Its official: the pope washed the feet of females at Holy Thursday Mass

UPDATED: Here is a video of the pope’s Mass in the youth prison.


It’s official. Acording to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis washed the feet of females as well as males at Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the youth prison:

After the homily, the pope washed the feet of twelve young inmates of the juvenile prison Casal del Marmo. Two of them are girls, one Italian and the other from Eastern Europe. The Pope wore an apron made ​​by the youth of the Comunità di Villa San Francesco in the province of Belluno, and its fabric comes from the Holy Land. The time of the washing of the feet was extremely moving. The Pope knelt down six times. Every time he washed the feet of the two young people in front of him. The Holy Father washed one of the feet of each young person – he poured water, dried the foot, and then kissed it.

It is reported that two of the youths whose feet were washed are Muslim.

Note the placement of the pope’s stole – surely not an accident.

Here is the pope and the ministers, with the simplicity (and absence of lace) we’ve come to expect of this pope:

For a reflection on the meaning of footwashing on Holy Thursday, see ‘An Intimate Act of Lord”  by Pray Tell reader Chris McDonnell.


  1. Interesting comment on the stole.

    Even the Ceremonial of Bishops envisions something similar. It notes that if the washing of the feet takes place, and the bishop is wearing the pontifical dalmatic, he does remove it if he removes the chasuble for the washing. Reflecting the vestment of the deacon whose ministry is service in charity.

    1. @Jeffery BeBeau – comment #3:
      It looks like there’s an accidentally missing “not” there.

      Here’s the rubric, part of CB 301:

      “Then the bishop (laying aside the miter and chasuble but not the dalmatic, if he is wearing one) puts on a linen apron (gremial), as circumstances suggest.”

  2. YES!!! I am gratified and inspired by the recounting of both the Chrism Mass and the Mass of The Lord’s Supper. The fact that Francis let his heart, not the Latin rubrics, be the guiding principle for this celebration leads me to want to shout “Alleluia” days before the rubrics allow 🙂
    Also, as a guitarist and director of an ensemble, this quote stood out in red capital letters “A small folk group led the singing of hymns and the Mass parts to the accompaniment of a guitar. ”
    Now, it is good enough for the Pope as well as the people of St. Thomas!!

    1. @Linda Reid – comment #6:
      “Now, it is good enough for the Pope as well as the people of St. Thomas!!”
      Is it ever “good enough?” I suspect one of the reasons music ministers who serve Catholic parishes are not always looked on with favor is the fact that many of them aren’t really “catholic” in what they choose to sing and play with. If the music minister happens to have been trained as a classical organist and the parish has an organ or an electrical appliance that pretends to be an organ, you can pretty much bet the top 40 at that parish is going to come from the St. Gregory’s Hymnal or something like it while most of the OCP stuff is going to be sniffed at and looked down upon. It works the other way, too. Too often. And, that leaves the folks in the pews functionally illiterate liturgically and musically.

      1. @W. W. O’Bryan – comment #14:
        It is true that there are places that only sing traditional hymns and chants and there are places that sing only music written since the Second Vatican Council (or in the last 10 years!)
        But is it is not the case at St, Thomas where I am the music director. We sing traditional hymns, we chant, we sing beautiful settings of psalms and texts, composed in the last 50 years by very talented and spiritually gifted composers – some a capella, some accompanied by guitars, and/or piano, and/or violin, and/or clarinet, and/or flute.
        Please do not judge our liturgical and musical literacy by the instrument I play. We all strive to be “good enough” 🙂

  3. A question (real, not rhetorical) and a brief comment.

    Over the past days we have talked much about females possibly being part of this rite. But there was another possibility that I thought was just as important, but saw little discussion of. The Guardian:

    “The ceremony has been traditionally limited to men because all of Jesus’ apostles were male. The Vatican spokesman said two of the 12 whose feet were washed were Muslim inmates.”

    Is there something routine about admission of non-Christians to the rite?

    Now the comment. My work is with prisoners and chaplains in some very large facilities. It has been a stony Lent, and for various reasons it will be the first major feast that i have not spent with the inmates of a particular facility in more than a decade, which really sucks. I have no words for how deeply this cuts, how perfectly these words and actions sum up the lived experience of so many of those imprisoned, and those privileged to serve them.

