As someone who was raised Catholic but no longer practices the faith (just call me The Sinner Formerly Known as Catholic), I must confess: It was next to impossible NOT to occasionally poke fun at poor old Pope Benedict. Especially as his reign, for lack of a better word, came to an end ... I mean, come on. The Vatican's alleged secret sex ring? The red Prada shoes? The sombrero?! The man had his own cologne, for the love of God (presumably). And don't even get me started on the Twitter account.
But this new guy, Pope Francis? He's not your everyday Holy Father: This Thursday -- Holy Thursday -- instead of saying mass in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis has chosen the chapel of a penal institute for minors in Rome ... where he will wash and kiss the feet of 12 young inmates, following the example of Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper.
Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II generally followed this tradition with priests in place of the disciples, not inmates (though John Paul II did bathe the feet of 12 homeless men back in 1980). For Francis to choose 12 juvenile delinquents in a prison chapel is a hugely symbolic gesture.
Here's the thing: Going back to the original washing of the feet -- it was a big deal. I mean, as soon as Jesus started with the whole basin of water thing, Peter was all, "Dude! Why are YOU washing MY feet? You're, like, the Lord." (I'm paraphrasing, slightly.) And Jesus said:
"You call me Master, and Lord; and you say well, for so I am. If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also."
(That part I didn't paraphrase.)
The point being that humility was a big deal to Jesus, right? Humility and generosity. This is the guy who encouraged his followers to give ALL their earthly possessions away to the poor, saying:
"It is easier for a camel pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Pope Francis is a 76-year-old Jesuit (Jesuit priests take a vow of poverty) with one lung who, as Cardinal of Buenos Aires, was known for denying himself "the luxuries most cardinals enjoyed ... he often rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina's capital. He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church."
It's as if Pope Francis actually asks himself, "What would Jesus do?" And then ... does it.
I'm ... not even sure ... I can ... make any jokes about him.
What do you think about Pope Francis washing the feet of 12 young inmates on Holy Thursday?
Image via Zennie Abraham/Flickr