Holy Thursday

I spent Holy Week of 2010 in Haiti with Fr. Tom Hagan, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales who has been working in the worst slum in Port-au-Prince for more than 20 years. The following reflection is a scene from my film Mud Pies & Kites.

When I met Fr. Tom on Holy Thursday, he seemed a bit down.
He told me that some gang members from Cité Soleil
had threatened to kill two of his top staff people,
both Haitians and reformed gang members,
as well as the security guard at the compound.
It is all impossible to fathom.
Living with the destruction and profound need is hard enough,
but adding the element of vengeful violence
intensifies the situation to the breaking point.
No wonder Fr. Tom is so fed up with everything.
Yet, he still has this gentle calmness about him…
softly walking through an endless valley of death,
fearing nothing, his eyes fixed on God.
It took Fr. Tom two days to defuse the threat of violence.

Hundreds of people attended
the Holy Thursday liturgy.
Their joyful spirit of prayer and worship
was on full display
before Fr. Tom even had a chance
to welcome them.
Before the liturgy actually began,
all in attendance were fed a meal.
Fr. Tom assisted in distributing the food.
For me, the most impactful moment
was when Fr. Tom washed
the feet of the poor.
I had anticipated that a few people
would come up near the altar
and he would wash their feet
as representatives of the gathered community.
But no, that is not what happened.

When it came time for the foot washing,
Fr. Tom got down on his knees
and crawled along the concrete floor
from person to person seated
in the long, front row,
removing their shoes
and lovingly washing
and drying their feet.
Most of the people
in the front row
were old.
It was inspiring to watch Fr. Tom
struggling to move
from person to person,
clearly in some degree of discomfort
from the heat, the hard ground
and the sheer physical exertion.
He washed at least fifty pairs of feet.

In the Passover meal
celebrated by Jesus
we begin to learn
about true sacrifice
and true servanthood.

God is not interested
in human or animal sacrifice.
Nor is God interested
in the sacrifice of fasting
from certain foods on certain days.

The sacrifice that God seeks
is the letting go of
all that is ungodly within us,
the letting go of our ego,
the false self that always
puts ourselves first.

To “pass over”
from an ego-centered life
to a God-centered life,
from a self-centered life
to another-centered life,
requires a sacrificial surrendering
of all that binds us,
all that needs to die,
so we can walk freely into
the mystery of God.

Suffering and sharing
are the gateways
to divine intimacy.
And to become
intimate with God
means to become
the humble and loving servant of all,
By washing the feet of another,
God’s love
moves from an abstract theory
into a concrete reality.

Jesus came to be
a servant,
to sacrifice himself
for us.
We must do likewise,
by sacrificing ourselves
and serving others.

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2 Responses to “Holy Thursday”


  1. 1 Suzanne Fragale March 28, 2013 at 6:53 am

    I thought you might like the last part of this where it starts In the Passover Meal

    I ,love you!

    Sent from my iPad

  2. 2 Kaye Wilkins March 28, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Gerry:
    Thanks for all you have done to bring to light to the outside world the horrendous poverty That exists in Haiti. I was inspired with your comments on Father Tom. We all need to continue working to help up lift out Haitan friends out of their poverty.
    May God continue to bless you in your work
    Sincerely,
    Kaye Wilkind MD


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