For the second year in a row, Pope Francis has celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which begins the Easter Triduum, with the marginalized. This year the Mass took place at St. Mary of Providence of the Don Gnocchi Foundation in Rome, a center for the elderly and disabled.
Last year, he celebrated Mass on Holy Thursday at a youth detention center.
Recalling the institution of the Eucharist and Christ’s words to the apostles to be at the service of Gods people, the Mass of our Lord’s Supper symbolizes service in washing the feet of twelve individuals.
Director of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, said that nine Italians, one Muslim from Libya, an Ethiopian woman, and a young man from Cape Verde constituted the 12 whose feet were washed. Each of the individuals suffer with some form of illness.
Speaking to Vatican Radio on Thursday, Dr. Furio Grammatica, chair of the Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer (CITT) at the Don Gnocchi Foundation, said the foundation, which has 30 centres throughout Italy dedicated to healthcare and research, epitomizes Pope Francis repeated call to move out to the margins to find and help those who are often forgotten or discarded.
Dr. Grammatica acknowledged that although she and the foundation, which has been providing help for more than 60 years, always realized Francis was a supporter of their cause, once they realized “the Pope really decided to visit us in a so important and symbolic occasion we all thought [it] too fantastic to be true.”
The doctor denied that some guests would not be able to fully grasp the meaning of the visit. She attributed this to a clear sixth sense they have “about how much they are loved.” She said they saw the Holy Father not only as a Pope, but an icon of the tenderness and strength at the same time.
The foundation spokeswoman noted that Lent reminds us the meaning of solitude, weakness, doubts, being tired or confused. “Let me say, to see the Pope coming at our workplace means anticipating a bit the Easter for us!,” she said.
In his homily at the Mass, the Pope stressed how the Lord became a servant, our servant. This gesture, he said, “left the faithful with an inheritance that we ought to be servants of one another.”
“He has made this road for love, you also ought to love and be servants and love. This is the legacy that Jesus leaves us,” he said.
The Holy Father added that Jesus “wanted us to live in this way and emphasized that the act of washing the feet is a symbolic gesture.”
This was traditionally carried out by the slaves, the servants of those who came to dine, the people who came to lunch due to the fact that, at that time, walking on the streets of dirt and earth. When guests “entered into the house, it was necessary to wash their feet,” he said. The entire homily focused on the reflection of Jesus doing the “service of a slave” and the legacy he left.
Emphasizing how Jesus’ example then ties into the Church’s present Eucharistic tradition, Francis stressed that the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, “is also in the ceremony, this act of washing the feet, which reminds us that we must be servants to each other.”
Inviting the faithful to think of others and to remember the love that Jesus tells us to have for others, he urged the faithful to think of how they can serve others better, for this is what Jesus wanted us to do.
During the Mass, the Holy Father knelt in front of the 12 disabled and washed, dried, and kissed their feet. (D.C.L.)