    1. @Claude Muncey – comment #7:
      While all of the names of the Twelve (in the various unharmonised lists which are found in the Gospels) are names of males (to reflect the names of the twelve tribes) it is highly unlikely that among the 70 other apostles referred to in Luke 10.1, there were no women.

    2. @Claude Muncey – comment #7:

      God bless you, Claude, for all the great works you and Fr.Rude do for our imprisoned brothers and sisters here in our diocese. I wish I still had the capacity to continue out at ASP, but….
      A holy Triduum to you and all yours.

  4. BTW, did you read what “more catholic than the pope”, Canon lawyer Edward Peters stated?
    Read on if you have the stomach:

    Edwards, who is an adviser to the Holy See’s top court, noted in a blog that the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1988 sent a letter to bishops making clear that “The washing of the feet of chosen men … represents the service and charity of Christ who came ‘not to be served, but to serve.'”

    “By disregarding his own law in this matter, Francis violates, of course, no divine directive,” Peters wrote Thursday. “What he does do, I fear, is set a questionable example,” particularly as it regards adherence to liturgical rules.

    Time for Peters to GO!

  5. Pope Francis’s clear concern for the poor and least among us is truly inspiring, a wonderful example for us all.

    I do think, however, it’s time to come up with a new PTB drinking game: every time lace or is absence is mentioned, take a drink. Two drinks when mentioned while gloating.

  6. I’ve always found the link between the washing of the feet, (and thus restricting it to chosen men), and to the institution of the ordained priesthood to be tenuous at best. Only in Rome where the Pope washed the feet of 12 priests, would this connection be clear.

    If I am not mistaken this rite was restored to its current place with the revision of Holy Week in 1955. In the revision of the RM which is in use today, it is an optional rite, and the rite doesn’t even mention a number. The rite is supposed to show forth the commandment of mutual love and the importance of service. Thus there is little connection to priesthood, unless one means the baptismal priesthood (in which case both men and women should be represented), so the exclusion of women, makes little sense. When the rite gets politicized it undermines its value of this rite and it would be better to omit it then let something that should be a beautiful sign of humility, be divisive.

  7. Dale Rodrigue : @Rom Kiul – comment #1: Rom, see what Canon Lawyer, Edward Peters wrote on his blog… I copied it below in #9, March 28, 6:04 pm

    I am sure that neither Ed Peters nor Pope Francis consider the decisions of the Congregation for Divine Worship to be infallible. In this case, as Paul Inwood wrote above, the rubric does not forbid the washing of the feet of women or children, because it does not say anything about it.

    As a matter of justice it is wrong to deny to women any role in the Church that can be carried out by lay men. Discrimination on the grounds of sex is sinful – and to say to one group of lay people, “You can do this as a member of the lay faithful”, and to another, “You are not allowed to carry out this lay person’s activity,” where the only criteria for deciding which of the two groups you are in is your gender, is clearly institutionalised sexism.

    As supreme authority in the Church the Pope can change Church law whenever he wants to. He could have issued a formal decree yesterday morning which changed the written advice about the washing of feet. Instead he chose to demonstrate that rule no longer applied. Nixon said “If the President does it, it is not illegal.” He was wrong because the President is just the head of one of the three branches of the US government. The Pope has no such limitation – he is head of the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. By his action he has clearly shown the whole Church that the previous guidance about the washing of the feet of women no longer applies.

    1. @Rom Kiul – comment #19:

      In this case, as Paul Inwood wrote above, the rubric does not forbid the washing of the feet of women or children, because it does not say anything about it.

      Just to avoid any ambiguity, my remark was in the other thread. I said that the rubric does not specifically prohibit the washing of women’s feet because it doesn’t even mention them. Nor, rather more importantly, does it say that one may not also wash women’s feet in addition to the feet of the chosen men (number unspecified).

    2. @Rom Kiul – comment #19:
      When (now Cardinal) Sean O’Malley was in his first year as Abp of Boston, this came up — he did not wash the feet of any women. IIRC, he promised to check w/ the Vatican on this and was told to do whatever he deemed pastorally appropriate.
      So while there is no official decree admitting women to the rite with the “vidi”, there is an awareness at the Vatican (I presume the CDW) that this is commonly done in the US and other countries. I imagine that the use of “vidi” in the norm is a holdover from the Cathedral version of the Rite, when the Bishop washed feet of his priests, and the unimaginative viri who wrote the current norm were just thinking in a rather literal analogy between Bishop:priests and pastor;men.
      One hears that every word of every document is scrutinized by a gazillion officials, but if the presence of women in an official rite is beyond the limits of their imagination, the scrutinies will not pick up something like this.

