Skip to main content

Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday

3/29/2006 - 5:45 AM PST

(Page 2 of 2)

law, it would be more in accordance with the spirit of abstinence to prefer a fish or vegetable soup.

Other readers pointed out occasional incongruities such as when fish is more expensive than meat.

The purpose of the law of abstinence is to educate us in the higher spiritual law of charity and self-mastery. Thus, fast and abstinence have always been tied to almsgiving.

In this way, it makes little sense to give up steak so as to gorge on lobster and caviar. The idea of abstinence is to prefer a simpler, less sumptuous diet than normal.

We thus have something extra to give to those less fortunate than ourselves and also train ourselves in freedom from slavery to material pleasures. Even a Catholic vegetarian can practice abstinence by substituting a typical, yet more expensive, element of the diet for something simpler.

All the same, the laws of fasting exist to give clear directions and preserve us from subjective indulgence in choosing our "sacrifices." But these laws have always been tempered by the reality of the situation.

For this reason the Church has continually granted indults so that nobody be involuntarily deprived of necessary foods. In some cases this has meant suspending abstinence on some days or for some categories of people; in others it has meant permitting meat when fish is an expensive delicacy or when eating meat is itself a rarity. In other cases it has meant substituting another kind of food for meat.

In all of these cases the basic rule of thumb is that the law of fast and abstinence should never impose a grave or unsupportable burden on an individual or family.

These indults are still very pertinent in poor countries where the basic diet varies little and consists of a few basic commodities such as rice, beans, corn or potatoes accompanied by small quantities of meat and other vegetables.

In the developed world the vast array of assorted foodstuffs available at the local supermarket make living the laws of abstinence relatively easy. In most cases one can forgo meat and still maintain a simple yet well balanced diet.

However, while being faithful to these laws we must always strive to penetrate the inner reasons for fast and abstinence and not just stay on the superficial plane of rules for rules' sake.


Catholic Online  CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Lent, Holy, Thursday, Feet, Abstinence

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

1 - 5 of 5 Comments

  1. GJA Taylor
    11 months ago

    When clergy desire new things , be aware that they are probably in a state of sin. As the ego always desires new things.
    Get on with the Sacred Liturgy and stop with all - everything has to be new non-sense. Do nothing that distracts from the Sacred Liturgy. It isn't about the priest, he is to become less and Christ is to increase. So any deviation is a mark of ego, distrust the ego of a clergyman. It is a sure sign that they have lost sight of Our Lord's Passion and are more interested in making a fuss and drawing attention to themselves. Not good at all. Let them learn humility and carry out their priestly function without drawing attention to themselves and without the fuss of cameras filming their "humility".

  2. Denis Daniel
    2 years ago

    Can a Catholic parish priest without any valid reason delegate his liturgical duty of washing of feet to a Catholic priest who does not belong to the same diocese? What does Canon law say?

  3. Mary Anne
    2 years ago

    According to the thinking that the washing of the feet should theatrically create an image of the Twelve as its primary intent, and not the terms of service as Jesus instructed, gives us historic pictures with no challenge to The Way. If the events of the Last Supper only pertained to the Twelve men, women would not be part of the Eucharist. Jesus came for all the world. Our response should come from the heart of His teachings, not the cultural climate of his time in history. He was a radical man who challenged the times. The first person to hear the Good News of His Resurrection was Mary, a woman. Should it follow that only a woman should read the first Gospel of Easter morning? I have had my feet washed. I am a woman. It was beautiful and moving and I respond with service to others.
    I fear for the church when it puts theatrics, cult like chants, smoke and bells, as first priority over the heart of Jesus's teachings. It's fine to have these things if they are secondary and enhance the gift of Faith, God has given us. Trust in Faith, and focus on the Way.

  4. Dan
    5 years ago

    With all due respect, I think the point is missed. The master and the servant are one in the social order therefore all lay people should be included if heaven on earth is part of your goals. peace.

  5. Lisa
    5 years ago

    "There has been no change in the universal norm which reserves this rite to men as stated in the circular letter "Paschales Solemnitatis" (Jan. 16, 1988) and the rubrics of the 2002 Latin Roman Missal. "

    I researched this a little farther and found that the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) says nothing about the washing of feet on Holy Thursday, let alone it being reserved for men. And the letter does not say it is specifically reserved for men and that women should not get their feet washed...

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

Newsletter Sign Up

Saint of the Day

March 26 Saint of the Day

St. Margaret Clitherow
March 26: St. Margaret Clitherow was born in Middleton, England, in 1555, ... Read More