heard entirely too many people insist on the “peace and joy” in the Novus Ordo being the norm, meanwhile they summarily thrash almost everything of value that I find in the Mass. I’m long since finished with the “community” aspect of the Mass; it’s time to focus much more on worship of God, not man.

    6. John, I’m not being intolerant. This isn’t a competition as to who’s Mass is better. If you find peace and joy in your more traditional Mass then I thank God for that. I certainly love the Mass that I attend. I don’t find it irreverent or a “circus” or any of the other colorful descriptions I have read about in these comment boxes, and I don’t consider myself part of the “B” team either. I love being able to pray in English and understand every word in the prayers I offer to God. I’m grateful to live in a country where I can still attend Mass weekly (or daily, if possible). The “extra” observances like Holy Thursday’s foot washing ceremony are just the icing on the cake for me, in an already beautiful celebration, whether men or women are selected to participate. I don’t hold any animosity for the more orthodox form of Mass, so I don’t understand why so many disparage the new form. Jesus is no less present in the Novus Ordo than he is in the pre-Vatican II Mass. Let’s all live with more acceptance and unity. Happy Easter!

    7. MaryAnn, this commentary demonstrates precisely the intolerance and animosity that I’m speaking of. You aren’t trying to be cruel or hostile–though I gather you consider that some of us are. You are, though, demonstrating thought that l grew up with and have become very wary about. It’s not a problem of what you intend, but a problem of unintended consequences.
      You refer to “acceptance”, “unity”, “beauty” and whatnot, as goods; in themselves, they are good. Unfortunately, the ideas and actions that typically follow from these ideas have been badly warped from their original meanings in my lifetime.
      if we intended “acceptance” of ideas and “unity” of actions, we would not witness an annual fight for “inclusiveness”, we’d witness people learning the actual rubrics. Where we don’t understand the logic and meaning of the rubrics, we’d seek more thorough catechesis. Tragically, we’ve caused “community” to become more important than belief; I’ve been horrified to learn these past 15 years about how Protestant we’ve allowed the Mass to become. While certainly the Novus Ordo CAN be offered in a truly reverent and Catholic manner, we typically do not celebrate Mass in the manner we could. Though I’m not able to agree with SSPS regarding the merits of the current pope’s authority, I find that much of the criticism they level against the newer Mass has much merit.
      Mass should never have been allowed to be made into a community activity wherein groups of citizens gather to exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech and religion, meanwhile living as secular pagans the rest of the week. That we’re having these arguments today suggests to me that we’ve lost dangerous quantities of our understanding of moral courage and all that faith requires. We should never have allowed the Gospel message to be subordinated to anything, but we have. We aren’t anywhere near as free to celebrate our faith in this nation now as we should be.
      Finally, I recall having much the same angst against Latin in Mass as others. For all that I admit that it’s easier to pray in a language I speak often, I notice that Latin COULD be the language that everyone prays in all over the world. We don’t because we insist on believing that we don’t need to learn another language to practice faith. For all that we’re not wrong, I think we act in error because we cast aside a particular unifying trait of our faith.
      We seem to place shocking disregard on unity in the most meaningful manner, sacrificing it for “unity” in community thought. Unfortunately, the latter tends toward neglect of the whole of the Church’s teaching and Tradition.

    8. Mass should never have been allowed to be made into a community activity
      wherein groups of citizens gather to exercise their First Amendment
      rights to free speech and religion, meanwhile living as secular pagans
      the rest of the week

      That’s spot on.

      Mass is not about We, the People, where we’d be no People of God without Christ. It is GOD Who forms His people Israel in the Old Testament, and it is God Who likewise forms His people in the New. The People of God don’t become as much by themselves, Just Cuz They Wanna.

    9. John, I agree to an extent, at least about the trashing part.

      The problem is that most people don’t know what joy is. Again, Pope Francis reminds us that it’s not the same as having fun.

      As to your point about community, it is only Jesus Christ Who truly gathers a people to Himself. We are no Church without Him. So no, community is not a start-up initiative; we have to be called, and Christ calls us. A community calling itself Catholic that does not realize this ends up worshiping itself.

      We can have community, but we tend to squish it– and “doing all our Catholic things”– into one hour a week before we buzz off after Mass as soon as possible.

    10. Honestly, you aren’t helping. Bitterness like this doesn’t help your cause and only causes people on the other side to mirror your tact.

    11. Augustine Thomas, it is not your call at all to decide whether the Novus Ordo is or is not a proper Mass. You have no such authority, having not been given it.

      There’s a huge difference between saying the Novus Ordo is not a proper Mass and pointing out that not celebrating it properly is highly problematic. Because it is.

      I understand your frustration, and share it to some degree: I happen to have a foot in both camps, EF and OF. I also wear my chapel
      veil to both. But it’s attitudes like the one you’ve just expressed
      that tends to encourage people not to want to discover the EF.

      What have you done to encourage people to discover the EF and how it relates to the OF, and to discover the musical tradition of the Church and why it matters in BOTH forms of the Mass?

  10. Just who are you to assert Jesus’ intent into perpetuity? Rubrics?! Is your righteousness any greater than that of the pope? Does the word ‘Pharisee’ come to mind?

