There is, on Facebook, a page called “Things Jesus Never Said” which is pretty funny. These fake quotes, like “Once saved, always saved. Unless you turn out badly and backslide; then we totally know you were never saved”, are mostly directed toward Protestants of the fundamentalist persuasion, but I wish someone would do the same with the sort of conservative Catholics that can safely be called rubrical fundamentalists.
I say this because of the uproar, in certain circles, that Pope Francis has caused, most recently by (gasp!) washing the feet of young women on Holy Thursday, one of them a Muslim. This, they proclaim, violates all sorts of liturgical rubrics, sets a bad example, and liturgical mayhem is in the forecast.
Things Jesus did not say: “Go forth unto every nation and teach them to observe liturgical rubrics to the letter.” If you cannot distinguish between this profoundly beautiful act and clown Masses I’m afraid I don’t know what to say.
And note that I love beautiful liturgy and have little tolerance for banality in worship. I will drive a good long way to avoid bad liturgy, and worship in the Byzantine tradition, where deviation is unknown. The worse thing you will find in our churches is a priest rushing through it.
But it seems to me – and I pray I am not disillusioned- that Pope Francis is demonstrating by example the primacy of Christ, the primacy of evangelical beauty. Washing the feet of young prisoners, and young women at that, is, like so many things he has done or not done in his young papacy, recalling us to the simplicity of the Gospel, the Way of Jesus.
To criticize him for not observing the rubrics recalls nothing if not the Pharisees, damning Christ for breaking the rules.
I am thinking that this pope is going to be very good for certain types of conservative Catholics, though it is going to be painful for them.
Viva Papa Francesco!