[Jesus] loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. … So, [during the Last Supper,] he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. … So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? 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. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.”
—The Gospel of John, chapter 13
In 1955, Pope Pius XII inserted an optional washing of the feet rite into the Mass of Holy Thursday, the liturgy which commemorates the events of the night before Jesus died. This foot-washing rite is called the Mandatum (from the Latin for “the Mandate”) for Jesus said, “as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Though the rubrics (that is, the rules for the liturgy) required no specific number of persons to have their feet washed in this optional rite, they indicated that the participants were to be men. This year, this rite which recalls Christ’s humble gesture of service and charity has been revised by a decree promulgated by Pope Francis. Where this rite is celebrated, pastors are to “select a small group of the faithful to represent the variety and the unity of each part of the people of God. Such small groups can be made up of men and women, and it is appropriate that they consist of people young and old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated men and women and laity.”
In past years, it has often been difficult to find people to humbly “bear their soles” on Holy Thursday but perhaps it may be a little easier this year. If you would volunteer to take a seat in this year’s washing of the feet, please contact Father so that he may create a representative group of our faithful.