  8. The other striking thing about the Mass is that, as the Tablet reports, “The Mass was over in slightly less than an hour.” When was the last time that an important Eucharistic celebration by the Pope took less than an hour?

  9. I like that he washed the feet of both girls and boys, and never understood why having men only was so important since it doesn’t affect the symbolism of the rite (well, in some contexts I understand why some people don’t want the practice to change, but disagree with them).

    However, the Pope will need to change the rules. He can’t lead by example on this one since it creates too many awkward situations. When Benedict led by example, it was for things that were not forbidden in the first place. What does a priest who just wants to follow the books do? How about priests who want to follow the Pope’s example, but don’t have the law on their side? Is this a change Francis wants the whole Church to adopt, or is it a one time gesture he is making in this time and place?

    1. @Jack Wayne – comment #21:
      I suspect as Bishop of Rome, he is leading by example and will allow each bishop in his own territory to make these decisions. I think as well each pastor can too if we are going to go into a more rigorous subsidiarity in this regard. But in fact that is what has been happening in this minor ritual for decades. I think it is much to do about nothing. But I agree, the Holy Father should, in justice, make clear his intentions and explain himself. Maybe he’s working on the mstygogia model, letting us experience first and then discussing it later?

    2. @Jack Wayne – comment #21:
      The only awkwardness seems to be coming from those who give more weight to viri selecti than John 13:15.

      “What does a priest who just wants to follow the books do?”

      Meditate on SC 11, and consider his wider vocation.

      “How about priests who want to follow the Pope’s example, but don’t have the law on their side?”

      Consider the Lord’s mandate of John 13:15, reflect that all disciples are called to wash one another’s feet, and evolve this further from a clergy operation. Realize that our more misogynist bishops have had their cathedra legs chopped out from underneath them on this matter. And then continue to preach the Gospel.

      Clearly, Pope Francis is taking evangelization seriously.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #23:

        Consider the Lord’s mandate of John 13:15, reflect that all disciples are called to wash one another’s feet, and evolve this further from a clergy operation

        Last evening I went to the “foot washing” at the large local parish where everyone is invited to wash each others feet.

        The washing began with young men and women bringing out about twelve chairs which were arranged around the steps to the altar, they sat down on those chairs and had their feet washed by the young priest who presided and who is a leader in the parish youth ministry.

        So essentially the biblical history of a leader of ministry washing his disciples’ feet was replicated. One could also say that the young men might have been inspired to the priesthood by this act. I wonder if we are going to get a whole new generation of priests of service oriented spirituality who will have Pope Francis as their model. How will they get along with the JP2 priests and the B16 priests? Probably will get along well with the older priests who came from a more servant leader model. Incidentally promoting servant leadership inspired this parish to introduce this mutual foot washing model.

        Of course the priest also washed the feet of the young women so I guess we will get another generation of women who will want to be priests (maybe Francis will open the deaconate to them?).

        Once the young men and women had their feet washed they each washed the feet of another dozen people who continued the process, etc.

        This parish has rather young demographics. Many of the young people and families with children took part. I suspect for many of the kids it’s a matter of curiosity, or maybe even of playfulness (I dare you). It certainly seems to bring life to the liturgy since inevitably with many people it is somewhat haphazard and uncoordinated, not fast paced like communion lines.

        I suspect somewhere between 10 to 20% of the people might have been involved.

  10. I found the Pope’s brief comments on why he was washing feet inspiring – as in filling with the Spirit! He told the young people what he was doing, why he was doing it and enjoined them to go and do likewise! With all the focus on the actions of the Pope, I hope people aren’t missing his words. They are an excellent example of what a homily should be. They preach the Gospel without obscuring the message in a cloud of interchangeable pious buzz words.

    1. @Jack Regan – comment #27:
      Upon further reflection, the reaction of our trad sisters and brothers present us with an opportunity. We have all known upheaval in our lives. For them, this is as shocking as finding out we have six months to live.

