Pope Francis has officially concluded the Jubilee of Mercy that was inaugurated December 8th, 2015 through the centuries old ritual of the closing of the Holy Door on Nov. 20, 2016. Today, I sit down and reflect on all the Jubilee activities I have participated during this past Jubilee of Mercy.
- Waking up very early to watch Pope Francis open the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica on December 8th, 2015 – I woke up past 3:00pm that morning to watch Pope Francis open the Holy Door. Somehow, my alarm clock did not go off at the desired time. At first, I thought I have missed the opening. However, when I got onto the YouTube livestream, Pope Francis has just received Holy Communion and the rite was after the Mass. The most important part of the whole Rite was when Pope Francis pushed open the Holy Door that was sealed since the Jan. 2001, the end of the Great Jubilee 2000. However, what touched me the most was the moment of silence in prayer after the Pope opened the door. It was a moment of prayer when the whole Church prayed for the presence in an age where mercy seems to be forgotten. The second emotional moment for me was when Pope emeritus Benedict XVI passed through the Holy Door right after Pope Francis. Pope Benedict never inaugurated any Holy Years and therefore to have him pass through it was something to note. The official hymn of the Jubilee, Misericordes Sicut Pater was then sung for the first time.
- Passing through the first Holy Door in my life and the first one in the Jubilee of Mercy – My family went to St. Paul’s Basilica’s Holy Door at the end of December 2015 but that door was closed. Our family went to the Holy Door at St. Patrick’s Church on McCaul St. a few months later. Passing through the Holy Door during the season of Lent was a reminder to me of God’s mercy to me, a sinner.
- Peace Pilgrimage with TCDSB and passing through the Holy Door for a second time during the Jubilee – I went on a Catholic event called, “Peace Pilgrimage” with several other brothers from my high school, Chaminade College School. The event took place during Catholic Education Week with the theme, “Opening Doors of Mercy” to coincide with the Jubilee of Mercy. The day started at the Catholic Education Centre where over a hundred students from across the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) celebrated a province-wide Mass presided by Most Rev. John Boissonneau. After the Mass, pilgrims took the subway to various places in Downtown Toronto where each pilgrim group stopped and prayed for peace. All pilgrims met again at St. Paul’s Basilica where we all passed through the Holy Door to experience the power of God’s mercy.
- Martyrs’ Shrine Pilgrimage – June 11, 2016 was my 16th pilgrimage to the Martyrs’ Shrine. However, this past year’s pilgrimage was unique as there was a Holy Door at the Shrine. I must of had went through the Holy Door several times that day but in the end, still received one indulgence. It was a Holy day where I had a chance to pray with the Saints who had shed their blood on that land. However, like Christ, they were models of mercy. The pilgrimage served as a reminder for me to be a missionary of Christ’s mercy like the Canadian Martyrs.
- Less than 1-hour Pilgrimage to Marylake Shrine – During the summer, I had the chance to go to Marylake Shrine for a very short pilgrimage. Again, I walked through the Holy Door. However, that pilgrimage made me look up to Mary, the Mother of Mercy. I asked the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us, her children be merciful like her Son, Jesus.
- Canonization of Mother Teresa – Even though I couldn’t be in Rome for the Canonization of this Saint of Mercy, I had the chance to watch it live on Vatican Youtube LiveStream very early in the morning. I think many know of her life of mercy and therefore there is no need to mention about it here. “For Mother Teresa, mercy was the “salt” which gave flavour to her work, it was the “light” which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.” (Pope Francis, Sept. 4, 2016 Homily)
- Several Holy Doors during the summer, September and October – Yes, I went to several Holy Doors including three pilgrimages to St. Patrick’s Church. Besides, I also crossed the Holy Door at Merciful Redeemer Parish too.