    1. Sounds like your vitriol certainly beats the pope’s. You seem quite the Pharisee yourself in insisting that things be done differently because you say so.

    2. Not a’tall. Having only known the Church post-Vatican II, I don’t really see how strict adherence to ‘rubrics’ contributes much to the formation of faith within the pews beyond a general appreciation of superficial costume and stage-craft. Further, I’m not seeing how Latin contributes much to an understanding of faith when we do not speak the language with any proficiency. And with spoken English already in decline, I’m not optimistic there either. Having traveled a bit myself and hearing the mass in many foreign languages, my only profit was personal reflection, receiving Holy Communion, fulfilling my obligation, and sensing a fellowship among the world. Were mass to revert to Latin, I’m not so sure my confreres would not themselves experience much different. Pharisee? Hardly. I’m not obsessed with ‘rubrics’ and I doubt seriously Jesus would either.

    3. I think some study on what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass actually is would be of some assistance to you.

      I will comment on the use of Latin. When everyone used Latin in the Mass, we had familiarity with what was transpiring as we got to know the language by using our missals. This allowed any Catholic to attend Mass anywhere else in the World and fit right in. It truly promoted a “Universal” or Catholic Church. Now we have embraced “balkanization.”

    4. Latin is an artifact of the Roman Empire; a language to unify a growing body. The Empire’s time has come…and gone.

    5. Not relevant. It remains the language of the Church, to unify a growing body. Further, given it’s status, it remains unchanging in meaning and doesn’t have word meaning evolving and changing over time. Very similar to the Jewish people using Hebrew in their worship. It’s a sacred language.

    6. Not being a linguist, what is the Latin phrase for digital camera, AK-47, notebook computer, ‘selfie’, cell phone, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Higs-Boson particle?

    7. The growing body within the Church. It unifies us in the Liturgy.

      Come on, now. You are coming across as being willfully obtuse. You can do better than that.

    8. Obtuse or acute? (though I think I’m pretty cute, but I digress) If the Mass is to be of significance and relevant exercise day-in and day-out, a full contemplative understanding of prayer is beyond crucial. For example, in Thai wasting one’s time in the exercise of an activity or futile argument of logic is expressed as “playing the violin to the buffalo”–a hugely important and well-understood phrase among Thai people. However, one who does not speak Thai, let alone understand Thai culture, would not fully understand its larger meaning and cultural relevance. Likewise in our early Church, Latin had an exceptional and exclusive place because it was indeed the language of ‘the people.’ Today, not so much. The subtleties and nuances within any language survive only as long as it remains fluent among the people. How can we entrust our faith into a language that no longer retains a general fluency? I prefer to fully understand and know precisely what my prayers submit to God.

    9. So by your rationale, everyone before the disuse of Latin (which is counter to the Second Vatican Council BTW) had no idea about their faith? Really?

      Again, give yourself more credit. You can worship in Latin with a Missal that provides a translation and over time begin to learn the Latin by repetition. My children have no problem with it. I’m confident that you can rise to the occasion as well. I’m confident anyone can as they did in the past.

    10. It unifies a growing body around something highly SPECIFIC.

      Not being used to Latin, Latin does force us to concentrate. Again, the average Catholic, certainly in North America, barely even knows what the Mass is, DESPITE it being wholly in the vernacular.

      Nothing wrong with the vernacular, but Vatican II never called for kicking Latin out completely. Both vernacular and Latin have a place together at Mass. Vernacular-only tends to encourage being on autopilot a lot of the times.

      Since we are to be in the world, but not of it, having both at Mass does actually force us to think on two registers.

    11. That makes perfect sense. Let’s take a mass that’s already poorly understood (by your estimation) and make it that much less understood.

    12. Put Jesus first; engage, allowing Him to be truly Himself (and no, dumbed-down hippy-dippy Jesus will not do, because dumbing Him down would be misrepresenting Him. A “Jesus” less than He truly is also cannot save). Everything, certainly Latin among others, the falls into place.

      We believe so that we may understand, and not the other way around. And if we modern Catholics think we’re so smart, being as we are “so much more educated now,” then a little Latin shouldn’t be so insurmountable, and neither should a little basic Catholic theology.

      The problem is when we presume that understanding is meant to be immediate, when it actually unfolds over time with constant engagement with Christ with all of ourselves.

    13. I wish I could repost what you wrote You identified a thought I’ve had for years. Like you, I too attend the Latin Mass whenever possible.
      Oh my gosh yes, listening to the words in Latin opens up deeper understanding. It’s impossible to cling to old hearings and interpretations when you hear (or read) the Latin. It is a gorgeous language. I studied it for 4 years in college culminating in an entire semester dedicated to translating Virgil’s Aeneid.
      I love that language, and I prefer it to English both during Mass and in the readings.
      In fact, I want to confess something here. When I participate in the Latin Mass, the only time I am cognitively distracted is when a priest gives a homily in English criticizing the Pope and the Bishops. As you can imagine, some priests who say the Latin Mass are very unhappy with Rome and the US Bishops. I want to cover my ears. Save the internecine conflicts and give us the Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin, it is so beautiful, it brings people to Christ.
      WSquared the Vulgate Bible transports me from this world where all the sounds blend together but in the Latin language I feel like I a hearing the words in a whole new light. Is this what you mean?

