Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, February 22, 2018

cram_halfIt was the most menial job in a household, typically assigned to the lowliest servant. In fact, in some places during the first century A.D., this task was considered so demeaning that a master could not compel a servant to perform it.

What was this degrading task? Washing feet.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the apostles balked when Jesus washed their feet at the Last Supper. Why was the Master on his knees like an ordinary slave? It made them terribly uncomfortable.

Jesus’ message to his followers was clear: in order to be his disciple, one must serve. This was non-negotiable. It still is.

*****

I was driving down historic Main Street in Glastonbury, enjoying the warm sun and the delightful silence. An electronic ring tone pierced my tranquility. It was my cell phone – the one my family gave me despite my noisy objections. I pulled over in front of the library to take the call.

"Hi, Sweetheart," I said cheerfully to Tierney, my pragmatic 21-year-old daughter.

"Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!" Tierney squealed into the telephone.

I knew what she was going to tell me.

Tierney and her boyfriend, Andrew, had been enjoying an afternoon date – a rare treat amid the demands of college classes and jobs. Andrew had begun the date by bringing Tierney to an empty church some distance from his home. They spent 10 or 15 minutes in silent prayer. Then, they prayed a rosary together. This was followed by more silent prayer. By the time Andrew launched into the Stations of the Cross, Tierney had grown restless. Why weren’t they heading out on their date? I mean, prayer is great, but enough is enough.

After more than an hour in the church, Andrew suggested that they say a final prayer in front of the statue of the Blessed Mother. "Then can we leave?" Tierney silently grumbled, while simultaneously noting the spectacular bouquet of red roses in front of the statue.

They offered a brief prayer, and Tierney turned to leave.

"Wait," Andrew said.

What now?

As Tierney faced him, Andrew dropped to one knee, opened a small velvet box and quietly asked, "Tierney, will you marry me?"

Tierney gasped, then stared at the box, dumbfounded, before finding her voice. "Yes!" she exclaimed.

The young couple talked quietly for a moment before Andrew asked Tierney to take a seat in a nearby pew. She watched as he walked to the pulpit, stooped behind it and pulled out a bowl of water and a towel. Andrew then knelt in front of Tierney, removed her shoes, and proceeded to wash her feet.

Once again, the symbolism was clear. Their marriage would be a life of service, and that service would begin with Andrew.

When I related this story to some married friends, the husband groaned. "Oh, great. Now my wife is going to expect me to serve her!" he said with more seriousness than jest.

"Your wife should expect you to serve her," I replied. "And you should expect your wife to serve you. Isn’t that part of loving, honoring and cherishing? And isn’t marriage a crucible for living out the Gospel?"

Many of us take decades to learn this truth. Tierney and Andrew are doing it right from the start.

Oh, the roses in front of the Blessed Mother were for Tierney.

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.