With this letter I would like to repeat at greater length the announcement I made about the Holy Door in last week’s homily. On Divine Mercy Sunday this past April, Francis promulgated a bull (a certain type of papal document) announcing that he was declaring an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, to begin on December 8, 2015 (the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Vatican II Council) and continue through to the end of the liturgical year, the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 20, 2016.
Throughout the history of the church, and even way back into the Old Testament, we see the establishment of “jubilee years”, special years for people to experience freedom from their debt, special acts of God’s mercy, a time of renewal and healing for people – and even for their land. In a similar way, this Extraordinary Jubilee Year is meant to help us enter into the mercy of God and experience renewal in our own lives, by focussing upon and receiving more fully God’s amazing mercy.
A very traditional way of observing a jubilee year in a church is to create a jubilee “holy door”. You could explain this by pointing out that parallel to the way we are setting aside time to focus on God’s mercy – a whole year – likewise the holy door gives us a spatial way (i.e., having to do with a space, a place) to express renewal and change. Walking through a door starts a new experience, from a spatial perspective. Walking through a specially appointed holy door is a way of expressing our desire for newness, repentance from old sin, hope in a greater future, experienced by God’s merciful help.
Given that tradition, Pope Francis will open a special Jubilee Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica on December 8. And he has asked bishops around the world to appoint a holy door in their cathedrals; and then to accommodate people who might have to travel too far in order to get to a cathedral, he has suggested that bishops also choose other auxiliary sites for Holy Doors in their dioceses. Bishop Thomas has asked Divine Mercy Parish to appoint a door at our Paulding campus as a Holy door. Our Holy Door will be the large double-door leading from the narthex into the main body of the church at our Paulding Campus. The other three sites for holy doors in the Diocese are: Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral, Our Lady of Sorrows Shrine in Bellevue, Ohio and Our Lady of Consolation Basilica in Carey, Ohio.
Although we do not have all of the details for what will be entailed in a pilgrimage to our Holy Door, I do know that a plenary indulgence will be granted by making the pilgrimage, saying a certain prayer (or prayers). Other necessary components for obtaining the plenary indulgence will certainly be: detachment from sin, one Our Father and one Hail Mary for the Pope, attending Mass on the day of the pilgrimage and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation within one week on either side of the pilgrimage. These are standard requirements for a plenary indulgence.
Although our Holy Door will officially be opened on Sunday, December 13 at the 10:30 AM Mass, we already have to have the door decorated by Christ the King weekend, November 22. Between November 22 and December 13, our Holy Door will not be used. Both to enter and leave Mass during that period, parishioners will have to use the doors facing Main Street. Although this will certainly feel like an inconvenience, it will at the same time raise our anticipation for the opening of the Holy Door and help us appreciate its symbolism all the more fully. (The elevator in the narthex will still be fully functional, however, throughout the time when the Holy Door is sealed off.)
How will the door be decorated and set apart? There will be red and white bunting (draped cloth) to remind us of the red and white rays coming out of the heart of Jesus Christ as he appeared to St. Faustina. Then nearby we will have the papal coat of arms, because the Pope’s own coat of arms contains a Scripture phrase having to do with mercy. We already have an image of St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy in the narthex, and our specially commissioned parish Divine Mercy icon up by the baptismal font, so these will serve greatly throughout the year. We will also have a poster design by the Diocese, explaining briefly the Holy Year, the Holy Door, the requirements for a plenary indulgence, etc. Finally, we are going to keep two-four arrangements of flowers at the door throughout the year. If there is interest on the part of parishioners, flower arrangements could be donated in memory of a loved one, with a notation in the bulletin. (Contact the office if you would like to sponsor an arrangement of flowers in memory of a loved one.)
Since this is the first time I have ever hosted a Holy Door, I do not know how much traffic we will get – how many groups, individuals, or even busloads of people might stop by throughout the year. We will put together a flyer to send to the deaneries closest to us in Ohio and Indiana, letting them know we are happy to welcome them to our Holy Door. In anticipation of our guests, I would like to have a cadre of guides who are trained to host individuals and groups in the narthex, explaining briefly the meaning of the Jubilee Year, the Holy Door, the papal coat of arms, the official international logo of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Divine Mercy image, and finally the parish icon of Divine Mercy. Dave Santo will be training and organizing these guides. If you would be willing to help throughout the year as an official guide, please contact the office. (It seems to me you don’t have to be from the Paulding campus area to be a guide, although perhaps for those spontaneous, unexpected visits from groups, we might stick with Paulding campus area guides to handle them, since there might not be much notice.)
So there is what I know thus far about the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy Holy Door at our parish. I think we are privileged to have been asked to be an instrument in Our Lord’s hands for helping people in our area enter into God’s mercy more fully. Throughout the Year of Mercy, let’s remember to pray for all those people who will approach our campus, asking that the Lord touch them in a very special way and transform their lives.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,