      How should we deal with our sisters and brothers? Why not emulate the Master? We can’t wash their feet, literally. But in our communities, this is an opportunity to listen, to understand, and to exemplify the service every disciple is called to offer. And some may still refuse. But then we will have done our duty by them. And nudging the Body off the raging track of anger and splintering.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #28:

        I am trad and I do not mind if a parish decides to wash the feet of women. I would hope that a parish would wait for positive legislation, but even without this I wish to be as understanding as possible. I still want to hold that the mandatum is an example of human service and also a metaphor for Christ’s service to the twelve apostles (even if this latter association is tenuous, as proved by multiple PTB correspondents). However, the implausibility of the latter point suggests that the exclusion of women is not intrinsic to the mandatum. Perhaps Pope Francis will explicitly change viri selecti (“men set apart”) to homines selecti (“persons set apart”). This is not a drastic rubrical revision.

        Shifting gears: I realize that much of the exultation on PTB over Pope Francis’s liturgical decisions is, consciously or not, a release of pent-up frustration with Pope Benedict’s reign. I also realize that websites such as Rorate Coeli are likely mourning and raging over the resignation of Pope Benedict. Still, I often sense that PTB vs. tradosphere is a horribly dissonant chorus of screaming siblings which will never reconcile or at least cease hostilities.

        Or maybe I should develop thicker skin, as this is a progressive blog and an arena designed to vent frustration about liturgical traditionalism.

      2. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #34:
        Dear Jordan: I for one am glad you post on PTB. Please continue to do so. I find myself far too hybrid a human being, not least in matters liturgical, not to be open to a great variety of possible interpretations. My hunch is that many of us are not so clearly either-or. What I AM passionately committed to is the encounter with the Triune God, in and through liturgical symbols. How that can best be broken open, through human hands, is always open for reconfiguration and re-thinking. And as long as your passion is close to mine, I want to hear on you, trad, rad, or whatever.

      3. @Todd Flowerday – comment #28:

        Hello Todd,

        Upon further reflection, the reaction of our trad sisters and brothers present us with an opportunity. We have all known upheaval in our lives. For them, this is as shocking as finding out we have six months to live.

        As if it’s been all sweetness and light for traditionalists since 1965, Todd. I think the emotions being felt in those quarters are all too familiar ones…

        Having said that, I think the folks most concerned with the posture revealed thus far by this pontificate are really Reform-of-the-Reformists rather than traditionalists per se. The latter have structures, law, networks in place to protect and further them – or at least to fall back on. The former, however, stake their whole project on steady penetration and transformation of diocesan life, and the mainstream liturgical life of the Church, and as such, depend far more now on official patronage. That patronage still exists in certain dioceses and precincts of the Curia, but only a minority, even in the U.S., and the new pontiff seems unlikely to continue active support for their project – if anything, he seems content with the Reform, without reform.

        But as for traditionalists: They are not an undifferentiated lot, any more than progressives are. In my experience, there are three reactions on offer: 1) a surprisingly large number (a solid majority, I think) which, despite certain apprehensions, really wants to give the Pope a chance; 2) A much more histrionic group, disproportionately active online, many of whom felt increasingly vested in the notion of brick-by-brick restoration of tradition under Benedict; and 3) most surprisingly (to me), a rather resigned group, usually SSPX, whose low sense of investment in the post-conciliar papacy has meant muted reactions; they expect little but reckless innovation, and thus don’t feel very let down.

        As with so much else, the web is not always an accurate barometer of the mood on the ground.

      4. @Richard Malcolm – comment #36:
        A blessed Triduum to you, Richard, and to your loved ones.

        Your three reactions strike me as close to the mark.

        Almost everywhere, the preconciliar experience of liturgy seemed to be rooted more in formality, rubric, tradition (small-t), and was not very deep even for many who “loved” the Latin Mass.

        One positive aspect of Vatican II that reform2 folks could find heartening is the organization into communities, not complainers. There had never been legislation against praying the MR1 in Latin, just the rejection of Vatican II (perhaps not the ideal strategic move) and the insistence on a “timeless” liturgy that, for all its benefits, did not seem to have very deep roots by 1965. I don’t say that to be snarky or insulting, but present it as a likely matter of fact. Consider there was far more grumbling about MR3 in English on the level of parish clergy and among the laity.

