Pope to Say Holy Thursday Mass at Youth Prison

I’m loving this guy!

Some people are flipping out about this, I can’t imagine why.  I suppose it must have something to do with their conception of the dignity of the papal office.  But given that both Jesus and Peter were jailbirds themselves and given that Jesus had rather kindly things to say about care for prisoners like “Come into the kingdom my Father has prepared for, for I was in prison and you visited me” I don’t get the problem.

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.

Why can’t people just be happy?

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  • http://321force.blogspot.com Barbara

    People can’t be happy because they mistake comfortable with happiness. This man has challenged our notion of what we as Catholics must do to properly serve Christ. He makes me squirm almost daily, and I thank God for it!

  • Kirt Higdon

    I guess I know too many loyal enthusiastic Catholics and nice people in general. Apart from an Argentine leftist former terrorist publisher and a handful of self-styled traditionalists, I haven’t even heard of anyone with a bad thing to say about Pope Francis. The former terrorist has his own Argentine politics agenda and the traditionalists don’t like any recent Pope so Papa Francis needn’t take it personally. The people I know really like Francis and really liked Pope Benedict.
    I will add a cautionary note, however. The US establishment news media, very favorable to Pope Francis so far, will turn on him about six months from now when he still hasn’t ordained and made cardinals any gay married condom users.

  • James H, London

    The usual suspects are In High Dudgeon (is there any other kind?) about it. They infest this rainy island I’m living on. This comment at the Catholic Herald website:
    “These liturgically important Masses which includes Holy Thursday Mass should be for everyone not just a few select whatever their circumstances in life are but should be shared with everyone via St Peter’s Square or Basilica in the most beautiful setting to worship God in keeping with our Judeo-Christian traditions.”

    It’s fascinating to watch the torturing of logic. Did you know that Pope Francis’ refusal of a coronation (complete with being carried in a gilt sedan chair), was ‘attention-seeking humility’?

    • Arnold

      I don’t believe that Pope Francis was in a position of having to refuse the coronation and sedia gestatoria. Those were done way with under Paul VI.

      • Therese Z

        Yes, neither Benedict nor any of the John Pauls used one. Can Mr London picture them in one?

        The Popemobile is not a replacement, it’s a safety device and makes it easier for the old guys to get around.

        • Jon W

          Ten to one that’s how the sede gestatoria started, too.

          • Stu

            I say much more practical. I think it was so people could get a chance to actually see the Pope during such large events.

    • bill bannon

      Kudos James London….the man’s washed more feet than anyone on earth….but he’s prideful as soon as he crosses the nard brigade.

  • Elaine S.

    “Aesthetics have their place but it is firmly second place to the fruits of the Spirit”
    You have probably heard of the “broken window” theory of crime prevention — as I understand it, it means that when local authorities crack down on petty crimes like vandalism, littering, etc. it has the effect of reducing ALL kinds of crime because it creates an environment more conducive to good behavior. Or take instances when poor, violence-plagued inner-city schools institute uniforms — that may seem like an odd thing to make a priority, but it often has a good ripple effect of reducing violence, absenteeism, etc. for a number of reasons. Well, there are good, sincere Catholics who have what I would call a “broken liturgy” theory of Catholic faith and practice — reverent, traditional, uplifting liturgy creates an environment that makes people better Catholics in general, while stripped-down or dumbed-down liturgy does the opposite. Hence, they get nervous at any indication, however slight, that the Church might be heading in the direction of the latter. No, I am NOT saying that Pope Francis will “dumb down” the liturgy or will make it any less beautiful; simple NO Masses in the vernacular can be very beautiful. Nor am I saying we should be “perpetually outraged” over every departure from liturgical norms or habits. I’m simply pointing out where some of this genuine concern may be coming from. It’s not that “decorum, propriety and correctness” are fruits of the Spirit, but that they can help create an environment conducive to the real fruits of the Spirit.

  • Bill

    As very good as Mike Voris has been, there are other well-known Catholics who can barely conceal their disappointment at Francis. It’s sad.