- A Catholic Call To Serve (ACCTS) program – Myself along with four other of my brothers from Chaminade College School attended a 1-day program hosted by TCDSB called A Catholic Call To Serve (ACCTS). Chaminade along with many other TCDSB secondary schools came together as a family of faith to respond to the call to serve just as Jesus came to serve, not to be served (cf. Mt 20:28). The day’s program was well planned. Everyone assembled at The Coop of St. Michael’s College University and started with prayer and an ice breaker. Mass was scheduled before lunch at St. Basil’s Church just right next door to The Coop. Fr. Michael Lehman C.S.B was the celebrant of the Mass and also the celebrant. In the homily, Fr. Michael did a very good job in connecting the gospel’s theme of the Benedictus (Lk 1:68-79) to the call to serve. He said we are all prophets called to serve the people in the community. The homily was put into action after lunch where schools were sent to different charity organizations to assist them in their needs. Chaminade and St. Patrick’s Secondary School were paired together to serve at Mary’s Home in Downtown Toronto. They were not prepared for our arrival. However, they needed our muscles to help clean the baseboards to be re-painted later on by CIBC. The job was tough I had to admit. We had to go down on our knees and clean every baseboard of three floors. That meant carrying big buckets of water and soap up and down the stairs. “This is the worst moment to be Catholic.” I jokingly said to some guys. However, the action of kneeling down cleaning the baseboards was like washing the feet of Jesus in my opinion as Jesus said, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:40). At the end of the day, I felt great about what I have done. I thought ACCTS was a great way to end the Jubilee of Mercy. (I even got to squeeze in a short visit to St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica too!)
- Two Visits to St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica – After its renovations and rededication on Sept. 29, 2016 (which I had the chance to watch live online), I made to two visits to the “new” St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. It was three years since my last visit to the Cathedral of the Archdiocese and I missed it. I managed to find time to make a one-hour visit to the Cathedral Basilica on Saturday Oct. 16. I was amazed at the beauty! (Pictures: https://goo.gl/gvRNb4). Pictures just don’t do justice! I thought that would be the last visit to the Cathedral during the Jubilee. However, I managed to squeeze in a second visit during ACCTS. The second visit was a unique one. I was honoured to listen to the 3-million dollar organ play. It was the first time I heard it live. During that second visit, I also went down the unfinished Crypt Chapel. Though the Chapel was mostly blocked off, I prayed for the souls of Bishop Michael Power (first bishop of Toronto) and the Loretto Sisters who were buried there. They were very merciful people and they died while serving others. That visit helped me to reflect on their service.
- Closing of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica on November 20, 2016 – On Nov. 20, again I woke up at 3:30 am to watch Pope Francis close the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica. I saw it as a very moving moment when Pope Francis closed the Holy Doors. It was such a simple rite but full of meaning. Pope Francis said in his homily during the Mass, “Even if the Holy Door closes, the true door of mercy which is the heart of Christ always remains open wide for us.”
- Last on my list, Holy Door at St. Wilfrid’s Catholic Church – St. Wilfrid’s Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Toronto was granted the privilege of opening a Holy Door from Nov. 17-20 by the Archbishop. That day, my family, along with hundred of other individuals crossed through the threshold of the Door of Mercy for the last time during the Jubilee Year.
The Jubilee of Mercy was a time for me to reflect on God’s mercy. I am a sinner and like many, “we are all the same, in need of mercy.” (And All the People Said Amen, Matt Maher). Yet, after receiving God’s graces and great mercy, the Jubilee of Mercy was a reminder for me to always be a merciful person. Sometimes, I admit that I lack mercy and I am sure you do too. However, I close this post with Pope Francis’ words: “We give thanks for this [Jubilee of Mercy], as we recall how we have received mercy in order to be merciful, in order that we too may become instruments of mercy. Let us go forward on this road together. May our Blessed Lady accompany us, she who was also close to the Cross, she who gave birth to us there as the tender Mother of the Church, who desires to gather all under her mantle.” (Pope Francis, Nov. 20, 2016, Homily)
Will you continue to be a missionary of mercy even though the Jubilee has ended???