Friday, March 29, 2013

Holy Thursday in Plan Grande

This year in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María we are trying to get a Eucharistic Minister out to every one of the 46 towns and villages during the Triduum so that all have the opportunity to receive Christ in the Eucharist.

This Lent Father German Navarro, the pastoral administrator, has visited almost every village and town to hear confessions, preside at Mass, and meet the community church council.

Holy Thursday I went out to Plan Grande, a village I dearly love. I had thought that two local leaders would lead the celebration and I would only distribute the Eucharist. But they asked me to preside, preach, and wash feet.

The ritual of the washing of the feet has been for me a highlight of the Holy Thursday liturgy. At St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, Iowa, where I served as a campus minister, it is the custom to invite everyone to come forward to wash the feet of other members of the congregation. I was often moved as parents washed the feet of their kids, who returned the gesture. It was for me a profound sign of the loving service that Christ Jesus showed us by his life, as well as by his washing of the feet of his disciples at the last supper.

Since the election of Pope Francis I have been astounded by the images of Cardinal Bergoglio washing the feet of women and troubled youth. It reminded me of the beautiful talk of Jean Vanier on foot washing, which you can read here. It is a rich reflection, but as I prepared to wash others’ feet, I recalled that Vanier sees the washing of feet as a way to let people know their dignity, their worth – especially those whom the world considers useless and marginalizes.

And so I felt blessed to be asked to wash the feet of people in Plan Grande.

In the reflection I spoke of all three readings and shared the stories of Pope Francis, as a cardinal and even that very day, washing the feet of people at the margins and how he was giving us an example of how to follow Jesus.

Then twelve came forward – eight males and four women, from children to an older woman. Assisted by one of the community leaders, I washed their feet – and was moved to tears. Not only was the hymn being sung moving, being able to touch tenderly the feet of people, some poor, touched something deep in my heart.

I was especially moved washing the foot of an older woman. She was wearing only flip-flops on her well-worn feet. Here was a woman who had served so many for so many years. She is an example for people like me. But I had been given the gift to wash her feet – and gently press my face to her foot.

Sharing the Eucharist with the people was another highlight of the celebration. This village has a communion minister (who is visiting two other villages Holy Thursday and Good Friday) and so they are accustomed to have the opportunity to  the Eucharist.

At the end of the service, I place the pyx with the Host on the altar, for all to see. Since there will be no procession here and they haven’t put up a special altar for adoration, I invited them all to kneel in prayer before the Eucharistic Christ.

And so, having knelt before twelve people in the village, I knelt before Jesus again.

When I returned home I watched a video of Pope Francis washing the feet of the young people in the prison.

His words strike me deeply, full of a theology of service and offering a simple but challenging message:

… washing your feet means I am at your service. And we are too, among each other, but we don’t have to wash each others' feet each day. So what does this mean? That we have to help each other…

Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. …it is a duty that comes from my heart and a duty I love. I love doing it because this is what the Lord has taught me. But you too must help us and help each other, always. And thus in helping each other we will do good for each other.

Washing feet is a sign that the Reign of God is in our midst – and to see a pope kneeling before young prisoners gives me hope.


More photos from Holy Week in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María can be found here.

No comments: