The Jubilee Year of mercy began last Tuesday when Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Traditionally, a Jubilee Year was a time for special honour of God, shown by a change in the way of life. Sins were remitted, prisoners were released, slaves were freed, all debts were forgiven and God’s mercy was celebrated. (Lev 25:8-13). In medieval times Pope Boniface VIII (1300 AD) introduced Holy Years, every 50 or 25 years, with the aim of the ‘conversion of the heart’.
So what does it mean for us to go through a Holy Door today? Christ identified Himself as ‘the door’. He said ‘I am the door’ (John 10:7). Therefore to pass through a Holy Door is to pass from this world into the presence of God. The door becomes a symbol of opening to the fullness of God’s love, so as we pass through it, it is a sign that we wish to experience God’s mercy and take it to others. Pope Francis encourages us all to make a pilgrimage to a Holy door in this Jubilee Year.
You may decide to go to the Holy Door in Rome or you may go to one of the four Holy Doors in the Diocese of Nottingham which are at: St Barnabas Cathedral, Mount Saint Bernard’s Abbey in Coalville, the Briars in Crich, Derbyshire and at Holy Cross Priory in Leicester. Undertaking this pilgrimage means that we are seeking mercy as the goal but it does require dedication and sacrifice. Also by making this pilgrimage we can benefit from an ‘indulgence’.
But what is an indulgence? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “an indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishment due for their sins…..to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity” (CCC 1478). (Temporal punishment is what we know as purgatory).
In other words, it’s receiving extra blessings, graces, love, mercy and forgiveness from God and then sharing that mercy with others particularly through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. To experience and obtain the Jubilee of Mercy Indulgence the faithful are called to:
- Make a pilgrimage to a Holy Door;
- Receive the Sacrament of Penance;
- Participate in the celebration of Eucharist with a reflection on Mercy;
- Make a profession of faith;
- Pray for the Holy Father and for his intentions for the good of the Church and of the entire world.
So as we start the pilgrimage together, I pray for us all to seek ever deeper the mystery of God’s love as Pope Francis writes: “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it…Mercy is the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”
-Julia Palmer, Director of Adult Formation