        Perhaps the hamfisted implementation of SC seemed to shut off traditionalists in 1965–I wouldn’t know. My home parish had a smooth and positive experience led by a pastor who appreciated good music (who always got the “musical” seminarian for a pastoral year) and who had a generous attitude toward reform.

        Let’s also keep in mind that 1965-78 wasn’t sweet for reformers either. (I think of Ed Gutfreund’s folk Mass at 3AM.)

        Agreement that the web is not the gauge we should eye. But what will help is the sharing of faith experiences across these lines in parish communities and other local groups. The harm inflicted in 1963, 1975, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2010, and 2013 really must be shared among brothers and sisters. I mean the real stories–not the caricatures of singing clowns and six candles, burlap and lace.

        I sense that Pope Francis’ Ignatian training will net us a ministry more rooted in what the Holy Spirit wants it to be. That is my hope, anyway.

      5. @Todd Flowerday – comment #40:

        A blessed Triduum to you, Richard, and to your loved ones.

        To you as well, Todd. I appreciate the good wishes.

        Your three reactions strike me as close to the mark.

        Thank you – that really is my assessment, albeit anecdotal, based on the Ordinariate parish I serve at, and local traditional communities I know of. Really, it astonishes me how different the reactions are from much (not all, but much) of the online traddy world. Are they apprehensive? Sure. No question. Do most really want to give the Holy Father a chance? I think so. But perhaps my area is not representative.

        Almost everywhere, the preconciliar experience of liturgy seemed to be rooted more in formality, rubric, tradition (small-t), and was not very deep even for many who “loved” the Latin Mass.

        I think there was variation. As I said to Jack, I am at a disadvantage: I did not live then. I rely on second hand reports. My sense is that it was often somewhat calcified, with mediocre music (too much St. Louis Jesuits), too much mumbled Latin . . . and I must concede that if the TLM had been deeply loved by so many, there would not have been so many priests and bishops so ready to throw it overboard in the 60’s. That said, that was not always the case; one can still find priests and older laity, as I have, who deeply loved the Old Mass and the old sacraments. I do think that very modest reforms might have answered many of the concerns – allow more of it in the vernacular, and allow congregants to join in on server responses…but I digress.

        But that does raise another point you allude to: Latin *was* always permitted in the MR1, but in most places it (or ad orientem) would cost a priest his head if he tried (and I know such priests). The implementation of the new missal was often very authoritarian. In any event, as I have said before, it’s not really about the Latin. It’s about the prayers, and the theology they embody.

      6. @Richard Malcolm – comment #42:
        I’d like to think the theology of the prayers of the Mass have always been about what the Church teaches: we join Christ’s worship of the Father, we cooperate with Divine Grace in our sanctification, we are sent into the world to evangelize.

        Lest we get into a debate about composers, I’m more of the mind that how music was executed (so to speak) in parishes was the true guide. The SLJ’s composed music that could be botched, but their own notes to guitarists and singers raised the bar considerably for people who were strumming along with vinyl records in their basements before they played at Mass. Not to mention the fact that the SLJ’s, almost single-handedly, brought Scripture into the mouths of singers. And that was most definitely not the experience of the preconciliar repertoire of congregational song.

        I expect places with people like Ted Marier, Alex Peloquin, and most monasteries and convents did quite well before and after Vatican II. The American problem, in part, is our skittish approach to the arts, and how that seeped down into parishes. The 1570 Missal probably did more harm in the sense that music was not required for Low Mass, and if that was the whole experience of most preconciliar Catholics, why would we be surprised that music was so poor in so many places after 1965? To be frank, it probably sucked big time in the same places before that year.

      7. @Richard Malcolm – comment #42:
        “The implementation of the new missal (1960’s) was often very authoritarian.”

        Speaking as a V2 baby (I’m 53), I think you have hit on a major issue that must be appreciated by the progressive side of this discussion. I hear echoes of this from Todd as well.

        I think the disconnect, the blind spot between the Spirit of the Council and the Reform of the Reform, is that a collegial council was implemented in an authoritative style. The bishops and cardinals moved toward a collegiality that was frightening to the old guard. However, the implementation of the changes in the Mass is scythe-like, with fundamentalists and Traditionalists experiencing the changes in the immutable bulwark mostly as a dizzying loss of the Way to God. When Traditionalists/conservatives respond to the fears and losses of their brethren with a righteous anger, with a rising to defend the faith, with protection for the smaller and weaker……well, isn’t that what we are called to? Isn’t that a faithful response?

        I’m progressive. I’m impatient for Vatican 4. I feel that my traditional brothers and sisters have been led down a very false path of unchangeability, a usurpation of God’s stability by a questing but fallible pilgrim church. The embrace of growth and change must be by example and not fiat, caught and not taught. That’s the real reform of the reform, when we see each others’ differences in faith or liturgy as strengths, as completion of my own weaknesses, as fitting into the grand tapestry. That’s when Francis won’t be attacked, but instead admired for his creativity. And maybe then we can leave this myth of papal perfection behind, letting the Spirit lead through a pope and hierarchy that stand with us rather than above us.

        Now, does that leave two different Masses? That’s another myth, that all these Masses are the same. I welcome the differences…. but that’s another post. Richard, your digression was right on…

  11. One aspect of the foot washing that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere is how firmly it hits us with the realities of Incarnation. I led a 4th grade class in a discussion of the why? of foot washing. We talked about what the roads would have been like, how many people would have been in sandals or shoeless, and how those roads were shared with livestock and their leavings. Foot washing was a real service in Biblical times!

    As a child, it was my pleasure to assist my arthritic grandfather in putting on his socks and shoes. When my mother was dying, I helped her with her socks to keep her feet warm and a sister who had been estranged massaged her feet.

  12. Note the placement of the pope’s stole – surely not an accident.

    The stole was diagonal like a deacon’s. But I don’t expect we’ll hear any complaints about pseudo-deacons and what-not.

  13. As I said in another thread, it’s a cycle. The progressives are lashing out against the trads who had lashed out against the progressives. It takes real effort to stop the cycle, but it seems few people want to try. It’s easier to pray for revenge, decide the other side is mostly bad people who deserve to be made miserable, and gloat when the wind seems to blow your way.

  14. One other, more general observation:

    Jack Wayne refers to the scrums we all know so well here: The progressives are lashing out against the trads who had lashed out against the progressives. The more I see of Pope Francis, and learn of his past, the more I wonder if he’s something more alien and different than we are ready to admit. We’re so used to our paradigms, here in the U.S. (and to a certain extent, Western Europe), that everything he says or does gets read through them.

    Yet despite his Italian parentage, it’s important, I think, to never forget that Jorge Bergoglio is a South American cleric. The experience of both the Church and the broader societies on that continent has not been ours; Buenos Aires is not Mombasa, but it’s not Milan or Minneapolis, either. I often feel like we – meaning the invested traditional, ROTR, progressive Western Catholic cohorts – are not really the audience he’s speaking to. Or at least not as a prime focus. His focus remains those fallen away or never-in, especially if they’re poor, and especially if they’re from poor societies. And he has strong and definite notions about how to reach them. I almost want to say that he strikes me as a kind of evangelical Protestant – albeit an ecumenically minded one. That certainly would cut across our interior Church skirmish lines in unexpected ways – low church liturgically and structurally, but very conservative on morals. But I am not sure that even that really captures who he is. Even as a Jesuit, he is an odd fit in certain ways, so far.

    He’s been the Holy Father for two weeks. There’s so much yet we have to learn about what he wants his pontificate to be – and what he’s able to make it to be.

    1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #37:
      Someone has once said that an authority figure stripped of the trappings of authority can then act in the most authoritative way. I wonder if Pope Francis stripping himself of the symbols of monarchical authority is paving the way for him to act in the most monarchical way? Time, and more than two weeks, will tell.

  15. The only trads I have known of personally are mostly younger priests and seminarians. I feel tremendous frustration because I know that none of them has any direct experience either of the “old mass in the old church” or of the church during and after the council. When I’m told there was no spirit of Vatican II, just pastoral documents which were largely misapplied, I want to pull my hair out. When I have heard some of them say that it was priests of my era who ruined the church that they have to rebuild, I am angered but actually feel sorry for them. At the chrism mass this week it struck me that they all looked a little flummoxed by all the glowing talk of Pope Francis from everyone including the archbishop. But I’m not gloating. If the ROTR is finished it wasn’t my doing.

    1. @Jack Feehily – comment #38:

      Hello Jack,

      I couldn’t help but comment on this observation:

      The only trads I have known of personally are mostly younger priests and seminarians. I feel tremendous frustration because I know that none of them has any direct experience either of the “old mass in the old church” or of the church during and after the council.

