*This article was written for my grade 9 Religion ISU.
On December 8th, 2015, after the Solemnity Mass of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis walked towards the Holy Door and pushed it open. But why did Pope Francis open the Holy Door?
Generally, Jubilee years (also called a Holy Year) are celebrated every 25 years, the last one celebrated in the year 2000. Therefore, the Holy Year would be in the year 2025. However, a Pope may call a Holy Year in between Ordinary Jubilees. These are called Extraordinary Jubilees. The Pope may call one if he wants to emphasize an important message to the Catholic Church or to commemorate an important event. The opening of the Holy Door marks the inauguration of the Jubilee Year and the door’s closing marks its conclusion.
Back on March 13th, 2015 on the occasion of Pope Francis’ start of his third pontificate year, he stunned the whole world by announcing a Jubilee of Mercy. At the start of his pontificate, he started to reform the papacy. He put aside the fancy vestments and rather used plain simple ones. He even refused to live in the elegant Apostolic Palace but rather chose to live in a humble guest room at Domus Sanctae Marthae, a dorm for Catholic clergy. Pope Francis never forgot about the poor and the suffering. He continued to support them through surprise appearances in homeless shelters and in places where you would not expect to see the Pope. He did the very similar thing when he was the Archbishop of Argentina, Cardinal Jorje Bergoglio. He would often use his free time to visit those in the slums and preached the Gospel of God’s mercy through the simplest actions. This became much more evident when Bergoglio became Pope.
The Jubilee of Mercy is a chance for us Catholics to go towards and receive God’s mercy, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the passing through the Holy Door. The Holy Door during this Jubilee of Mercy becomes a “Porta della Misericordiae” or “Door of Mercy”. Pope Francis said in his homily on December 8th: “To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them.[i]” When we pass through the Holy Door, we are saying “YES!” to God’s mercy and we are saying “Yes, I am going to try to become a more merciful and compassionate person.” Usually, there are only Holy Doors in the four Papal Basilicas of Rome and a few special churches in the world. However, Pope Francis understands that many people will not have the chance to go to Rome, especially the elderly and the poor to pass through the Holy Door. Pope Francis said that “this Jubilee excludes no one[ii]”. Therefore, he has decreed that there be a Holy Door (at least one) in every diocese in the world. There are nine Holy Doors in the Archdiocese of Toronto (visit www.archtoronto.org/mercy for a list of Holy Doors). In fact, Pope Francis himself opened his first Holy Door in Bagui, a small poor town in Africa. He also opened a Holy Door in a homeless shelter in Rome. With the passing through the Holy Door, we are requested to pray for the Pope’s intentions, receive the Eucharist and most importantly, receive God’s mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many teens I know are scared of confession. Perhaps they are ashamed to confess their sins to the priest. However, Pope Francis said, “There are people who are afraid to go to confession, forgetting that they will not encounter a severe judge there, but the immensely merciful Father.” Through confession, we are proving our “Yes” to God that we just did through the passing through the Holy Door. Pope Francis has gone to confession twice in public. This is to show that we are all sinners and that we need God’s infinite mercy.
During this Jubilee, we should be aware that this is not called the Jubilee of God’s Mercy. However, it is called the Jubilee of Mercy. Therefore, we are called not only to receive God’s mercy but to also be merciful people. Youth today have become so attracted to brand-name goods like Apple or TNA that we forget about caring for those less fortunate than us. Or, we may be so attached to our friends that we forget about to have compassion to those who are suffering, may be not physically but mentally and/or spiritually. We need to be people of compassion, merciful people, being “merciful like the Father[iii]”. Consider spending some time with those who seem to be “unpopular” in our schools. These people are in need of friendship and just one act of kindness will have a big impact on them. Another act of mercy you may consider would be to volunteer at a retirement home or a food bank. The elderly and the poor are often forgotten in our world today. Therefore, to be present with the elderly or setting up a bed for a man or woman that will sleep in that room later on at night helps to assure these people that there are kind people out there caring for them. Keep in mind always when doing acts of mercy, that Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me[iv]” (Mt 25:40). Need more ideas on acts of mercy? The best source to refer would be the seven corporal and seven spiritual acts of mercy. These fourteen acts of mercy will be emphasized by Pope Francis during this Jubilee for Mercy.
Since the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate emphasized through both his words and actions that mercy and compassion are virtues that everyone should be living, especially us Catholics. Pope Francis said, “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.[v]” If we Catholics can live out this virtue of mercy, especially youth, we may be able to bring the message of God’s infinite mercy to those who do not know of it.
[i] Homily of His Holiness, Pope Francis: Holy Mass and Opening of The Holy Door https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20151208_giubileo-omelia-apertura.html
[ii] Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis According To Which An Indulgence is Granted to the Faithful on the Occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150901_lettera-indulgenza-giubileo-misericordia.html
[iii] From the theme of the Jubilee of Mercy, based on Lk 6:36
[iv] Mt 25:40 from NABRE Bible translation
[v] Pope Francis’ tweet June 16, 2013 @Pontifex https://twitter.com/pontifex/status/346209446004920320