"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." Luke
As you likely know by now, Pope Francis has declared the year
that began December 8 (the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception)
as an Extraordinary Jubilee Year in the Catholic Church throughout
the world. The theme of this "Holy Year of Mercy" (which runs until
November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King) is "Merciful
Like the Father."
The theme's inspiration is from Jesus' words in the Gospel of
Luke (6:36): "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (in
light of this passage, one might also meditate on the phrase from
the Lord's Prayer, which includes both a supplication and a
promise: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who
trespass against us").
This the first Holy Year proclaimed since the year 2000, and the
first Extraordinary Jubilee Year since 1983 (both during St. John
Paul II's pontificate). This Holy Year of Mercy is unique in one
very special respect - one in which Saint Meinrad Archabbey is
participating. So keep reading...
All of the major basilicas in Rome have special symbolic
(typically quite large and ornamental) "holy doors" that are sealed
from the inside and are opened only during designated jubilee
years. As the website Crux points out, "the door
usually is sealed with bricks as a symbolic reminder of the barrier
of sin between human beings and God."
Pilgrims who pass through the holy doors of these basilicas
during jubilee years, and participate in particular devotions
therein, are afforded certain spiritual graces - with the ultimate
goal being conversion of heart. There are many particulars to all
of this - including indulgences for pilgrims, planned devotional
and catechetical events during the year, and special sacramental
provisions - which one can investigate more thoroughly on other
Internet sites (such as the
Vatican's Jubilee of Mercy site or the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops site).
Pope Francis presided at the ceremonial opening of the Holy Door
at St. Peter's Basilica on December 8. During his homily that day,
Pope Francis said: "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. This will be a
year in which we grow ever more convinced of God's mercy."
In the coming weeks, the holy doors of other basilicas
throughout Rome will be opened.
What makes this holy year especially unique
- for the Church throughout the world and
for Saint Meinrad Archabbey -is that Pope Francis has
asked every diocese around the world to open a Holy Door
in its "mother church" or cathedral.
In addition, local bishops around the world have been granted
the authority to designate certain shrines within their dioceses
(those frequented by large groups of pilgrims) as places for Holy
Doors to be established during this jubilee year. This is
the first time in the Church's history for such a
"widening" of the holy door concept, reflecting Pope Francis'
desire for the entire world's participation in this
Within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, in which Saint Meinrad
Archabbey is located, Archbishop Joseph Tobin has designated two
churches during this jubilee year for "Holy Door" status. One, of
course, is the archdiocese's cathedral, Ss. Peter and Paul in
Indianapolis. The other is - yes, you guessed it! - Saint Meinrad
Archabbey. How awesome is this place! (to borrow from Jacob's
exclamation in Genesis 28:17.)
Saint Meinrad Archabbey, then, is one of the relatively few
non-cathedral pilgrimage sites throughout the world participating
in the Holy Father's Extraordinary Year of Mercy. Our own Holy Door
- as with the one in Indianapolis at Ss. Peter and Paul - was
officially opened December 13 in a short ceremony prior to
The "official" Holy Door is the northernmost door at the front
(west) entrance of the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln
(the door to the far left if you are standing outside at the bottom
of the marble steps looking up at the main entrance to the
In preparation for the ceremony, our Br. Martin designed five
special window panels for the door - at the top, the pontifical
seal of Pope Francis; at the center, the Lamb of God (representing
Christ, whose sacrifice takes away the sins of the world and offers
mercy to all); and surrounding the Lamb, three ministering angels.
These panels are pictured at the top of this post.
One of our guests present at Sunday's Mass here remarked
afterward that she was somewhat disappointed that there wasn't an
actual "opening" of the door, such as at St. Peter's Basilica. I
suppose that such elaborate ceremonies (with very large, ornamental
doors that are ordinarily not used - unlike ours here), are still
reserved for the likes of Rome (a little Googling will retrieve
some photos of the ceremony at St. Peter's on December 8).
Really, though, all the pomp and circumstance is not the point.
The real invitation of this Holy Year of Mercy is to open the
doors of our hearts to both receiving and granting mercy
after the pattern of Christ - to practicing the corporal and spiritual works of
mercy as taught by the Church. As St. John Paul II said at
the beginning of his pontificate: "Open wide the doors for
Indeed, allowing Christ - both Gatekeeper and Gate; the Way, the
Truth, the Life - into our hearts is the key to it all, as
reflected in the opening prayer of the ceremony here on Sunday
(from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New
Blessed are you, Lord, holy Father, who sent your Son
into the world to gather all men and women, wounded and
scattered by sin, into one body through the shedding of his
blood. You appointed him both shepherd and gate for the
sheep, so that whoever enters may be saved, and whoever
comes in and goes out will find pasture for eternal
life. Grant that your faithful may pass through this
gate, and be welcomed into your presence, so that they
may experience, O Father, your abundant mercy. Through
Christ our Lord. Amen.
So, especially during this Holy Year of Mercy - whether in Rome,
Indianapolis, Saint Meinrad, or places in-between, "let us
confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to
find grace for timely help" (Hebrews 4:16).