      That’s absolutely true (as it is for me). Their only experience, save possibly in a handful of cases, is mainstream parish life, using the modern Roman Missal.

      Which raises a question – I respectfully suggest – that skeptics ought to ask more often: WHy is it that so many of the young men drawn to the priesthood now seem so interested in tradition? Why does the liturgical and ecclesiological regime put in place in 1965-1975 inspire so few vocations fully embracing it – and not just in secular priests, but religious orders, too?

      There are easy answers to reach: current problems and crises create a sense of nostalgia (for an age that never really existed); desire for order or authority, and so on. While not denying that these might be factors, honest examination has to consider other possibilities: that the servant model of priesthood post-Council went so far as to denigrate the import of the priesthood; that the chaos and ignorance of Church teaching is at least partly attributable to an imbalanced reform program; that traditional devotions and rites really do have a sanctifying effect harder (not impossible, but harder) to locate in new practices.

      As I said, I have no experience of life before the Council; I rely on second hand accounts. That said, I am under no illusions that the norm of worship was what you see in a typical TLM today – the Council Fathers were responding to real concerns, I concede. That is an ironic effect of the reforms: It ensured that once the traditional sacraments became available, they would be celebrated with much greater reverence and care.

  16. Hello, Richard. I’ll bite.

    “Why is it that so many of the young men drawn to the priesthood now seem so interested in tradition?”

    Because they live in a world that offers little in terms of an anchor in the turbulence, and conservative-leaning men see meaning in joining a tradition that reinforces their personal needs.

    “Why does the liturgical and ecclesiological regime put in place in 1965-1975 inspire so few vocations fully embracing it – and not just in secular priests, but religious orders, too?”

    This is more complicated. Mainly, because 1965-75 showed Catholics that one doesn’t need to be in religious life to be religious, or a priest to be priestly.

    The decline in vocations, at least in the US, traces to 1947. I presume a number of them piled up during WWII, and were inspired perhaps by Thomas Merton. Otherwise, I have little idea. On the other hand, non-conservative bishops like Donald Trautmann were able to generate good numbers relative to other dioceses.

    If I were to be a cynic on the issue, I would say that the Congregation of Bishops under JPII was paying more attention to adherence to the party line than a quality of joy and ability to inspire vocations in the young.

    I might say that the American glut of vocations may have been due in part to the vibrant parish life of ethnic enclaves in the first half of the American 20th century. Once we were integrated into the American mainstream via suburbs, cars, tv, etc., and weathered the disillusionment of assassinations, scandals, and the Counterculture of 1963-1974, our bishops and clergy were not well equipped to handle it all.

    One question for you: If we’re looking at single events, how do you interpret the 1975 American Catholic high watermark for positive regard for the institutional Church? Only in that year among the past fifty, did American Catholics have more confidence in their pastors and bishops than Protestants their ministers. Two recent low points were 2002 and 2007. The former year seems obvious as to why. The latter coincides with SP as well as Pope Benedict’s statements on “true” Churches and communions. Any thoughts on that?

  17. More important than the liturgical statement Pope Francis may have intended to telegraph is that, in doing so, he may have overlooked, neglected, or disregarded, if not violated Muslim law.according to the Code of Ethics for Muslim Men and Women—Rules Related to Socializing:

    The Rules of Touching

    193 – Rule: Body contact is not allowed with one who it is not allowed to look at, and every kind of touching of the body to any part of the other one’s body is haram and one must refrain from this; unless it from on top of the clothing and it is without the intention of lust. ABGKLMS
    While the Pope may have intended this particular footwashing to be “a positive sign” in the life of the Serbian Muslim inmate whose foot he washed, strict Muslims may take offense.

    Like Pope Benedict XVI, it may not be long before Pope Francis finds himself being challenged by an Imam who issues a fatwa. In October 2006,Prominent Jamaat leader Hafiz Saifullah Khalid said that in the present circumstances, jihad has become obligatory for each Muslim. Muslims are being declared terrorists and our battle for survival has already started.

    Eschewing protocol can be refreshing and prove reinvigorating. It can be a sign of love and respect, fulfilling the spirit of the law” rather than living according to the “letter of the law.”

    In retrospect, it can also cause unintended problems.In retrospect, it can also cause unintended problems.

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