    14. but in the Latin language I feel like I a hearing the words in a whole new light. Is this what you mean?

      YES, Dr. McLeod! This is indeed what I mean.

      I have no formal training in Latin (the training you received is admirable and I admit to being a wee bit envious), but I’m a language geek, and I’ve picked up a fair bit. Apart from my native English, I know French pretty well. I am pretty much fine at any Mass celebrated in Italian, can make my responses in Italian, and can largely even understand the priest’s homily. A bit of background: I’m an Asian kid who grew up in an Italian neighborhood where people still speak Italian, and my home parish still celebrates Mass in Italian as well as in English– Pope Francis makes me grin from ear to ear because his homiletic cadences remind me of many of the Italian priests I grew up with.

      I do find that with an open heart and mind, the meaning of the Latin words do sink in over time. What I do tell the Latin-Mass shy off the bat is that the lay parts are easy– once you know those, it does free you to pray the Mass. Understanding unfolds over time, so it’s okay to not “get it” the first time around. But that’s true of pretty much anything profound, and patience and diligence will be rewarded. It will come. It will also take about three consecutive Masses to get “used” to the Latin Mass, and the Lord will take it from there.

      Even with minimal training in Latin, it just takes a little bit to see how much what seems to be small can open up into so much, and I think it has everything to do with what you’ve been writing about lately re an overall, overarching coherence that can only come from transcendence. We both know that so many not-as-educated saints and people with a simple faith understood the faith at such a profound level when the Mass was still in Latin: they still knew deep down what Thomas Aquinas knew, even if they might articulate it differently, depending on the gifts they’ve been given. The (answer) key, I think, is the Eucharist– the Word Made Flesh, and not “how many words we know/understand.” Again, I think it’s because of how receptive they were to the Eucharist, in good part because of a popular piety and popular devotions that are of course keyed into the Mass, to say nothing of Eucharistic Adoration. Also, we believe so that we may understand– this is what Augustine and Anselm knew, and what Francis and Benedict reiterated in Lumen Fidei. Because at the heart of coherence is the Logos. Most of us have got this completely backwards, which is why Mass in Latin not only seems immediately “unintelligible,” but also unthinkable. One thing I really do love about the Latin Mass that I miss in the Novus Ordo is the Last Gospel.

      I can and do pray most of the basic prayers in Latin, and when I really listen to what I’m praying, new meanings will open up for me. What often follows is the opportunity to connect the dots. One of those breakthroughs was with the Our Father. The “fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra” opens up a whole new level re “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”– given the “reversed” word order for Latin, you get a sense of Heaven being brought down to earth so that we may be lifted up into Heaven on a gradual, continual basis (not Earth first, Heaven later), and of course that connects you immediately to the Eucharist and “I will be with you unto the end of the age” and Christ’s Presence in all of the tabernacles of all the world.

      When I participate in the Latin Mass, the only time I am cognitively distracted is when a priest gives a homily in English criticizing the Pope and the Bishops. As you can imagine, some priests who say the Latin Mass are very unhappy with Rome and the US Bishops. I want to cover my ears.

      So very agreed. This sort of attitude just ruins it for others and leaves a bad aftertaste. This is the last thing the TLM needs. I can see why they’re unhappy, which is why I’ve asked time and time again why, instead of thinking Pope Francis as antithetical to tradition, we don’t think about how tradition illustrates more clearly so much of what he says. Father Z. often says that Pope Benedict gave us a nice, shiny new bicycle with Summorum Pontificum, and that we should take off the training wheels and ride the stupid bike. I think Pope Francis is asking us to share the bike with others. What I’m loving about Pope Francis, and what I love about Pope Benedict, is that “affirmative orthodoxy”: what both of these recent Popes have been clear on is how much Christ enables us to live what seems “too hard.” Engage Christ as He truly is, and a genuine, authentic orthodoxy will come. Rubrics don’t exist for themselves, but exist as an outward expression of their ultimate meaning. That’s the reason why they matter at all, but matter, they do.

      Again, whatever Pope Francis’s approach to liturgy might be, this is still not somebody who would hand out snazzy consumer duds as “door prizes” for the Washing of the Feet. For him, easing off a little still involves sobriety, and while he might wear a clown nose in St. Peter’s Square, he would not wear one at Mass. He also knows that he is not the liturgist that Pope Benedict is, but he knows that his own simpler, but no less reverent and sober approach fits well within the Church’s rubrics. But for many of us here in America, easing off tends to mean that iconoclastic trashiness giving way to a consumerist free-for-all is somehow okay. We should think twice about tooting our own horns about the Pope’s humility. Francis is genuinely humble, but our consumerist attitudes and demands for constant stimulation and entertainment are not.

