Holy Thursday 2014



Whenever a pastor washes the feet of his parishioners, it always seems a little contrived.  He takes off his vestments, does the symbolic washing and then puts on his vestments again and goes ahead with the Eucharist.

I imagine that when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, it was far different. It must have been truly shocking for those who had come to believe in Jesus as the true Son of God, to see him get down on his knees and wash their dirty feet.

There are many reasons that I love Jesus – but the washing of the feet speaks very powerfully to my heart.

I wish you a deeply prayerful and meaningful Holy Week.


  1. Simon says

    I am not keen on this ritual either. God loves us but the idea of a priest washing some feet representing that love doesn’t really translate for me. The ritual is underwhelming when trying to make me comprehend the enormity of God sacrificing his perfect son for a miserable wretch like me on Good Friday.

  2. Lynda says

    I came from a tradition where there were very few rituals and I find the rituals in the Catholic Church very rich with meaning. My first experience with Holy Thursday was ten years ago. In our parish the RCIA leads the way and everyone is invited to have a foot washed at one of five stations as we have three priests and two deacons. So I went forward and a deacon washed my foot and then he looked into my eyes (and I’m sure directly into my heart) and said, “Thank you”. For me that was an incredible lesson in humility. I need to allow others to do things for me and to allow that with deep humility and gratitude.

  3. says

    I have not even started processing the event. My feet were also washed many moons ago. Humility, yes, but I’m afraid there was false humility in me as well. I did not quite understand the profound meaning of it and I don’t think I do much better today.
    Wishing everyone a blessed Holy Week as well.

  4. Jan O'Hara says


    I read your related post “Holy Thursday 2012″ and the moving comments there as well. Did you ever have your feet washed again>

    A blessed Holy Week to all.

    • Paul says


      Oh, yes. Many times. But for years I worked in a parish where we all took turns washing and drying one anothers hands and I found that profoundly meaningful.


  5. Jim says

    Obviously, you can’t capture the spontaneity of Jesus’ actions, nor the shock his disciples must have felt, in a ritual imitating those actions. Not if it’s a ritual you do every year, and almost everyone there knows what’s going on. I think the Jesuit approach of placing yourself in the story is well-advised here. A ritual has exactly as much meaning as we bring to it, so if it’s just a priest washing some feet because that’s what he does on Holy Thursday, it’s a pointless strain on his back.

    I find it very difficult to imagine being one of Jesus’ disciples. What would we think today of an itinerate preacher with a handful of close followers? We’d think he was some lunatic leader of a cult. I could never join a cult, and, in my heart, I don’t understand why anyone ever does. Wouldn’t you just worry constantly that you’re wasting your life following a madman?

    Also, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems totally unsurprising that Jesus would wash his disciple’s feet. That’s Jesus for ya. In a way, nothing Jesus did seems surprising, 2000 years later. He was the Son of God, and that’s just how he rolled. No one else acts that way because no one else is the Son of God. It’s easy to forget that he was a human being who must have felt the standard-issue human desires for authority, respect, money, sex, and taking the path of least resistance. He could turn water into the finest wine, and he was human, so it’s to his credit he wasn’t buzzed 24/7.

    Maybe, in the case of the Holy Thursday washing of the feet, it would help me to imagine the priest or deacon as Pope Francis or the Dalai Lama or someone like that. Someone I really respect deeply, who I wouldn’t expect to wash my feet, but whose sincerity I wouldn’t doubt if he actually upped and did so. That might be the closest I can come to imagining what it was like for Jesus’ disciples when he washed their feet.

    • Paul says


      I think you get it exactly right when you say, “A ritual has exactly as much meaning as we bring to it…” I, like Simon, have difficulty bringing a lot of deep meaning to this ritual but I appreciate that there are others, Lynda, for whom it means a lot.


  6. Tim says

    You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do…

    Powerful stuff, blessed Easter to all…

  7. Bernie says

    Our parish community is gifted with a pastor that knows many of us by name and is often seen “wrapping a towel around his waist” and joining with the rest of us at many parish activities. When I approached him a couple of years ago to have my foot washed, it was extremely humbling for me yet greatly increased my understanding of “so that I have done for you, you should also do.”

    Triduum and Easter Blessings to all!

    • Paul says


      You are fortunate indeed to have such a fine pastor. I see how that would help you appreciate the ritual more.


  8. Emma says

    Unfortunately, my observations this year are confined to home. The solemnity of the rituals, a desire to allow other parishioners to observe them, lack of nursery in our church and a tyrannical two yr old who refuses to be left out of ANYTHING to do with said rituals will confine my footwashing to bathing little ones. I’ll make it Easter Sunday with ducklings in tow, but can’t bring myself to interrupt others ‘ worship.

    • Paul says


      I can only speak for myself and say that I am always happy to see babies and toddlers in church. I don’t care if they cry or run about. It’s so good to see all of God’s family in the church.


      • Carol says

        In our parish we have never had a nursery.
        I am glad we don’t.
        Children are welcome.
        As a parent you know what is best for children.
        When my daughter was young we always sat as close as possible to the front because my daughter liked to watch the washing of the feet.
        Easter Blessings

        • annette says

          Most people appreciate the interruption by a toddler. Most people understand and the best way to help him to the other side is by making it his ritual too. Tonight we all had a wonderful laugh as a toddler interrupted something; nothing sacred was lost. I understand though, it is a lot of work, but it won’t always be and you are both important parts of the community so don’t miss out!

    • Lynda says

      Emma, we don’t have a nursery either and I love to see and hear the little ones during Mass. But you must do what you think is best and know that Jesus knows that you are there in your heart. Blessings.

  9. annette says

    As it happens, I was called this morning and asked be one of the people to have their feet washed. I have offered up every other family member through the years because I don’t like anyone touching my feet. But, I took one for the team, as did my husband again, and our pastor did make it meaningful. I was a little surprised. All three of us were chuckling at what he was saying, but it was generous and kind and clearly he wanted it to mean something. So, I think what Jim said is right, it is what we bring, and by “we” I would mean the giver as well as the receiver.

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