  • http://irishpapist.blogspot.ie/ Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh

    I agree with Barbara. This Pope is challenging traditionalists as much as liberals, and it makes ME squirm too. But that also seems strangely right. We know he is going to uphold the commandment of God; our human traditions, attached as I am to them, are less important and can become a stumbling-block to others.

  • ivan_the_mad

    I suspect Francis knows his job better than his critics do. God bless him in this!

  • Dave P.

    His Holiness also hasn’t taken possession of his Cathedral yet, so he is free to celebrate the Mass where he wishes.

    As far as his liturgical approach goes: he’s a Jesuit. Even out of all the faithful sons of St. Ignatius I’ve known, there has been but one who was liturgically apt.

  • Alias Clio

    I don’t see how washing/kissing the feet of the poor is challenging tradition. Popes, cardinals, bishops, and even Kings and Queens, if they were Catholic, used to do it all the time. These traditionalists of whom you speak who are so put out by this kind of thing, are they American? Because their squirming in the face of Francis’s activities has an American ring to it. Traditional Americans (not traditional Catholics) are or used to be embarrassed by extravagant display and ritual, even extravagant displays of ritual humility.

    • Julia

      I’ve even heard that Almighty God humbled himself to wash the feet of some rural hick fishermen.

      So, I guess the Pope can do that too

  • Ellen

    There used to be a ceremony on Holy Thursday when the King and Queen of Spain would wash the feet of 12 poor men and 12 poor women. I don’t think they still do it. I’m a moderate traddie myself, and I am loving this pope dearly.

  • Subsistent

    It’s said that King Louis IX of France — St. Louis — would sometimes invite beggars to his royal dinner table, and eat their leavings.

  • rd

    the only argument that would make sense against this that isn’t pharisaic is that the “rite” should only be done on ordained ministers–since Jesus’s purpose in doing this, as the argument goes, was to teach his apostles to be servants. but my take on it is that the rite is not a sacrament, and so even that argument is weak.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Furthermore, it’s far less important on whom this act is performed than it is who is performing it. The Washing of Feet is for the priest, a reminder of his humility and how he must serve. Looking at it that way, then the “lower” the station in life of the “washee,” the more effective this symbol is.

      • Stu

        That’s a rather new interpretation.

        Traditionally the “washee” was being instructed by the Bishop or priest as follows:

        “Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ washed the feet of His Apostles. I wash thy feet in order that thou mayst do in like manner to guests and strangers who come to thee. If thou do this, thou shalt have life everlasting, world without end”

        It’s supposed to be about the priesthood, top to bottom.

        I think there is room to keep that tradition as part of the liturgy and then after the liturgy take it a step farther among the poor.

        • Allan

          Unless I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying, it seems there won’t be many Holy Thursday Masses being said, if 13 priests are required at each Mass. That’s just a completely unrealistic thing to expect. Having just the priest do the washing (which is what our parish is doing this year, after some years of having members of the parish council do some as well) is a good thing, but there’s just no way it’s possible to have all the “washees” be priests as well.

          • Stu

            That’s why the “washees” have traditionally been men only to represent the priesthood.

        • Andy, Bad Person

          It’s supposed to be about the priesthood, top to bottom.

          Agreed. However, it is primarily about the priesthood of the celebrant, not the washee.

          Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ washed the feet of His Apostles. I wash thy feet in order that thou mayst do in like manner to guests and strangers who come to thee. If thou do this, thou shalt have life everlasting, world without end.

          Three thoughts:

          1. This isn’t in the current missal at all. Also, there is nothing about that instruction that makes it about the washee rather than the washer.

          2. Isn’t the priest doing just that at the juvenile detention center: doing in like manner to guests and strangers? Isn’t this the perfect example of the Mandatum?

          3. The entire rite is optional. Why is the “men only” thing such a huge sticking point to pedants?

          • Stu

            No, it’s not current. But it speaks to what the traditional view was which has been my point all along.

            Why is it a sticking point? Why are any of the rubrics sticking points? Some here seem to think that this one can be ignored. Okay. What others can be ignored? Can the Pope ignore some but not priests? Why or why not?

            I don’t see the Mass akin to interpretative dance. It’s prescribed with rules to follow and as a part of the faithful, we actually have a right to have it celebrated according to those rubrics. It’s not for any one man to change on the fly based upon his preferences.

