In the Gospel of John, Jesus showed us what a servant’s heart looks like when he washed the feet of the apostles.
Parishes often reenact this event on Holy Thursday. Pitchers of water are poured over feet and then dried with pristine white towels. I’ve taken part in these activities, and I’ve found the act a spiritually beautiful act, but I don’t think the modern version quite captures the original event.
During the time that Jesus was on earth, people wore sandals on the dusty roads, they slogged through the mud and muck that surrounded wells when they wanted a drink of water, and they didn’t have indoor plumbing available for a nice bath. Their feet were most likely filthy. Yet Jesus, their rabbi and Messiah, lowered himself to wash twelve sets of tootsies. He then instructed us to do the same.
In the West, where we are overloaded with conveniences and riches, and where the government has many social programs in place, it’s easy to assume that those in need are well cared for. Where are the opportunities to meet the poor?
Patty Carmody and Raquel Cadena-Muñoz found the answer to that question at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker. Founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, the Catholic Worker movement seeks to live out the Acts of Mercy.
The Hippie Kitchen, the Catholic Worker’s soup kitchen, provides meals three days a week to those who are hungry. They do this without judgment. They don’t turn anyone away, and the only thing they require from their guests is an appetite. They provide fellowship and a sense that the poor aren’t forgotten. Besides the kitchen, the center provides periodic dental checks, yoga, and a foot care clinic, where Workers wash the feet of the poor, just like Jesus.
For Patty, her involvement in Catholic Workers is generational. Her mother-in-law subscribed to the Catholic Worker newspaper for years. Fun fact: When visiting the New York office, Patty found Hazel Carmody’s subscription card from the 1940s! In 1990-91, Patty felt called to take part in an internship with the community, and she has been involved with the movement for 26 years, both working in the kitchen and going out on social justice protests. She also reaches out to dozens of prisoners, writing letters as part of a Catholic Worker ministry
Raquel, who also volunteers in the kitchen, found particular fulfillment in washing the feet of the poor. After training to provide foot care to people on Skid Row, she established a foot care clinic at her parish of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in Santa Clarita, CA.
Recently, Raquel and her Kateri Clippers Foot Care Clinic partner, Diana Campa Limon, brought their foot care clinic to parents taking part in Family Promise, an organization that helps homeless families get back on their feet. The event became “spa time” for the women. They shared laughter, gave each other shoulder massages, and braided hair. For two hours, these mothers were able to forget their anxieties, which in the case of one woman included a 12-hour work shift spent standing in a factory line.
Did you notice the pattern? For Raquel, what began as a volunteer event for the Catholic Worker germinated into the Kateri Clippers and expanded to include homeless families being served by Family Promise. For Patty, openness to her mother-in-law’s interest in the Catholic Worker led to an internship and involvement with a community that has lasted for over two decades. The poor aren’t the only ones to benefit from service. As Raquel put it, “It’s the hardest job I’ve ever loved.”
The first step to developing a servant’s heart is to surrender to God’s will. Then trust that He will direct you to opportunities to bear fruit in His name.
©Jacqueline Vick, 2016