Washing of the feet Maundy Thursday

Our parish used to have men and women feet to wash but our new parish priest is correctly only washing men’s. Can you tell me where it is written down so I can show it to someone who isn’t happy.

Will this help? It’s from the Bishops’ website:

"My parish liturgy committee has decided to allow both men and women to take part in the washing of the feet at the liturgy on Holy Thursday. I have always heard that only men may have their feet washed. Which does the Church allow?

The rubric for Holy Thursday, under the title WASHING OF FEET, reads:

“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.”


I know a lot of parishes will wash women’s feet as well, but they are wrong. I know of one parish where everyone washes feet, which is completely incorrect.

Here is the section from Paschalis Sollemnitatis:

  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.

PS is the authoritative document of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments that gives instruction on what should be done during Lent and Holy Week.

I wonder when the rubric was written i.e. was it when it was assumed that men were going to participate; no women, that sort of thing?

This, methinks is problematic in the sense of being overly legalistic. It says, right in the rubric, that it "represents the service and charity of Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve”. The tradition that “should be maintained” refers to the foot washing, not necessarily to the fact that only men should be having their feet washed.

The whole point is that Christ came to serve. Did he not come to serve women as well as men?

This is not something to have a hissy-fit over, as it is not meant to be a historical re-creation of the event, only symbolic.

OK, I will probably get lambasted for this, but…:cool:

here are a couple of thoughts.

I agree that this practice has been taken way to the extreme, I recently have witnessed myself an entire congrgation, processing up to have their feet washed and the whole time I felt sick to my stomach, even* I *knew that was wrong!!:wink:

However, I did have my feet washed, back in the early 80’s,
and I remember it being one of the most significant spiritual experiences of my life.
I was a teen-ager, Confirmed the year before, and actually considering a vocational call to religious life. I was part of 12 parishioners, 6 male, 6 female, in all stages of life. There were 2 teen-agers, 2 college age adults, you get the idea.:slight_smile:
It was very solemn and spirit-filled moment. I remember the Priest, in his homily talking about the significance of the ritual, and that it was traditionally 12 men, the "original 12" as it were that we read in scripture. But is it unreasonable or even wrong, per se, to think that maybe there were not others (Mary, maybe…?:shrug:) in the room whoes feet were also washed, and it just got lost somewhere in translation?:stuck_out_tongue:

If done in a dignified manner, with the reverence and respect that is deserved of this privilege, does it really matter if it is men or women? :confused:

It is not going to rock my faith to the core, or blur the lines of the*** “laity” vs. the “clergy”, ***as I hear so often. I see it as a modern way to celebrate the same mystery, ****** I believe that there are certain traditional roles that need to be maintained (the male- celibate priesthood being the prime example!), but I just do not understand why someone would think that excluding woman from this ritual, in the name of “tradition” is a good thing? Are we not all disciples??:shrug:


Do you really need to have your feet washed in order to be a disciple of Christ? The Biblical accounts tell us that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, no one else is mentioned. The biblical account is what the Church uses, so since women are not mentioned, no women are used in the foot washing on Maundy Thursday.

I am glad to see that you aren’t challenging the Church on the male celibate priesthood. But if we were to change this, we would be going against the writings of the Bible. It would open the door to who knows how many others things being changed.

I’m pretty old compared to you, but the “modern” way of doing things doesn’t do much for me at all.

I don’t know where you got this from, but I went to a Latin rite ritual this past Holy Thursday, and only men were used in the foot washing as well. From the Bishops’ website:

"Although the practice had fallen into disuse for a long time in parish celebrations, it was restored in 1955 by Pope Pius XII as a part of the general reform of Holy Week. At that time the traditional significance of the rite of foot washing was stated by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in the following words: “Where the washing of feet, to show the Lord’s commandment about fraternal charity, is performed in a Church according to the rubrics of the restored Ordo of Holy Week, the faithful should be instructed on the profound meaning of this sacred rite and should be taught that it is only proper that they should abound in works of Christian charity on this day.”


That was the general restoration of the Tridium… Prior to that, there was little in the way of distinct services for the Tridium

The rubric itself for the Ordinary Form was last updated in a Circular Letter “Paschalis Sollenmnitatis” issued by the CDWDS under the instrucitons of Pope John Paul II on Jan 16, 1988.

The passage that Benedictgal quoted from ( and that Newbie wondered about) is that 1988 letter.

here is the instruciton in it’s entirety


This letter sets out the liturgical instructions for the various liturgies of the Tridium for the Ordinary Form. Needless to say, the 1955 instructions are normative for the Extraordinary Form.

