Holy Thursday Mass- what is allowed, what is forbidden

These recent discussions have left me confused about what the Church has actually said as far as women taking part in the Holy Thursday Mandatum and having their feet washed. Is this allowed or is it forbidden? I saw a post about it from AAA but it doesn’t really clarify anything. Seems this should be easy enough to answer-- it’s allowed or it’s not, right? :confused:

It is forbidden.

Ok, then why the debate? And where is it said that it’s forbidden?

There has apparently been some sort of exception made, which from my reading of this link:


applies only to Archbishop O’Malley of Boston, unless I’m misreading it. Perhaps he’s the only one who requested it?

The liturgical text, in Latin, uses the word viri which means males. It does not use the word homines which means “men” in the generic sense of “humans”. If the Church meant “men” generically, it would have said so.

There have always been debates over how we pray and worship; Satan wishes to confuse Catholics.

**washing feet, Holy Thursday
Question from on 03-19-2007: **
Dear Fr. Levis,
Is it proper for everyone in the parish to participate in having their feet washed on Holy Thursday of the Triduum? I recall reading somewhere that some pastors are interpretting too much by allowing both the men and women parishioners to have their feet washed. If it is ok for everyone, ok, but if the rubrics call out specifics, I hope to be able to point this out to our new pastor and stop the abuse (if there is one).

Thanks, Paul

**Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 03-21-2007: **
Dear Paul, The official rubrics call for the washing of the feet of 12 men “viri” in Latin; this is found in the Roman Missal and in the Cerremonial of Bishops #31. Of course, priests today are not stopped from performing this washing all thru the Church on HolyThursday. I know of no official permit for this except the washing only of the feet of women, not men, is forbiddden as against feminist ideology. Fr. Bob Lelvis


applies only to Archbishop O’Malley of Boston, unless I’m misreading it. Perhaps he’s the only one who requested it?

It appears that it does apply only to O’Malley.

Here is a bit of a timeline:

The rubrics in the Roman Missal explicitly state that only the feet of men are to be washed during the Mandatum:
"Depending on pastoral circumstance, 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."

In 1987 the USCCB (then called the NCCB, I believe) Bishops Committee on the Liturgy releases a document acknowledging that the Missal says it is supposed to be only men whose feet are washed. The document then goes on to urge disobedience to the rubric.

In 1988 the CDW restates the Church’s position:
The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, 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.
Paschale Solemnitatis 51

In 2004 it seems as if the Archbishop of Boston is given permission to deviate from the norms. There is nothing to suggest that this applies to anyone else.

In 2008 the CDW again clarifies that only the feet of men are to be washed in the Mandatum.

Seems pretty clear to me. Until and unless the Church reverses its position anyone who argues that the washing of the feet of women on Holy Thursday is permitted is only giving their own opinion - an opinion that seems to run contrary to what the Church says on the matter.

God bless,


There is also much more at-stake when it comes to what is allowed and what is not allowed on Holy Thursday.

First of all, the Tabernacle must be empty. According to Paschale Solemnitatis:’

  1. The tabernacle should be completely empty before the celebration. [53] Hosts for the communion of the faithful should be consecrated during that celebration. A sufficient amount of bread should be consecrated to provide also for communion the following day.

Second, the document addresses the specifics about the altar of repose and what should and should not be done:

  1. For the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, a place should be prepared and adorned in such a way as to be conducive to prayer and meditation; that sobriety appropriate to the liturgy of these days is enjoined, to the avoidance or suppression of all abuses. [55]

When the tabernacle is in a chapel separated from the central part of the church, it is appropriate to prepare the place of repose and adoration there.

…55. The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a closed tabernacle or pyx. Under no circumstances may it be exposed in a monstrance.
The place where the tabernacle or pyx is situated must not be made to resemble a tomb, and the expression tomb is to be avoided: for the chapel of repose is not prepared so as to represent the Lord’s burial but for the custody of the eucharistic bread that will be distributed in communion on Good Friday.

