Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Washing of the Feet. . . because of the King Who washed His disciples' feet.

 On a Sunday a couple of weeks ago, when Mass was over, Fr. Ray, our pastor emeritus, asked us to wait for him for a moment. I thought he wanted to talk about my younger sons' upcoming First Holy Communion, but he'd surprise us by asking Maximilian whether he'd like to participate in the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday.

Needless to say, Maximilian was thrilled to have been asked. That day all the high school freshmen were going on a field trip to the Boston Museum of Science, from where they would around 4:30 p.m.. The Holy Thursday Mass would be at 7:00 p.m., and we'd need to be at St. Joseph's, in Newport, RI, by 6:30. Maximilian didn't even want to go on his field trip for fear of being late for the Washing of the Feet. Yet, we convinced him that he'd be able to do both, and even if with some delays and some rushes, we'd manage to be at the Church not exactly by 6:30 but still well in advance of 7:00 p.m..

We all know that there is always a blessing in disguise in absolutely everything we go through. Well, I finally found a blessing in disguise in a presidncy that is no blessing at all. Seeing how the Catholic Church stood up against Trump's racism and bigotry, how emphatically they condemned Trump's Muslim ban and Mexican border wall strengthened Maximilian's faith. It is unthinkable to have at the White House a jerk who belittles the immigrant and laughs at the disabled. I cannot find any justification for that. Trump is not ProLife and is only damaging the ProLife cause. But when it comes to that adorable little boy turning into an awesome young man who impresses everyone around him, it took that big bigot playing president of the United States for him to witness what sparked, ignited, fired up his faith so that now he became a faithful, fervent, devout, committed Catholic, eager to have his First Holy Communion this spring and to get even more involved with the Church. He witnessed how the Catholic Church stood up against racism and supported the immigrant. He loved to hear both our pastor and pastor emeritus clearly and emphatically exhort the congregation to side with the undocumented aliens whose only "fault" is to want a better future for their children, to give their kids what they never had in their countries of origin when they themselves were growing up. He loved to learn that Pope Francis, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities U.S.A., Catholic Relief Services, Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, and countless cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and clergy members not only denounced the evils of the Muslim ban and Mexican border wall but also urged Catholics and the population at large to do the same.

Notwithstanding having entered our family through international adoption from Bulgaria, Maximilian shares that passion for volunteering, reaching out, making a difference that I saw in my parents and grandparents, at a time when they could give away not only their time and efforts, but also sizable financial support---something that I cannot even remotely do today. Maximilian shares that passion for service to the community that made my three older, biological, children be top volunteers since the age of six or seven in San Diego area to the point that they were featured in the Rancho Santa Fe Review eighteen or nineteen times and interviewed by local T,V. channels due to their extraordinary volunteerism. And, by the same token, it was that same, or, rather,  even more selfless call to serve others what in July of 2008 made my three older children give up the laurels of organized volunteering and since then devote every minute of their free time to an even more selfless, more self-sacrificing, more self-denying, more self-effacing kind of service--the one that since then they have been doing for their younger siblings in the anonymity of the immediate family context, without it ever showing up in their resumes.

Quite often I have felt, and keep on feeling guilty for allowing my three older children to put aside their own goals and dreams for the sake of their five younger brothers, to do for me what I cannot do by myself. But my older ones are happy that way, and, of course, so are my younger ones. All my five younger sons love their older siblings much more than they love each other. Even if the road might be slightly bumpy sometimes, all five of them are learning from the awesome, amazing  examples they get from my older daughter and twin sons. For my younger ones, it is a slow process of ridding themselves of the effects of many long years of abuse and neglect in their early lives as they were all between the ages of seven and ten at the time of their respective homecomings. But it is happening. No matter some behavioral outbursts now and then, they all have good natures, and they all know how to care and how to love.

Let's go back to Maximilian, who is now totally over those little sharp, mordacious, hurtful comments he used to make. Those are totally a matter of the past. He has severe mobility limitations and some medical issues. Yet, his most cherished dream is volunteering and helping others. And he has a larger-than-life personality that makes its way into people's hearts. Meeting Maximilian equals liking him and being impressed by him. It means admiring his noble attitude in the face of his physical challenges, his resiliency, and his determination to change this world for the better.

Maximilian understands all about equality and social justice and does care about it.  I grew up in a home embedded into those values. I was taught to see Jesus in the homeless and the hungry. From very early age, my three older children stand up for the underserved, the minorities, the immigrant, and the oppressed. Maximilian fully shares in those concerns, and it was through those principles that he now totally embraced the Catholic faith.

Participating in the Washing of the Feet was perfect for him. First, Fr. Jacques and Fr. Ray washed the feet of a few previously selected parishioners, and then, in turn, those parishioners would wash the feet of any attendees who wished to have their feet washed. This is a tradition that honors the humility of the King of Kings Who washed the feet of His disciples, Who came to this world not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45), and Who sent His Apostles to serve others in His Name (John 13:14-15).

It was a beautiful ceremony where everyone felt united together as members of the "one and only human race."  It was a bilingual Mass. Many helpers had some challenges of different kinds. An altar server with D.S. (Down syndrome) was among the most avid ones to assist with everything and to convey the most vivid testimony of true faith.

Working on this post is a real opportunity for me to confront my own frustration, my own pain and bitterness over the things I cannot get done, and to see the wonder of those things that do get done. Yes, I do receive lots of help in the process. I so much wish I could do more on my own. But it's time to look at the cup half full and see how very much is getting done, how very much got already done, no matter how much help I may have had.

Moreover, it's a matter of giving testimony. There are so many children wasting away in orphanages all over the world, with only one bifurcated prospect for their futures. Those with no medical diagnoses are more than likely to end up on the streets, and those with even the slightest special needs may be locked up in a so-called mental institution. There are also so many kids living in foster homes where, even if in a family environment, they are fully aware of not being full-fledged members of that family. And, on the other hand, there are so many people out there who might have better, more fulfilled, more meaningful lives if encouraged to rescue at least one child instead of keeping on dwelling on past mistakes or past pettiness.

Let's say it once again. This is precisely why Jesus voluntarily accepted the excruciating pain of dying on the Cross--to bring us closer to each other as the most effective, most loving way of saving us all.

I'll just let the pics speak fir themselves.

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