      Fortunately, most of the priests at the Latin Masses that I’ve attended so far play it straight (but I do know that the attitude you speak of does exist): they catechize, and it’s about the Catholic faith and its implications, or they’ll explain an aspect of the liturgy. Some of those priests aren’t the most “dynamic” preachers in the world, but that’s what’s wonderful about the Latin Mass. That the Latin Mass puts the focus on Christ, not the priest, makes it clear that Mass allowed to be itself can meet every priest where he is: a priest, whatever his personality, only finds his true self acting and participating in the person of Christ with all that he has been given. Knowing that It’s Not All About You can take a ton of pressure off a more introverted priest and serve as a gentle reminder to a more extroverted one that the priesthood and Mass is not about “performance” and his own personality. It makes clearer that there’s room in the priesthood for all kinds of priests, since it’s God’s call to make, not ours. The Sacramental priesthood is teaching me so much about what it means to be, and not just do: it’s almost a stock caricature that “Asian Kids” experience tons of pressure to be “perfect” in highly superficial ways and to be someone that they’re not, so that’s one of the many ways that the priesthood makes all the difference. Preaching is hard, and a heartfelt, humble, and conscious preparation does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

      A part of me wonders whether referring to a priest mostly as “pastor” and “associate pastor” instead of “parish priest” and “curate” tends to be too imprecise. Priests are meant to be pastors, to be shepherds, but in a very specific and particular way as per the essential nature of Holy Orders: they are meant to pastor and shepherd as priests, men chosen by Christ to belong to Him in a particular way, and to serve and offer sacrifice in a specific way on our behalf. We tend to expect more out of the preaching and “pastoral outreach” than we do out of the Sacrament, indeed all of the Sacraments. Problem is, “without Me, you can do nothing”: that’s what grounds any of it at all. I will sometimes hear from fellow Catholics that “Catholics don’t love Jesus enough, unlike Protestants,” usually when they think that the Church needs to “change” in particular ways now familiar to pretty much everyone. But the real problem of this lack of love is that too many of us Catholics can’t be bothered to unpack what Jesus gives us in the manner, means, and capacity that He gives it to us. Because we’re way too impatient. I wonder if this is part and parcel of Pope Benedict once observing that we all want to love Jesus Christ, but we often don’t let Him love us.

    15. I love Vatican II, reading the documents as I do, and knowing how the Latin Mass has allowed me to both understand Vatican II better AND pray the Novus Ordo better than I ever have.

      I have absolutely no use for what a lot of people perpetuate in the NAME of Vatican II, to say nothing of what they slot into every Novus Ordo Mass. I have no problem with the Novus Ordo itself. What I have a problem with is people disrespecting the Novus Ordo qua Mass, either by claiming that it’s an invalid Mass or by slotting bad music into it that detracts from its spiritual reality. I lean neither here nor there on what Pope Francis is doing, but one thing I do know is that he still doesn’t banalize the washing of the feet or anything else the way so many American parishes do: look, does anyone here honestly think that someone like Francis would hand out complementary keepsake towels for the washing of the feet?! He may wear a clown nose in St. Peter’s Square, but he doesn’t wear one at Mass, and wouldn’t, since he knows (and has said) that Mass is not entertainment or a mere prayer gathering.

      Actually, it’s about time we in America realize that our consumer culture is inherently unworthy of the sacred liturgy. We have no business bringing it to Mass and demanding the the liturgy conform to it, and we ourselves should realize how much we’ve been conditioned by advertising and buying stuff: the customer is not always right, and what the Church is giving us isn’t for sale.

      Pope Francis, like Pope Benedict, has cautioned against an adolescent faith (“Mary stops us from being teenagers for life”) and can tell the difference between having joy and having fun, which he has said are not the same thing. Having fun is good, but wanting to have fun all the time makes us naive. Americans largely can’t tell the difference between the two, and tend to think that faith is something mostly emotional, when it is a conscious act of the will to respond to a call that comes from the outside. God also speaks most loudly in silence– which pop music and the like at the Novus Ordo tends to rob the faithful of, especially when well-meaning music ministers assume that they should fill every available moment with sound.

      And I was one of those young Catholics whom dumbed-down Catholicism drove away at one time. I also have a graduate education, and I came back to the Church in grad school: if all we do is present Catholicism as stupid, hokey, and banal, then why should I or anyone else want to be or remain Catholic? It took Pope Benedict among others to show me what authentic orthodoxy looks like, and it’s actually reading a LOT of Ratzinger/Benedict that prepared me to love Francis. Catholicism has a very strong and vibrant living tradition– to be rooted in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith, produces nothing but. But I see next to no witness to that tradition at not a few Novus Ordo Masses. That’s potentially a form of false witness. Moreover, every saint before Vatican II who ever loved the liturgy, and St. John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger were all young kids once. However did they ever come to love the Mass without the help of Americanized pop music? I want the food that the Church gives me, not the kind of Wonderbread that complacent suburbanites think they can offer as a substitute.

      Charity has to be rooted in the Truth to be Charity at all. And robbing the faithful of what is rightfully theirs qua what the Magisterium wants to give them is contrary to Charity. The sorts of approaches I described assumes that the faithful aren’t worth the Truth.

      And I’ve also lived in three countries and done some traveling, having attended Mass in many languages, other than my native English. A couple of things seem clear: enough English-speaking Catholics don’t even understand what Mass is DESPITE it now being wholly in the vernacular. For the languages like Vietnamese of which I know nothing (unlike Italian and French), I can still participate as well as I can from knowing the order of Mass– Mass also has its own physical body language. I may not understand every word, but I still know where the priest is at any point of the Mass, enough to make my responses in English. What taught me this was going to the Latin Mass back to back with the Novus Ordo.

    16. These guys who continually charge everyone else with being a “Pharisee” often forget that Christ also instructed his followers this in regard to the Pharisees:

      “Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.”

      It wasn’t that the Pharisees were wrong but rather their motivation in following the law and inability that our obedience should come from our love (and His Grace).

    17. AugustineThomas

      I know. Me and you should start a church where you just go wild at “Mass”.. Like just have a pool party or, uw uww, trampoline dodgeball for the Lord! It’ll be soooo progressive and that’s all that really matters, am I right?

    18. Intrigued, yes. Committal, no. Orderly worship has its place, but not at the expense of trivializing God to material presentation.

    19. Not really. This is the 21st Century; not the middle ages. It takes more than gold, frankincense, and myrrh to grab the attention of modern people. Try information, logic, and appreciation of identity.

    20. If you present some logic, any logic, I would appreciate it.

      The times change, but man doesn’t. God know what we need in our worship and through Holy Mother Church prescribes that for us.

      If anything, men need more focus nowadays than ever.

    21. *sighing* Your various comments these last hours demonstrate a genuine problem, LWC. You don’t appear to consider Mass “relevant” unless it answers to the tastes and ideas from after Vatican II. Unfortunately, that batch of ideas ultimately drove me to question the use and merit of the Novus Ordo; I became intrigued by the traditional Mass.
      I began hearing (sometimes not so) subtle suggestions that if I didn’t toe the party line, I should consider myself motivated by prejudice, intent on abusing others. I ought to consider myself “old-fashioned” and “ignorant”. All because I dared suggest that imposed changes made no sense.
      Mind you, this was the Novus Ordo, supposedly relevant to ME. It became an excuse to blast me for being politically incorrect.

      Here’s the conclusion I reached: Many older traditions may make little sense without learning more about the faith. Well, most newer traditions make even less sense and have only the thinnest ground in the faith. If we learn the latter, we may learn to worship ourselves and our “reasonable” mind. If we learn the older traditions, we learn the faith more fully and understand God, Christ, more deeply. I highlight in this case that the washing of feet relates directly to the establishment of the holy priesthood, not merely to a service to the poor and needy, nor to a vague “priesthood” of the faithful.
      I would not have known that from the practices many have insisted upon over the last 50 years.

      If you’ve been to Mass around the world and only shared a vague sense of community with others, I’ll notice that I’ve been to Mass in four countries and six languages. I had no problem understanding the Mass if I understood the structure and matter presented. Sadly, given the character of many a Novus Ordo sermon, hearing the Mass in French, German, Spanish, or Vietnamese didn’t bother me much. Ironically, I understood the sermon at the traditional (Latin) Mass most poignantly because the priest offered the sermon in English. ..And actually said something worth hearing!

      I have decided that if we really want a worldwide faith that relates to everyone, our best option will be to aid others in learning Latin and to constantly seek catechesis in the faith. If we don’t do that, the Mass will never be relevant to anyone, because we’ll all pursue a plethora of differing ideas, mostly without guidance, and we’ll all wind up loathing each other because we each think the other guy’s ideas are REALLY dumb.

      Let’s learn and practice the Mass according to the rubrics so that we actually have cause to learn what we believe and why we believe it.

    22. Actually, it’s far simpler, John: anyone who talks about “relevance” and “being relevant” neglect to ask themselves, “relevant to WHAT, exactly?”

    23. “Just who are you to assert Jesus’ intent into perpetuity”

      …He re-presents HIMSELF in perpetuity, building up the Church through His very own Holy Spirit, via the Sacraments and on St. Peter. He makes His intentions very clear through the teaching of the Church. He also promises to be with us unto the end of the age.

      Rubrics do not exist for themselves, but for a reason: namely, to put Him first, and to direct our focus to the fact that the Mass is HIS action, not ours. Only if we know what Mass truly is do we participate properly. If we haven’t learned to read those rubrics, then perhaps we’d better get cracking.

  11. Pingback: Pope Francis Defends Parents’ Right to Teach Ed. to Children-BigPulpit

  12. I have seen where everyone washes everyone else’s feet! There were wash basins all over the church.
    This year, thanks be to God, the neighboring parish offers a TLM and I get to attend and there will be no funny business there.

    1. AugustineThomas

      Thank the Pope, who is busy persecuting the most orthodox of his flock and thus has no time to deal with the rampant heresy at the Mass he loves so much.
      If we all start raising our voices, the heretic bishops won’t be able to shut us down any longer and everyone will have access to the proper Mass.
      It’s so ridiculous that you have to pray you have a good bishop in order to go to the proper Mass.

  13. If we continue to see the Mandatum carried out in a manner that isn’t consistent with it’s meaning, especially at the highest levels, then you will see it disappear. Since it’s optional, parish priests will simply exercise that option to avoid controversy. It will be another sad loss of a tradition.

    But it really doesn’t have to be that way. The Pope could have upheld the traditional approach for all to see a great example of respect for the rubrics and sent his message of serving the poor.


    Well, if I were an advisor to His Holiness (which will never happen BTW) I would have advised him to was the feet of his priests as tradition call for and then AFTER the Mass have those priests go out to wash the feet of the poor. Same net effect and actually in keeping with the symbolism and message of serving others. We don’t have to pit the liturgy against charity. With creativity we can have both.

  14. I am not in favor of doing away with this, as it too was part of the Last Supper and very much a part of Sacred Scripture. But I agree that doing it properly is essential. It is like having altar girls. Just because something is allowed does not make it expedient. In both cases it waters down the priesthood fiercely. And that is not okay.

    1. Birgit Atherton Jones

      I’d have to agree. The practice is quite important to understanding Holy Week and the institution of both the Eucharist and the priesthood. However, I’d rather have it eliminated than done without respect for it’s true purpose.

  15. Meanwhile, I typed out a great response and I’m not sure what happened.
    In short – I totally agree.
    We can not change sacred tradition to suit ourselves. I mean – what is the point? Our Faith and Church should not change for us. No, we should change our hearts to be in compliance. We would not ask Our Lord to change. No. We wouldn’t dare.
    I do not like women on the Altar period. That is my preference.
    I agree, we should insist our Parishes do it right or don’t do it.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Emily. There are rubrics that all our Priests are to follow, but too many do their own thing. It is so disheartening to attend Masses where the Priest is ad-libbing
      , throwing in words that aren’t there, and so many other things too. Mass has gotten to be a 3 ring circus, with so distractions that tend to take our focus away from Christ, up on the altar. I, for one, would love to see the Tridentine Mass return. It definitely was a more one on one with God, than what I have experienced since the changes brought about after Vatican II.

    2. When bishops, including the bishop of Rome (he seems not want to be called that other thing) set a bad example, that is what happens. Dead fish rot from the head down, so the saying goes. Very apt it is too.

  16. Karen - Silver Hill

    Great article, Birgit! Thank you for taking the time to share this.

    I realize this will be controversial to many, but let’s consider that:

    1. The Catholic Church has its rules (we’ll just call it rules for the sake of simplicity)
    2. These “rules” must be presented/acted on correctly by priests, bishops, etc – that is, as the Church intends. Rubrics are pretty clear.
    3. We “the people” have free will – we can choose to follow these rules or not

    What happens if:
    1. The Church has no “rules”? It loses its identity as the Catholic Church.
    2. The “rules” aren’t followed or are presented incorrectly by the priests/bishops/etc? This causes confusion among the people
    3. We “the people” choose not to follow the rules? We commit sin.

    So if:
    1. You don’t like that the Church has rules
    2. You want priests and bishops to be able to bend the rules, and
    3. You choose not to follow the rules, well…

    then you’re not Catholic, regardless of whether you call yourself that or not. It’s really not about what one person believes, it’s about what the Church teaches, whether or not you “believe” it. Just because you’re convinced that the Church is wrong doesn’t mean that it is – it means that you don’t understand Church teaching.

    This applies to ANY and ALL Church teaching. If you’re going to be Catholic (really, seriously be Catholic), rules are a pretty big deal. Maybe try to understand why the rules are what they are. And whatever you don’t understand – trust the Church on it. That’s why it’s called “Faith”.

    1. Yeah, those “rules” ensure that the same faith is visible and handed down to everybody.

      While we have to “own” our faith by personally choosing to embrace it, the Catholic Faith is not “our” faith, in that it doesn’t “belong” to us as if it were a private possession. It is the the faith of the entire Church across time and space.

  17. I believe that the Maundy Thursday “washing of the feet” is one of of the most significant practices in Christianity because it conveys the essence of Christ’s message: service to the poor, the marginalized, the needy. 14 “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:14-17

    There is little doubt in my mind that Pope Francis in 2013 intentionally chose to wash the feet of 10 young men and 2 young women who were juvenile offenders in a detention facility. He demonstrated to us by example that we are to be of service to ALL people and that people are more important than rubrics and petty rules. He has constantly, in every gesture. reminded us that it is others that are important and that service to others is the crux of Christianity. That is why the practice is so important. You need remember that from 1570 till 1955 the practice was unconnected to the Mass and was left until after Mass.

    I found your phrase “not manish women or any other critter” to be banal, offensive, and misogynist and quite contrary to either Jesus’ message or Pope Francis’ wonderful gesture last year. It is wrong to get bogged in ancient practice for the simple sake of ritual. rubric or ordinance.. Please reflect on Evangelii Gaudiam, as I believe it directly addresses your beliefs on the washing of the feet of others…listen to the Pope:

    “The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity. (#94)”


    1. Birgit Atherton Jones

      The comments you attribute to me (a woman), calling them ‘banal, offensive, and misogynist’ are actually quotes attributed to Fr. Zuhlsdorf . You may know him as Fr. Z– a prominent priest/blogger who is quite the authority on liturgy – ‘say the black , do the red’ (in the Missal). The link is provided above.