As I have stated in other threads, I have had the custom of visiting seven different churches (beginning with my parish) on Holy Thursday. Unfortunately, I have seen the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a monstrance in two parishes, one of whom is administered by the former diocesan director of Divine Worship. He has a PhD in Liturgy from a Roman Pontifical university and should know better. The other was at the Cursillo Center.

When I went to the Cathedral, it was even worse. The Blessed Sacrament was merely left on the side altar (BVM side) with no decoration and the Sanctuary lamp next to it. This was the practice of the now former (and second) diocesan director for Divine Worship who also holds a PhD in Liturgy from Notre Dame and served as the Cathedral’s administrator. What upset me even more was that the Cathedral actually has a Blessed Sacrament chapel that should be used for Holy Thursday. I know because the rector and I would decorate it (not to resemble a tomb) for Holy Thursda.

At least the parishes washed the feet of 12 men, but, that does not excuse them from disregarding the documents.

If the letter was to him I would think it applies to him only. Is it regular practice that latters such as this establish a “precedent” for other bishops? Seems like that could get real messy, real fast lol.

Is the Gloria required on Holy Thursday? My parish has skipped it the last 2 years. The choir has had it ready, but Father just moves on to the opening prayer after the Kyrie.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia makes exceptions. Holy Thursday 2008.



Yes, the Gloria is required for Holy Thursday. In fact, at the Gloria, all of the bells are rung and then go silent until when the Gloria is sung once more at the Easter Vigil.

No it’s not allowed. In the OPTIONAL foot washing rite the celebrating Priest washes the feet of 12 men. Clear.

Rome did not “OK” it or approve of it. They simply told him do what ever you feel is pastorally necessary for your diocese this one time.

The following information was provided by our Office of Worship: The rubric for Holy Thursday in the sacramentary says: "Depending onpastoral circumstances, the washing of feet follows the homily.

The menwhohave been chosen (viri selecti) are led by the ministers to chairsprepared ata suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary)goesto each man. With the help of the ministers he pours water over eachone’sfeet and dries them."

However, in February of 1987 the chairman of the BishopsCommittee on the Liturgy authorized a clarification of the foot washingriteand the pertinent line for this issue is the following:

"Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursdayalso depicts Jesus as the ‘Teacher and Lord’ who humbly serves hisdisciplesby performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws ofhospitality, the element of humble service has accentuated thecelebration ofthe foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more.Inthis regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both menandwomen 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, inthe United /Sates, a variation in the rite developed in which not onlycharity is signified but also humble service. While this variation maydifferfrom the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men (viriselecti), itmay nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service alongwithcharity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way ofaccentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, 'who came to serve andnotto be served," that all members of the Church must serve one another inlove.

'" In other words it is okay to have women as well.


This argument has been made many times. I would, however, direct you to the document that was released by the Holy See, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 1988 called Paschale Solemnitatis. The USCCB is not the rule-making authority. The CDWDS is. If the USCCB wants to make an adaptation to any of the Rites or establish something new, the Latin-Rite bishops have to approve the new amendment by a 2/3 vote so that it can be sent up to Rome, where the CDWDS will say either yae or nay to the request.

This is what Paschale Solemnitatis said:

  1. The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve.” [58] This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.

It is interesting to note that the USCCB website does not have easy access to this document. Furthermore, to my knowledge, Rome has not rescinded PS and it still remains in force even after 21 years.

Oh well, they allow it in the US, so I guess your wrong. The pictures that I previously posted of what takes place in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia prove it. They allow women to get their feet washed. Whether the CDWDS, likes it or not.

Just because someone does something that they are not supposed to do, that does not make it licit.

The other point that needs to be considered is that the chairman of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy in the United States does not have the authority to modify the Sacramentary without approval from Rome. Which I believe was never asked for or received.

I’m not sure if it’s allowed or not, but I’m not sure I like the idea of a man- particularly a priest- touching a woman’s bare foot in public- especially not in church.

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