An explantion of the Holy Doors by Fr. Paul White:
We are used to using a rosary to help us meditate on the mysteries of the Holy Family; or using holy water to help us recall our baptismal commitment. In the Year of Mercy we use another symbol, a tool, a sacramental to help us enter more fully into this sacred time – a Holy Door.
Holy Doors have been used since the fifteenth century as a symbol to help us more fully experience conversion. Pilgrims and penitents pass through it as a gesture of leaving the past behind and crossing the threshold from sin to grace, from slavery to freedom, and from darkness to light.
But the door finds its deepest meaning only when we associate the door with Christ. Jesus is the Door! In the words of Pope Francis, “There is only one way that opens wide the entrance into the life of communion with God: this is Jesus, the one and absolute way to salvation. To him alone can the words of the Psalmist be applied in full truth: ‘This is the door of the Lord where the just may enter’ (Ps 118:20).”
In the Gospel of John, Jesus clearly speaks of this when he said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:7-10).
The use of a Holy Door is associated with prayer, pilgrimage, sacrifice, confession, and indulgences. Through sacrifice and pilgrimage to the Lord in prayer and with confession of our sin we open ourselves to the richness of God’s mercy and forgiveness. These actions, sincerely undertaken and by God’s abundant grace, help to form us more deeply in the image of Christ and thus healing the damages done to us by sin. That’s what an indulgence is.
In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has granted a plenary indulgence when through pilgrimage, confession of our sins, reception of the Holy Eucharist, and free from any attachment to sin, we pass through the Holy Door from sin to grace and pause to pray the profession of faith and a prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father.
The following churches in our diocese have been designated by Bishop Parkes to have Holy Doors through which the indulgence may be obtained. They were chosen so that no one would have more than an hour or so drive in order to make a pilgrimage to one of these churches:
Pope Francis has made it possible for those who, for various reasons, cannot enter the Holy Door to obtain the Jubilee indulgence. In his letter on gaining the indulgence he says:
Additionally, I am thinking of those for whom, for various reasons, it will be impossible to enter the Holy Door, particularly the sick and people who are elderly and alone, often confined to the home. For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord who in the mystery of his Passion, death and Resurrection indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and loneliness. Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence. My thoughts also turn to those incarcerated, whose freedom is limited. The Jubilee Year has always constituted an opportunity for great amnesty, which is intended to include the many people who, despite deserving punishment, have become conscious of the injustice they worked and sincerely wish to re-enter society and make their honest contribution to it. May they all be touched in a tangible way by the mercy of the Father who wants to be close to those who have the greatest need of his forgiveness. They may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.
It is our Holy Father’s desire that the richness of God’s mercy be experienced as widely and deeply as possible and for this reason he said: “I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity.”
May you experience the richness and transforming power of God’s mercy in your life this Year of Mercy and always.
May God bless you,
Fr. Paul White