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August 30, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

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Q. You did not reply to my query about the washing of women’s feet on Holy Thursday. Long before I was received into the Catholic Church, I know that was a form of Ordination of the apostles as bishops. Jesus did not wash or ordain any women, even His own highly venerated Immaculate Mother. — J.P., Texas.
A. When we receive multiple questions at the same time from one reader, we often address just one question because of space considerations. But in response to your follow-up letter, here is the answer to the question of washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday and, by the way, washing the apostles’ feet was not an Ordination rite, but rather an example of the service that Christ expected His followers to carry out. “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,” Jesus said at the Last Supper, “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” (John 13:14-15).
For many years after the new Roman Missal was promulgated in 1970, many pastors followed this rubric for the Mass on Holy Thursday:
“Depending on pastoral circumstances, the washing of the feet follows the homily. The men who have been chosen are led by the ministers to chairs prepared in a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers, he pours water over each one’s feet and dries them.”
However, the U.S. bishops in June 1996 approved as part of the revised Sacramentary a document entitled Pastoral Introduction to the Order of Mass. This document said that “those whose feet are washed should be chosen to represent various people who constitute the parish or community: the young and old, men and women.” Many pastors had already been washing the feet of women and children and some even permitted the people to wash each other’s feet.
That’s the way the matter stood until December 2014, when Pope Francis issued a decree saying that the washing rite should no longer be limited to men, but should also include women, boys, and girls. The change, he said, was “an attempt to improve the method of implementation, to express the full meaning of the gesture performed by Jesus at the Last Supper, His gift of Himself ‘to the end’ for the salvation of the world, His boundless charity.” The rubric in the Roman Missal was changed to read, “The pre-chosen among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers.”

Q. My parish has a ritual of asking parishioners to bring up the gifts of bread and wine where they carry a ciborium and two cruets down the aisle and give them to the priest. My previous parish, where I converted, offers the Traditional Latin Mass and does not do this. I thought these items were sacred and should not be handled by the laity. — S.T., via e-mail.
A. Actually, having the people bring up gifts or offerings of bread and wine goes back to the third century. In his classic history of the origins and development of the liturgy (The Mass of the Roman Rite), Fr. Joseph A. Jungmann, SJ, noted that “by the time we reach Cyprian [200-258], it has already become a general rule that the faithful should present gifts at the Eucharistic assembly. This is evident from Cyprian’s scolding a rich woman for her lack of charity in failing to bring a gift. Apparently, the individual worshiper was bound not only to contribute to the community poor box (corban), but also to make an offering for the altar, and from Cyprian’s words it is quite clear that this offering was nothing more nor less than the bread and wine of the sacrifice” (p. 316).
Coming to the present day, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that “it is a praiseworthy practice for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful. They are then accepted at an appropriate place by the Priest or Deacon to be carried to the altar. Even though the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy, as once was the case, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still keeps its spiritual efficacy and significance” (n. 73).
While these gifts are to be converted to sacred status, they are not sacred in themselves and may be handled by laypersons.

Q. I find it difficult and depressing that an all merciful God condemns those who die in the state of mortal sin to Hell forever. Humans are time-oriented and really can’t comprehend “forever” and “eternity.” The wonderful teaching of Purgatory offers a light at the end of the tunnel. Should the damned then be given a very long sentence in the suffering of Hell and then a second chance to be saved through God’s infinite mercy? — R.G. Iowa.
A. On the surface, what you say seems plausible, but it fails to take into account the gravity of mortal sin, which caused Jesus to suffer unimaginable agonies on the cross. In the words of the Catechism, “mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him” (n. 1855). The Catechism (n. 1856) quotes St. Thomas Aquinas as having said that “when the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object….whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery” (STh I-II, 88, 2, corp. art).
In paragraph 1860, the Catechism says that “unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man….Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.”
Strange as it may seem, those in Hell deliberately chose to be there by their gravely immoral actions and would not be at all interested in a second chance. Why would they who maliciously rejected God’s mercy and forgiveness in this life be disposed to repent and accept a second chance? They knowingly and deliberately set their face against God and rejected every opportunity to turn away from sin and back to the One who created them out of love.
Obviously, one would hardly expect remorse from a Herod or a Hitler, but is remorse possible from one who steeped himself or herself in such evils as abortion, adultery, and sodomy, knowing full well that these grave sins separated themselves from the love of God?
In the Mass readings on the day this column was written, there was the account of God’s wrath against those men who scouted the land of Canaan and reported back to Moses that the inhabitants of that land were too powerful to be overcome. God was furious because of all He had done to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and still this “wicked community” continued to grumble against Him. So He sentenced to death all those who doubted Him (Numb. 14:26-29). Was this a lack of mercy on God’s part, or was it a justified response to the gravely evil nature of the sin committed against Him?
Yes, God is all-merciful, but He is also all-just, and He will mete out eternal punishment in Hell to those wicked persons who deliberately and maliciously turn their backs on Him.

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Catholic Replies

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