            If we need to change the rubrics. Then do it. Do it right. Everyone wins.

          • http://frmartinfox.blogspot.com FrMartinFox

            It may be I’m missing the emphasis of your comment, but I’ll say this. Insofar as the washing ritual is, indeed, optional, then I think it should either be done exactly as the rubrics say–or else omitted entirely. I.e., if washing only male feet is upsetting, or divisive, then simply omit the ritual. Nothing prevents a parish from seeking another opportunity, outside the liturgy, at which to wash any and all feet–disrespect for the liturgical norms avoided.

            Of course, Pope Francis can change that. I would rather he didn’t, for various reasons, but he can do that. But until he does, I think the rubric should be respected. It’s there for a reason–as someone mentioned, to emphasize the tie to the apostles and the priesthood.

            One more thing: even if there is no dispute over men or women’s feet, I think a case can still be made to omit the ritual. And that is because the washing, while meaningful (it certainly is to me as a priest), can end up overshadowing the rest of the Mass. It’s not the main thing.

  • Will J

    I think Pope Francis is refreshing. I have seen some blogs where there is doubt. We all need to be open to differences in style.

  • Dylan

    All of this is a waste of time, really. As Jesus was BOTH God and Man, we should expect to see exalted forms and humble forms of worship at Mass. Let’s have them both. We’ve got a humble-style kind of a Pope right now. All this talk about fruits being more important than clothes, or clothes being more important than fruits is wasted time for Catholics. We can have them both.

  • Dave P.

    Actually, the Pope celebrating Mass on Holy Thursday is a very recent thing:


  • Josee Turner

    John Paul II and Benedict made visits to this prison as well. This is nothing new. We would do well to remember that on both sides. See

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    In Christ there is no one of lower station.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Of course not. Yet we are still called to exercise special preference for the poor and marginalized. Do we deny this preference because we refuse to acknowledge worldly station?

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    So far as we know, who was the first to enter Paradise?

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    God help me if I begin to think of myself as more worthy of charity than someone else. We are all in the prison of our pride and our ignorance.

    But those in prison can’t chose a church to go to for Holy Thursday.

  • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

    I don’ think it’s a huge deal, but yeah, if he washes the feet of women I’m going to cringe and roll my eyes. It’s against the liturgical norms. Is it the end of the world? Nah. Yet is it really such a big thing to expect even simple liturgical laws to be followed by all, including Popes, as Redemptionis Sacramentum makes pretty clear?

    I can even understand how there’s another way to look at it, that it is meant to represent service, and indeed it is. It is also meant to be a symbol of the priesthood, where the men are meant to be stand ins for priests. Now do people want to change this? Then fine, change the law. Yet if the law is as it exists, and it is not burdensome, should it not be followed?

    For all we know, Pope Francis may or may not do any of this stuff. Yet I guess the telling response is from those who say “who cares if he does it or not?” I say we should be stewards of small things.

    Do I think the Pope is “sinning” if he washes the feet of a woman? Far be it from me to make that kind of judgement. That being said, I actually kind of like the whole idea of saying Mass in the prison, or at least I range from indifferent to favorable on that part in and of itself.

    • Stu

      And that’s the thing. He can celebrate the Mass in prison and still follow the rubrics (which I actually believe he will). Was the feet of his priests and then have the priests after Mass do the same for the prisoners. That would be very rich in message.

      • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

        What sorta makes me sick is certian of my brethren have been put in the position of them hoping the Pope violates liturgical law, so they can feel vindicated. If he ends up not doing anything, they all look kinda dumb.

        Then again, this is the internet. People look dumb all the time.

    • Marthe Lépine

      Did not Jesus say at some point that he had come to “kind of” liberate us from the Law? I think it went something like: The Law is made for man, not man for the Law? Correct me if I am wrong…

      • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

        He did NOT, not, ABSOLUTELY NOT come to “liberate” us from the law. He came to “fulfill” the law. To show us where the law, designed by God, ultimately points us towards.

