I have read the grousing and grousing and grousing about the fact that Pope Francis will be celebrating mass Holy Thursday in a juvenile prison instead of the Basilica (which is actually incorrect, this mass is celebrated at St John Lateran by the Bishop of Rome). And people are entitled to their opinions on this, really they are. But for those who are so convince that this move is going to drive the church into the thresholds of hell (and yes, I read that somewhere that I deliberately forgot about), here are three excellent and I mean excellent defenses of this practice by writers much better than I who make all the correct points.
First from Simcha Fisher in NCR writes Unclean:
“How wonderful,” I thought. “He’s really going to put his example of service right in front of our faces, over and over again until we get it.” In some dark part of my heart a tiny spark of glee crackled, and I thought, “Hoo hoo, this is going to tick off all the right people!” I didn’t really mean “until we get it.” I meant, “until they get it” — they, the modern pharisees, the cranks, the bitter, unloving ones.
Then I read the headline again. “Juvenile Prison.” You know who’s going to juvenile prison? Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, the boys who repeatedly raped and degraded an unconscious girl in Steubenville last summer.
…I had to ask myself: what about the teenagers whose feet the pope will wash? Will they be specially chosen because they are . . . what, only half bad? Misunderstood rascals? Basically good kids who got mixed up with the wrong crowd? Maybe. But maybe — even likely — they were serving time because they had done something just as unthinkably, disgustingly wrong as Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond. They were in juvie, not prison, only because of their age. And the pope would be there, washing their feet.
I will remember this next time I go to confession. I will tamp out that little spark of hellish pride that tells me, “Aren’t you great to be coming here, asking forgiveness! Good for you, making the trip when you don’t even have any mortal sins to confess. You’re not such a bad kid! Jesus will take care of it! Jesus has your back. This is just a big misunderstanding, so let’s get this ridiculous trial over with so you can get back to your superstar life.”
As Simcha points out, we all need to be slapped back into reality and realize we are all the Pharisees when we compare ourselves to those whose “sins” are worse and if it makes people feel uncomfortable about the Pope washing the feet of young juvenile offenders, we need to seriously look in the mirror and ask, “why?” And then this verse popped up to me today:
The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like the other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ ~Luke 18:11-13
Kind of makes you think, like the Pope washing the feet of those in prison. Of the Pope living up to one of the Corporal Works of Mercy most of us choose to ignore. One woman commented on Simcha’s post that she saw a version of the Catechism in her diocese recently that even omitted “visiting the imprisoned” as a Corporal Work of Mercy. But there it is.
And for those who argue that the Pope should not be doing this because this mass is somehow only valid if held in a Basilica let me refer you first to Mark Shea’s post here:
I think one of the basic blunders Catholics can make is exalting aesthetics over the fruits of the spirit. Aesthetics have their place but it is firmly second place to the fruits of the Spirit. Paul never says that the fruits of the Spirit are decorum, propriety, correctness, mozettas, tiaras, perfect genuflections, Holy Thursday Masses at St. John Lateran, not washing women’s feet, or being perpetually outraged about these things. He says they are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control: something the Holy Father manifests in spades.
And then from one of my new favorite blogs Sacerdotus comes this post:
Is Pope Francis NOT taking serious the solemnity of the Mass?
This is something that is silly to even mention, but unfortunately I have heard. The Mass of Holy Thursday is the commemoration of the Last Supper. This is the night when Jesus took bread and wine, instituted the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. Can you imagine that? God, the Creator is on His knees washing the feet of His creatures who constantly disrespect and disobey Him. It is a reflection in itself just thinking of this imagery. Now we have the Pope, the Vicar of Christ visiting the “misfits” of society and washing their feet. It is just inspiring.
Pope Francis is not watering down the Liturgy or its Solemnity. He is enriching it by making it come alive, not only in a Church setting, but in the world. A Church building should not be the only place to celebrate Mass or give witness to Christ.
I urge you to read the entirety of each of these posts. I would hope that more people would get over their hurt feelings (which is what the majority of the posts dedicated to this decision are nothing more than that and personal preferences) and focus on repentance in these last few days of Lent. Focus on the risen Christ and joy that is to come on Easter Sunday. We need more looking inward as the tax collector was doing in the passage from Luke. We need to find it within ourselves that discomfort, disquiet are not indicators that something is being done “wrong” but more likely, it is being done right.
Updated to add:
Please read this post over at Holy Souls Hermitage on supporting the Pope in this endeavor.
Don’t forget, the apostles were not yet ordained when Jesus washed their feet. And they were a faithless, nasty lot, given over to political zealotry, jockeying for position, nationalistic arrogance, tax-collecting for the hated occupiers. One was possessed by Satan. More would betray Him. All would run away from Gethsemane. One would commit suicide. All within hours of their ordinations.
Don’t forget that Jesus was himself imprisoned moments after the Last Supper. I wrote at length about that… HERE!
Moreover, don’t be thinking that it is an absolute tradition that in each parish, or indeed, for sure, in every Cathedral in the world, that only twelve priests are to have their feet washed. I would bet, in fact, that outside of Saint Peter’s in Rome, this simply would not have happened anywhere in the world, with the exceptions proving the rule, such as in some cloistered monasteries of men (who might call on the laymen of the region anyway).
No doubt in my mind, the Holy Spirit is working through Pope Francis. His ways are not ours. And that is what is making people who object so terribly uncomfortable. The Pope is exactly where he should be? What about the rest of us?
Please check out Deirdre Mundy’s response on this matter (ht to Mark Shea and Erin Manning) in which she talks about how not only is what Pope Francis is doing right, it is a continuation of Benedict’s mission.
Father Z. talks about rebuilding the church brick by brick. And saving the liturgy is very important– but what if our new Pope has noticed that the foundations are also cracked? All the beautiful liturgy in the world will be worthless if we forget what’s at the root. Francis wants to lead us to a personal encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist, but he also wants to remind us that we are a Church of sinners, and that Jesus didn’t shun those who weren’t pure enough or good enough or refined enough. Those people, the prisoners and the lepers, deserve a beautiful,reverent liturgy too, don’t they?
Under Benedict, some of us embraced a new monasticism. We prepared to hunker down with our families, to keep the light alive as the world plunged into darkness. For eight years, we read, we learned, we prepared. Some of us assumed that the time to shine forth wouldn’t be for generations. We assumed that Benedict was preparing us to keep the flame alive for hundreds of years.
Now Francis is here, shouting that we must take the Gospel out into the world, bring the indifferent back to the Church, and proclaim Christ to all of our neighbors. I think Benedict understood that it was time. He started liturgical reforms – when we bring others back to the Church, we can have a beautiful place prepared for them. But all the liturgical reform in the world won’t do any good if we keep it to ourselves.
Francis isn’t here to undo the Benedictine reforms. He’s here to let us see that Liturgical reform must go hand and hand with evangelization. And we can’t just limit ourselves to the members of the folk choir. We have to go out- to the prisoners, to the sick, to the unchurched. We have to find the people who don’t know the love of Christ, and bring them into the warm embrace of their Mother, the Church. We need to baptize and bring the masses back to Mass.
Please click link to read the rest.