As Pope Francis explained in his formal proclamation of the Jubilee year, part of the symbolic act of dedicating oneself to accepting God’s mercy and being merciful is to make the decision to cross the threshold of a Holy Door. “That is because a Holy Door is symbolic of Jesus Christ who called himself ‘the door’,” Rev. Gregory Dobson, pastor of St. Mary of the Angels, explained.
“Pilgrims are called to transformation to become more like Jesus when they cross the threshold. It’s not a trite symbolic gesture; the decision to enter a church through a holy door takes courage,” he said. “It is telling God that you are willing to leave behind your past and cross the threshold from sin to grace,” He said.
Drawing on Pope Francis’s Jubilee theme: “Merciful Like the Father,” Fr. Greg said, “In this Year of Mercy we are called to become more merciful and to bring God’s mercy to others; the transformation is about making peace with God, reconciling with your neighbors, nurturing compassion for the poor, restoring in yourself anything damaged from the past, and reshaping your heart.”
Opening Our Hearts
This ritual of walking through a Holy Door of Mercy invites each of us to recall that the “door” to salvation is Jesus himself. Christ is now open and waiting for every person. During the Holy Year of Mercy, we all are called to pray that our own personal “shut doors” of sin and temptation may be opened and that we open our hearts to those on the outermost fringes of society. Pope Francis says that this year is “the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched!” (MV).
“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. It is he who seeks us! It is he who comes to encounter us! This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy[…] In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love, of tenderness. Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things.” Pope Francis – homily, Opening of Jubilee Year Holy Door
Why do we have a Holy Door of Mercy at churches like St. Mary of the Angels? Because Pope Francis made an historic decision…
Passing through special holy doors has always been a traditional part of the pilgrimage that Catholics are encouraged to make during a Jubilee year. The problem is the official Holy Doors for Jubilee pilgrimages are located in Rome, Italy– too far for most Catholics to ever make the journey. For the first time in the Catholic Church’s centuries-old Jubilee tradition, Pope Francis extended the unique privileges of the official Holy Doors in Rome to cathedrals around the world; and he took the favor a step further by permitting bishops to designate churches in their dioceses with their own holy doors of mercy which pilgrims can visit. Recently, Most Rev. Richard Malone, Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, designated St. Mary of the Angels to be one of eight churches that will have a Holy Door of Mercy in the diocese.
“By letting bishops designate holy doors in a few churches in their dioceses,” explained Fr. Greg, “the pope made it possible for pilgrims to have practical access to the same jubilee experiences of grace offered in Rome during the holy year; we are honored and blessed to be a designated place of pilgrimage in the region for this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy,” he said.