        Now what he did do at times was remind people that, sometimes due to concupiscence, you can take things a little too far in your interpretation of the law. Hence a reminder that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” when necessity mandates you do something you wouldn’t do under normal circumstances.

        So honestly, none of this is terribly relevant towards the discussion at hand of a) some jumping the gun criticizing before anything happens, b) the nature of liturgical law, c) how liturgical law should be changed, d) I’m sure there’s some other discussion involved here, but I think that’s what I’ve seen so far!

  • Thibaud

    I read that bishops traditionnally celebrate Holy Thursday in their Cathedral and so this is bad because the Pope is changing Church (lower case t but still) tradition. No that would be a good point, except for 2 things :

    1) John-Paul II celebrated Holy Thursday in St Peter Basilica, which is not the Pope’s Cathedral (it’s St John Lateran Basilica), during his last years for obvious medical reasons, which means that it is established tradition that the tradition of the bishop celebrating Holy Thursday in his Cathedral can be amended for just cause ;

    2) and this is more important : almost nobody knows about that “bishop celebrating Holy Thursday in his Cathedral” tradition. That is a very obscure tradition that I knew nothing about until this morning and it seems that Mark Shea didn’t know about it either. So there is very little risk of scandalizing anyone by breaking a tradition that nobody knows about.

    • Marthe Lépine

      Is a tradition that nobody knows about still really a tradition?

      • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

        Was the law of God still the law of God during the reign of Manasseh in the Old Testament, when nobody even knew of its existence? Yes.

        Mr. Shea and others being ignorant of long standing customs and traditions centered around liturgical matters doesn’t mean they aren’t traditions. By his own admission, this isn’t really his area he cares that much about. He probably is aware of several ancient traditions in regards to Biblical scholarship we are all ignorant about, but they remain venerable traditions that, while not necessarily binding for future generations, are still worthy of great respect.

        Anyone see where I’m going with this?

        • Mark Shea

          Washing men’s feet and wearing mozzettas is not the Law of God.

    • Elaine S.

      “bishops traditionally celebrate Holy Thursday in their cathedral”
      In addition to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, another liturgy known as the Chrism Mass — during which the bishop blesses holy oils for use in all parishes throughout his diocese — was traditionally celebrated on Holy Thursday morning. The Chrism Mass is intended specifically to honor the priesthood and all priests in a diocese are invited to attend. However, with Holy Week and the Triduum being very busy for most priests, Chrism Masses nowadays are usually celebrated at another time (usually earlier in Lent).

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov


    What war were you in, say it in full
    Battles and wounds that you can tell,
    I think of a war when I was small,
    Battles and angels and demon-fall

    War of deceit, war of regret
    War of the bait and the fisherman’s net,
    Side of the good and side of none,
    Rapturous life and oblivion

    God of all mercy, God of pity
    God of the walls of the holy city,
    A sword shall pierce both out and in,
    But who shall lose and who shall win?

    The demons range in fierce array
    But cannot frighten God away,
    And yet for us they dangle pride
    And shout: Come over to our side

    March 22, 2013

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    Are we not told that David and his men ate the showbread in the Temple?

  • jeff

    St Paul never explicitly mentioned liturgical correctness (or otherwise) but St Francis certainly did, as Fr Z has been helpfully pointing out. I’m not against what pope Francis is doing but I’m wary of him doing it for Maundy Thursday when there are 364 other days of the year when he could be doing it.

    • Mark Shea

      “Wary” of the pope. Weird.

      • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com Kevin

        Just pointing out an extreme example by way of making a point, was it ever wrong for people to be wary of Benedict IX or Alexander VI? Or when St. Francis was rather wary of the disgusting wealth that the Popes of his time had amassed?

        So is it the principle of ever being wary that what a priest affected by concupiscence does you find “weird”, or rather that some tend to place more importance on things you do not? If it’s the former, then well kudos for honesty. If it’s the latter, than its not really weird at all.

        The better answer is “let’s see if he actually does it first before saying anything”

        • Mark Shea

          When Francis gives me some reason to suppose he is Alexander VI, you’ll have a real point. But at present all this wariness just seems to me to be borrowing trouble. Why make yourself crazy with worrying about tomorrow? Tomorrow will worry about itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.