My priest insists on the people washing each other’s hands for the entire congregation, instead of himself washing their feet. Is this liturgically correct? Does anyone disagree with this practice, as I do?
“So, as I have done for you. You do for others.” Jesus said this. Jesus washed there feet not hands. It cannot be liturgically correct as it never happened in the Liturgy.
No wonder we have some of the problems we face in the Church today. I am deeply saddened for you. I wish everyone could have my Pastor. Great Homilies, a personality that goes along with it, will help you overcome guilt of sins during confession. But, he will also call you to the carpet if you are out of line or out of bounds.
I’ll pray that your Pastor reconsiders.
I’ve never heard of Catholic Bishops giving priests permission to wash the laity’s hands instead of their feet. Jesus washed His apostles feet not their hands.
**The Vatican Instruction on Footwashing
The Vatican made no changes in the rubrics referring to “men”; indeed, the new instruction said that the “tradition should be maintained”:
The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day [Holy Thursday], represents the service and charity of Christ, who came 'not to be served, but to serve.' This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained. (Congregation for Divine Worship, "Preparing and Celebrating the Paschal Feasts," January 16, 1988.)
Frequently Asked Questions
THE WASHING OF THE FEET
(On Holy Thursday)
Q. 1. What is the Catholic Church teaching regarding the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday? Are women permitted to participate? At my Church, the female gender is literally taking over the Church. Now, we only have altar girls, a female choir, female Eucharistic ministers, etc... and now 12 women for the washing of the feet. Something does not sound right here. A. 1. The Vatican instruction regarding the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday that is found in the rubric of the Sacramentary states: "Depending on pastoral circumstances, the washing of feet follows the homily. The men who have been chosen (viri selecti) are led by the ministers to chairs prepared at a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers he pours water over each one's feet and dries them." The words ('viri selecti') refers to only men. Q. 2. Then where did this female participation in the washing of the feet originate from? A. 2. The origin of the washing of the feet of women can be traced to the United States in 1987. This practice has become widespread in other countries, including Canada. A statement is found on this matter on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website at [usccb.org/liturgy/q&a/general/feet.htm](http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/q&a/general/feet.htm). Paragraphs 4 and 5 state: "4. Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the "Teacher and Lord" who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality,2 the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more. In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service." "5 .While this variation may differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men ("viri selecti"), it may nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, "who came to serve and not to be served," that all members of the Church must serve one another in love." Q. 3. In the Dioceses where females participate in the washing of the feet, do their Bishops have the authority to implement this change? A. 3. Those Bishops do not have the authority except where the law specifically allows them to do so. The proper authority for the interpretation of documents is the Holy See or a two-thirds vote of an episcopal conference. In such a case, where two-thirds of the Bishops of a country have voted in favour of a change due to their interpretation at an episcopal conference, their interpretation must still be sent to the Holy See for ratification (approval and the giving of a formal sanction). Except where the law specifically allows them to do so, no individual Bishop or pastor can give his personal interpretation of a document that originates from the Holy See. In conclusion, according to the instructions handed down from the Vatican, only men can participate in the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday. This all male implementation is to reflect that the Apostles of Jesus were all men. Would it be appropriate to have a baby girl on Christmas Day to represent the birth of Jesus? Certainly not because Jesus was a boy! Accordingly, it is not appropriate to have females for the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday when the Apostles were all males.
I heard a wry comment on this today on Catholic radio. A priest was asked about this very practice. Not only is it not correct according to the rite, he said, but it commemorates the wrong thing. Instead of memorializing Jesus’ humble gesture of servant leadership, it memorializes Pilate’s washing his hands of guilt.
That made my jaw drop. Haha.
So the priest won’t wash someone else’s feet, but requires the people to wash one another’s hands? Not what the rite says to do, and not in imitation of Christ, who washed the feet of His Apostles.
Now, your priest might say that Jesus said “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” But I would reply that the priest, at the Holy Thursday Mass, is supposed to be washing the feet of twelve men in imitation (re-presentation, almost!) of Jesus: he is to be for us the example that Jesus gives.
Just has an Ah-ha! moment.
Dang it! You stole my thunder.
I was going to suggest that you ask your priest if we’d be better off emulating Jesus or Pontius Pilate?
Monsignor By-the-Book is our pastor, so I was quite surprised two years ago to be met with hand-washing at the Holy Thursday Mass. Last year, there was no washing of anything. I think it is a bit difficult for Monsignor to manage the logistics of washing feet. He suffers from arthritis and back problems. Once he is down, he might not get back up!