Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
Pope Francis inspired Catholics across the world last year when he visited a juvenile detention center in Rome to celebrate Holy Thursday, and tenderly washed the feel of a young Muslim woman. This year, he washed the feet of disabled people in a ceremony that recalls Jesus' humble service and challenging message to the apostles--the "Servant of the servants" takes the path of radical self-sacrifice that leads to the Cross.
Last night, at Rome's Don Gnocchi facility, which provides services for the elderly and disabled, Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Supper, and his homily recalled Jesus' striking actions:
He did it this way out of love. You too should love each other. Be servants in love.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle, reported that Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi , D-Ca, joined Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus for a foot-washing ceremony at Saint John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in the city.
To "honor the dignity and work of immigrants," Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi helps Bishop Marc Andrus wash the feet of two children Thursday at Saint John the Evangelist Episcopal Churchin San Francisco.
Pelosi also used the occasion to talk about passing HR15 - bipartisan immigration legislation that her office says would "reduce the deficit by nearly $1 trillion, secure our borders, unite our families, protect our workers and provide an earned pathway to citizenship."
The Democratic leader's ceremony coincides with Pope Francis' similar ceremony in Rome to mark Holy Week. As he did last year, the pope broke with the tradition of washing only priests' feet during the Mass for the Last Supper - this time, washing the feet of disabled people.
Will Congresswoman Pelosi inspire the same profound awareness of human dignity and the need for Christian service to the "fringes" that Pope Francis offered his flock? More likely, her actions will be seen as an inappropriate, even repellant, intrusion of partisan politics into a solemn Christian ritual, and she will be rightly discouraged from repeating last night's appearance.
But this incident reminds all of us that Christ's decisino to wash the feet of the apostles is so deeply mysterious and paradoxical that we approach the commemoration of the Lord's Supper with our human, incomplete understanding of its full significance. Humility and gratitude for his mercy, as Pope Francis has expressed so beautifully, are needed during this blessed Triduum.