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Father Z on Pope Francis and Liturgy: It’s About Compassion

Pope Francis washes and kisses the feet of prisoners in jail, including two women. PHOTO: Reuters

Pope Francis washes and kisses the feet of prisoners in jail, including two women. PHOTO: Reuters

I continue to point critics of Pope Francis to Bruvver Eccles satirical piece on critics of Pope St. Peter. Humor can be instructive sometimes, but so can a serious caution from someone who, well, gets more traffic than Bruvver and I do. I refer to Father Z who has written a very valuable post in regard to the dispute about whether it is okay for Pope Francis to wash the feet of women on Holy Thursday: What is Pope Francis really saying? This is appropriate, indeed, considering the nature of his blog is a commentary on liturgy, and with its title being What Does the Prayer Really Say?

Do read the whole thing as it radiates love in the sense of a faithful priest (Father Z) reaching toward understanding of our Pope on something he admits he (like the rest of us) does not fully understand. How Franciscan of Father Z, to seek to understand rather than to seek to be understood.

He writes:

I think what Pope Francis is up to is trying to project, re-project, is an image of the Church as compassionate.  He is trying to help people remember (or learn for the first time) that she is actually all about compassion, charity in its truest form.

We’ve lost the message and we have to get it back.

I agree. Perhaps it is because I am a convert that I understand the importance of the “image” of the Church so well. I know what it is like to be completely in the dark. Though I never hated the Catholic Church, for the first half of my life I was completely ignorant about Catholicism, so knowing how to reach someone in the dark may be easier for me to understand than it would be for someone who was reared in the Faith. Being in the dark is something that I know all too well.

Non-Christians and Protestants alike do not “get” the difference between “small t” tradition and “BIG T” Tradition, primarily because Catholics themselves don’t point out the difference often enough. When Catholics see other Catholics breaking from “small t” tradition and they react to this loudly and publicly as if it is heresy, it doesn’t serve the very purpose you are intending to serve, which is to bring people closer to God.

I understand that liturgical rules are important in order to keep us focused on God. I get that. It is significant, though, that you are primarily cradle Catholics who already get the dogmas and so you see the “small t” traditions as being aids to lifting you up in the dogma. But non-Catholics don’t see it that way. Non-Catholics see the little things and completely miss the big things.

I am a Eucharistic convert who converted to Catholicism when I found Jesus in the Eucharist the first time I attended Mass…and it was a Novus Ordo Mass. As much as I appreciate your intentions, it is not as if people cannot come to know Jesus, nor come to know where His Church is, if all we had were the Novus Ordo Mass, and especially not if the Pope decides not to wear a certain garment that is traditionally worn. People don’t convert because of a mozzetta, and they are likely to be averse to converting if they think Catholics care as much about such things as they do about dogma. The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist gets lost in the shuffle with “small t” tradition. They don’t see the forest because the trees get in the way.

In his words to the prisoners whose feet he washed, Pope Francis conveyed who Jesus was,and what Jesus requires of all of us. To take issue with his breaking with with “small t” tradition for washing the feet of two young ladies is mind-boggling to me. Trust me when I say that it is far more important to talk about Jesus and humility than it is to talk about whose feet he is washing. Father Z alludes to this when he says:

Remember this: Liberals could give a damn about the gender of the person whose feet are being washed.  Their focus is really the gender of the one doing the washing.  Liturgical liberals are included in this.  They only care about the washing of the feet of women, because ultimately they want women to do the washing.  This is about the ordination of women, not about their feet.

Criticisms of Pope Francis from traditionalists who demand that he only wash the feet of men plays right into the hands of liberals who use little things to try to force big changes. Meanwhile, the main message of Pope Francis is lost in the secular media as they spend time reporting about the dispute instead of what it means to know Jesus and to model humility.

Pope Francis said, “I do this with my heart.”

Why aren’t we talking about that? It’s the Cross. It’s Jesus, the hope of the world. Why are we not rejoicing over non-Christians learning about who Jesus is?

Take my advice. My advice is to follow Father Z’s example. Seek to understand the good that comes from these things, and rejoice in that. In this way, we will bring Christ to the world. Non-Catholics neither know, nor care, what the value of the mozzetta is, and the thing is that they will never know, nor care, what the value is if they can’t see Jesus in the Church. Further, I’m confident that if you are being hauled off to prison in ten years for refusing to cooperate in evil by order of the State, you won’t be pondering the mozzetta. If you are truly faithful, you will be pondering the Cross.

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