By: Brother Will Tarazza, OFM Cap.
Call me crazy, but I love when the Mass of the Lord’s Supper goes for 2 to 3 hours. Yes, I enjoy the high liturgy. Yes, the choirs and the musical accompaniment captivate me. However, these are not the reasons why I would want this liturgy to go that long. When I was visiting Rome a few years ago while studying abroad in Spain, I went to the Church of Santa Susanna for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This is a Paulist parish that is designated for English speaking Catholics in Rome. I hadn’t been to an English Mass in months, so I thought it would be a good time to participate fully in my native language. As we got to the washing of the feet, only one chair was brought forth in front of the altar. At first, I was confused. I thought, why would he only wash one person’s foot? As the priest divested his chasuble, the lector explained to the audience that all were invited to approach the center aisle to have their feet washed. Sigh. This is going to take forever, I thought. Only a few people stood immediately to get their feet washed, mostly kids. I did not plan to go.
Since there was some time, I started to reflect on my own discernment to be called to the ordained priesthood. I watched as the priest bent over to kiss each foot that passed through the washbowl. He probably didn’t know many of the people who’s feet he was kissing. He didn’t know the roads those feet had walked or the pains they have endured; yet, he washed and kissed each foot. This was a real witness to the love of Christ who laid down his life for us. It didn’t matter where the apostles had been or what they had done; yet Jesus loved them and washed their feet. They were given a task to love and serve unconditionally likewise. If this service is an unconditional task, I thought, why should foot washing be limited to a select few to save time? Shouldn’t we all recognize our need to be served no matter where we have been so that we too can serve? This really got me thinking about how I would want to live a life as an ordained minister. The ordained priest’s vocation is to lay down his life to be a representative of Christ. It is a life of service to anyone who comes to have his or her feet washed! But sometimes, we have to give the people the time to recognize their need to have their feet washed. Can we give them this time? The Church of Santa Susanna did! So a half hour into the washing of the feet, I got up and had the priest wash and kiss my feet as a response to my desire to serve Christ as an ordained priest. God allowed me to understand that if I am going to serve, I have to know how to be served by Christ himself.
It was only later that the people who jumped up immediately to have their feet washed moved me. In a sense, they were saying, “this life is tough, and I need someone to wash my feet to relieve some of my pain.” I’m not sure if any parish does this in the United States. All I know is that this affirmed the kind of priest I aspire to be. I don’t want to be selective in my love for God’s people. I want to wash the feet of anyone who sits in the chair. This may take a lot of time; however, if it brings people to Christ, isn’t it worth it? May you have a blessed Triduum.
Brother Will Tarraza, OFM Cap is a member of the Province of St. Mary of the Capuchin Order. A native Mainer, Br. Will met the Capuchins at the Catholic University of America. He enjoys liturgical theology and watching the New England Patriots. He currently resides at the province’s formation house in Jamaica Plain, MA as he studies at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.