      Further, as I made clear with citations and sources, this is far from being my own theory or interpretation. I’ve simply put the official Church teaching into a structured format. I also made clear that Pope Francis certainly had the position to do as he wished – as the Vicar of Christ. In no way did I question his actions. Instead, I’m addressing the false idea that liturgy is ours to manipulate according to our feelings.

      Your comment about getting ‘bogged down in ancient practice for the simple sake of ritual, rubric or ordinance’ is troubling. After all, aren’t we – including laity, liturgists, and priests – bound by obedience? The legitimate hierarchy of the Church is the only authority to make well thought out changes to our sacred disciplines/liturgy. Were it not for these official disciplines, inspired from the time of Jesus, the One Holy Apostolic Church would cease to be universal. We’d all be doing our own thing and there would be much frustration. As Canon 214 states

      “The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescriptions of their own rite approved by the legitimate pastors of the
      Church, and to follow their own form of spiritual life consonant with the
      teaching of the Church.”

      When speaking of ‘legitimate pastors of the Church, we’re not talking about every individual priest and his personal preferences. Only the Holy See (and duly appointed bishops) has that authority. As we read in article 22 of Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Divine Liturgy), “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority”. It’s not about our preferences or feelings, it’s all about obedience and continuity in all things sacred.

      There is one position about which we appear to find some common ground. The Washing of the Feet wasn’t always a part of Mass, nor is it mandatory now. And, although charity toward others, especially the marginalized, is something the Holy Father rightfully proclaims, Holy Thursday is about the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood. As I state in my article, this is actually an optional practice. Therefore I maintain the contention that it should be properly done, authoritatively altered, or not put into practice. It could also be argued that symbolically washing the feet of women isn’t nearly as important as actually going forth, after the Mass, and being charitable in our everyday lives.

      Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex Vivendi – how we worship reflects what we believe and determines how we will live.

    2. And for certain Zuhlsdorf is the final arbiter of what is right and good. He and others like him should carefully weigh just how many souls he’s winning toward God compared to those he’s pushing away. Let’s just hope Jesus isn’t keeping a balance sheet on them.

    3. You’d be well to consider how many souls you’re pushing away, too, LWC. Adamant contempt for rules like this presents part of the reason why I vaguely considered becoming a Baptist about 12 years ago. After all, if I didn’t want to follow the Church’s rules, I really ought to be publicly honest about my views.

      I remain Catholic because I can only access Christ fully by means of His Church.
      Please be bothered to realize that you’re making my life all the more difficult by your howling about the Church’s teachings and rules.

    4. I’m pretty confident my style wins the day on soul count for that proposition. And it’s not really adamant contempt; just plain old contempt–for ‘rubrics’ that are self-serving aspects in the practice of faith–any faith.

    5. That’s just silly talk. Might as well go create a golden calf to have at your worship, since it really doesn’t matter.

    6. AugustineThomas

      Your guys’ heresy chases away far more souls than Father Z’s orthodoxy. Further, the people Father Z “chases away” weren’t coming anyway.. You guys actually chase away honest searchers who would find their way to Christ and his Church, if not for the rampant heresy at nearly every Novus Ordo Mass.

    7. Birgit- on the contrary, the Pope does not have the right to unilaterally do as he wishes regarding changing the liturgy. The option of washing priests’ feet becomes part of the liturgy if chosen. Holy Thursday mass acknowledges Our Lord’s institution of the Holy Priesthood and renews our thankfulness of our wonderful priests who bring God to us in the Eucharist.
      As the supreme pontiff, he is even more a servant, the supreme servant, to Holy Church, her liturgy, and her flock. His action caused confusion and scandal within the Holy Catholic Church and
      blather for the un-catechized world.

    8. Weeeellllll….. I’m not a canon lawyer, but I’ve generally understood that the pope, being the head of the Church, does actually have the authority to change something about the liturgy if he so chooses. If he didn’t, I don’t think Benedict could’ve given us Summorum Pontificum. We can agree though, that the pope must exercise great discretion with changing things, precisely for the reasons you mention. I recall that Dr Ed Peters also made comments about the risks involved with a pope “playing it loose” with the rubrics last year.
      A pope can do something if he wishes, but he incurs a risk by doing so. A cardinal, bishop, or priest, however, cannot at all. Some do anyway.
      It’s not a good thing.

    9. The Pope does not have the right to unilaterally do as he wishes regarding changing the liturgy. He alone does not have that authority.

    10. I don’t believe canon law forbids a pope from acting in a manner that he considers worthwhile. It’s not a good idea to act unilaterally very often, but he’s the pope, assumed to be guided, at least in part, by the Holy Spirit. He’s not constrained in the same way that a priest, bishop, or cardinal would be. He’s the pope. He’s the only one.

