I thank the men who, as the real heroes of generosity at our parish Mass of the Lord’s Supper yesterday evening, submitted to having their feet washed by their overly intense pastor. They endured the most difficult task of the evening.
Now: Yes, the book (Missal) clearly indicates that men should be chosen to receive the ministrations of the priest in the footwashing rite. As the Lord Jesus washed the feet of twelve men at the Last Supper, so the priest.
The business admits of many different profound interpretations, and those who witness it draw spiritual fruit according to each person’s own unique interior life. The duty of the priest is to follow the instructions printed in the Missal.
Over my (soon to be ten) years as a priest, I have, with some reflection and practice, developed the way in which I wash people’s feet on Holy Thursday evening. I do not claim that it is a good way; I only ask that it be respected as the result of some extended reflection on my part. To be perfectly honest, I studied the way that Pope John Paul II did it, and I attempt to do it that way.
Yesterday, our Holy Father washed the feet of ten young men and two young women. May God be praised that we have a Pope, and a healthy and loving Pope.
Does this mean that the instruction in the Missal will be changed regarding who should be chosen to sit for footwashing? Only time will tell.
But in the interest of honesty, I feel obliged to say the following. I do not mean it as a judgment on anyone else; it is simply my personal sensibility:
I could not in good conscience maintain the manner in which I execute the footwashing rite if a woman were sitting before me. I do not imagine myself to be Brad Pitt on wheels. But neither am I eighty years old and altogether beyond the virile stage. I could not engage in the physical intimacy (which, to my mind, the rite demands) with a woman who was either married to someone else or unattached. It would be unbecoming for us both.
Okay! May the Lord bless us with a Good Friday full of graces.