Since the year 1300 when Pope Boniface VIII declared the first Holy Year, the Catholic Church has regularly celebrated “Holy Years,” usually every twenty-five years, except for special circumstances.
A major aspect of the Holy Year has been that of pilgrimage either to Rome or to a number of doors which have been opened in diocese around the world to make a symbolic entry through the Holy Door; to make reparation for sin and to renew the conversion of one’s life.
Christ identified Himself as the door, saying. “Truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture” (John 10:7, 9). Using this symbolic image Jesus tells us that the only way to the father is through him, the only begotten Son, the saviour. Another aspect is the phrase ‘they…will come in and go out and find pasture’. In other words this going through the gate is not a one-way journey. We enter, are strengthened with grace and then go out to bring this grace to others through our actions. There is only one way that opens wide the entrance into this life of communion with God: This is Jesus, the one and absolute way to salvation.
Passing through the Holy Door is to open oneself to the transforming grace of God and to confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Son of God, Lord and saviour who suffered, died and rose for our salvation.
Therefore to pass through the door from the outside of St. Peter’s into the basilica is to pass from this world into the presence of God, just as in the old Temple of Jerusalem, the High Priest on the Feast of Yom Kippur passed through the veil covering the doorway of the Holy of Holies to enter into the presence of God to offer the sacrifice of atonement. Moreover, to pass through the door is to confess with firm conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Lord, and the Saviour who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation.
Pope Francis announcing the opening of the Holy Doors says “To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion. Likewise, I dispose that the Indulgence may be obtained in the Shrines in which the Door of Mercy is open and in the churches which traditionally are identified as Jubilee Churches. It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world”. So we can see that the thoughts of Holy Father in his pastoral role as Bishop of Rome go “to all the faithful who, whether in individual Dioceses or as pilgrims to Rome, will experience the grace of the Jubilee. I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed”.
Fr Kevin Melody, O.Carm, represented the Prior Provincial of the British Province and opened our Door of Mercy at the National Shrine of Saint Jude on 13 December 2015. Photos below.