    11. Just some additional thoughts…. This is the Holiest week of the Church. Christ instituted three sacraments this week: Eucharist, Priesthood, and Confession. The washing of the Apostles feet by Christ, was His specific act in the institution of the Priesthood. Christ is the Supreme Head of the Church, and the pope fills the office of Vicar of Christ, the head of the Church on earth. Therefore, the pope has the utmost duty and responsibility to safeguard the teachings of Christ as handed down to the Apostles. The pope is well educated in the meaning of this act as taught by the Catholic Church. Christ’s humbling action of washing His Apostles feet was to instruct them in their duties, and to help illuminate their minds that as priests they were to serve God’s Church and bring her children to salvation by Christ’s teaching and example. This act is specific to the institution of the Catholic Priesthood. So whose feet should be washed on Holy Thursday mass? Well, if they are to represent the Catholic Priesthood in obedience to God Himself’s example as taught by Holy Mother Church, they should be Catholic and men. They should not be muslim, atheists, or women, etc., as these cannot fulfill the role of the Catholic Priesthood.

    12. Seems to me you raise a very interesting question in this, Lynn: Does Pope Francis really understand the concept that the washing of feet intends to convey?
      Obviously, we’re all inclined to say, “Yes, of course he understands it. He’s the pope!”. On further reflection though, I find I wonder.
      I read not too long ago about how Pope Francis’ efforts demonstrate typical Jesuitic approach, one that tends toward neglecting “worldly” cares. I don’t know enough about Jesuit interpretations of faith to know whether he ever learned the specific ideas related to instituting a male priesthood or not. It would make sense that his seminary formation didn’t worry about that precise detail quite as much.
      I would think that such a concern would be part and parcel to proper training as a priest, but given what I’ve been told about seminaries in these last decades….
      Sad thought, isn’t it?

    13. The true focal point of Holy Thursday is not the physical service of washing feet, but is instead the Ultimate Service rendered to us by Christ’s death on a cross. That spiritual and physical service is embodied to us through the priesthood instituted at that first Holy Thursday, but most importantly from the True Flesh and Blood of our Savior. Our Salvation does not rest on washing others feet, nor any actions of charity. Our Salvation rests on Christ’s obedience and sacrifice to Redeem us. Yes, we are called to follow Jesus’s example and serve, but most importantly we are called to be obedient to Him and His Church.

      A huge part of Christ’s service was His Ultimate obedience to the Father’s Will. He did not decide that it would be better to die by the sword instead of the cross. He did not make changes to God’s Will for him. The Church is Christ’s Bride and therefore follows His Will. The Church, in Her cooperation with Christ, has dictated certain rubrics and rules for Worship. Just as Christ was obedient even to the point of death, we too should be obedient to His Bride.

      The Church does not feel that the washing of feet on Holy Thursday is a crucial part to the celebration. If She did, then the act would not be relegated to an optional observance. However, the Church does offer it as an option, but specifies how it should be performed. Whether you or I feel strongly either way, we cannot elevate this practice above the Eucharist or Priesthood because as His Faithful our first requirement to to be obedient as He was.

    14. “He demonstrated to us by example that we are to be of service to ALL people and that people are more important than rubrics and petty rules. ”
      Then he should have just changed the rules. He can do that and avoid the controversy. From a purely leadership point of view, when the “boss” starts breaking the rules in such a manner then it sends a message to others that they too can take such action on matters of their own choosing.

    15. AugustineThomas

      I love how you guys write books about how effective your heretical desires are while you empty out yet more churches. It all works so great in your minds, doesn’t it?

    16. “The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who
      ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others
      because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a
      particular Catholic style from the past.”

      ## Francis the Ever-So-Humble(-Unlike-My-Arrogant-Predecessors) never loses the opportunity to insult & demean Catholics. Francis can certainly not be accused of anything so “self-absorbed” as fidelity to the Catholic Faith that was good enough for men who were worth a hundred of him. Being sneered at by the man who is supposedly the Vicar of Christ is extremely demoralising.

    17. @ James MI find it both sad and troubling when the Holy Father, who has the riches of the world at his disposal eschews them and intentionally chooses to side with the poor, the marginalized, the disabled, the abandoned and is criticized by members of his flock. Jesus came to minister to those very people and the Pope constantly reminds us that those whose life centers about petty rubrics miss the essentials of Christianity…love of God and neighbor. Christ was about people and frequently confronted the Pharisees and Sanhedrin who prayed for all to be seen and strictly followed ancient OT rubrics and practices …He came to heal the wounds of people not to establish a regimented militaristic subservience to rule. He was a simple man, a craftsman and a wanderer…he eschewed the “bling” of “self absorbed promethean palagianism” and clericalism…He had nothing, no possessions, no greed, no mansions, no gold and silk…God wants or needs none of that. He came to heal the wounds of people He created. Pope Francis is following in his footsteps…moreso than his predecessors. You have to love him as a man of Christ who sets a very difficult example for us to follow…as difficult as the sxample Christ set..

    18. Phil, you can believe what you want but liturgical history contradicts you.

      Prior to 1955, it was never part of the Mass. It was a beautiful ritual and undertaken in cathedrals, monasteries, seminaries and religious houses. The bishop, abbot, rector or superior would wash the feet of those clerics under him. It was for the priesthood. In 1955, Annibale Bugnini convinced an aging Pius XII to insert this innovation in the Mass, the first time anything was inserted in it, and to change it to the laity being washed. It is optional in both the OF and the EF and optioning it out in the OF certainly, given the antics in Rome, seems like the best thing to do.

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