That’s more recently than I expected. :shrug:

I’ve heard this argument many times, but it just doesn’t hold water. After all, precisely the same argument could be used to support admitting only men to Holy Communion.

The real problem is that too many people say, “Well, I’m not going to follow the rules unless you can prove to me that they are good rules that make sense.” No, you follow the rules out of obedience to the church. Write a letter to Rome or get yourself appointed to a committee to revise the Sacramentary if you want, but “because Rome said so” is a perfectly sufficient reason to follow a rule even if you don’t agree with it.

For the OP, I’ll mention that the authoritative rubric is in Latin, and it calls for the priest to wash the feet of twelve “viri selecti,” meaning “selected men.” Viri is a Latin word that only refers to adult males; it’s not like homines, which has often been translated as “men” but really means “people,” e.g. in the Credo, where “Qui propter nos homines” is translated “who for us men.”

Honestly, God can often make the best of a bad situation.

in my experience, not only are the feet to be washed are those of men, they also dress up like the Apostles

I had a foot washed this year. It was only twelve men - 30-70 years old -selected by two trustworthy parishoners and this list was approved by the pastor two weeks prior to the service.

No, that example falls flat in that Christ told crowds that they had to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood.

So the Apostles knew they were obligated to provide Holy Communion to the whole of the Faithful, including women.

2 years ago my hubby and I both had our feet washed by our Priest. He chooses 12 people some men some women and some boys and girls from our teen agers. Beautiful thing that happens.

Okay, that’s a fair enough point, but one might as well argue that we are called to receive our inheritance in the Lord (Col. 3:24, Heb. 9:15), yet when Jesus commanded Peter to submit to washing his feet, he told him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” (Is baptism a sufficient washing? “Jesus said to him, ‘Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.’”) So I guess we all need to have our feet washed to receive our promised inheritance.

Or you could argue that Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, washed the feet to twelve priests (bishops, in fact), so laymen should not be admitted to the ceremony at all, but Jesus was just telling his priests to wash each other’s feet – which is indeed how this has been practiced in many cases.

So these arguments go round and round. I support obeying the rubric, because it is the rubric and has the force of law. There is no very good theological reason, however, to admit laymen but not laywomen to the ceremony. The ordained versus the non-ordained or bishops versus non-bishops, yes; but if you are going to have laypeople at all, trying to restrict it to twelve men veers off into historical-reenactment territory. Now, historical reenactment is fine, and in fact it can help drive home some of the lessons of the Gospel, but let’s not pretend that it is a theological imperative.

No, because He told the Apostles that it was all nations that were to be Baptized ( in the Great Commission).

Or you could argue that Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, washed the feet to twelve priests (bishops, in fact), so laymen should not be admitted to the ceremony at all, but Jesus was just telling his priests to wash each other’s feet – which is indeed how this has been practiced in many cases.

At the time of the washing, the men WERE all laymen, it was later that they were Ordained.

Now that said, a good case can be made for washing the feet of seminarians and diaconal canidates. In fact that is what Cardinal Maida did here in Detroit the time he washed my feet was when I was in the diaconal program. Diaconal canidates and seminarians (12 of us in total) were asked to participate.

Of course, not every parish has 12 such men, but choosing late high school and early college aged men who might be considering a vocation to Holy Orders or religious life would be a great start (on several fronts)

One other thing, there were several things done at the Last Supper, some like the Eucharist, were meant to be given for all, because Christ told us elsewhere that that was the case. The same is true for Baptism. Christ told the Apostles that this was for all.

He also made the Apostles Bishops. If the things that were done at the Last Supper were all for everyone, that would mean that we are all Bishops.

But that clearly isn’t the case. So why don’t we just trust what the Church tells us is for what people and just do that.

I suppose that might hold true for a mass at SHMS or at the Cathedral, but as you pointed out, as a practical matter there’s so few of them that such a practice could not be carried out diocese-wide.

My concern for the focus on men only and perhaps men-to-be-ordained has the potential to redirect the focus of the practice to the recipeint (the foot washed) rather than to the foot wash-er…i.e. a remembrance of Christ’s self-service. As such, I see no real problem in washing the feet of women or children in the current day practice.

Unless the practice is mean to be a recreation, more story-telling than symbolism, which it doesn’t seem to me to be, then I don’t see a compelling reason not to be “inclusive”. On the other hand, I see it OK if a particular parish or priest would prefer to have all men.

All in all, I guess, it’s not a big deal IMHO either way. :shrug:

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