By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
Pope Francis will officially begin the extraordinary Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy as he opens the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica, which has been sealed since the Holy Year 2000, next Tuesday, Dec. 8.
On that day, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, “the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope,” Pope Francis wrote in “Misericordiae Vultus” (“The Face of Mercy”), instituting the holy Year of Mercy.
The Holy Father has asked that Holy Doors be designated at cathedrals around the world, too, so that the faithful everywhere may make a pilgrimage to a Holy Door during the Year of Mercy.
Here in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Holy Doors have been designated at the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville, the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., and at 18 other parishes.
The tradition of making a pilgrimage to a holy door dates to the 15th century. Passing through the door represents passage to new and eternal life.
“The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year,” wrote Pope Francis, noting that pilgrimage represents the journey each person makes in life “to the desired destination.”
“Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage,” he wrote. “This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice.”
Mercy, he wrote, is “the bridge that connects God and humanity, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”
Pilgrimage to a Holy Door is also one of the requirements for obtaining an indulgence during the Year of Mercy.
An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment a person is due because of his or her sins. In a holy year, it is offered to pilgrims who cross the threshold of the Holy Door at the Vatican or in their local diocese, confess their sins, receive the Eucharist and pray for the pope’s intentions.
The Holy Door at the Cathedral of the Assumption will open officially on Dec. 13, when Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will bless and open it during the 9:30 a.m. Mass. The door is located on the north side of the Cathedral, to the left of the altar as seen from the congregation.
Father Jeffrey Nicolas, pastor of the Cathedral, said a pilgrimage to the Cathedral’s Holy Door will include seven steps and is designed to be “an encounter” on a “path of mercy.”
“We wanted to create an encounter as a pilgrimage site,” he said. “It will be an experience of prayer.”
The seven stations, which follow a path that leads through the Cathedral’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel, include:
- Entering the Holy Door and signing a guest book.
- Praying the Holy Father’s intentions of the month, which will be available to pilgrims, and the Lord’s Prayer.
- Praying before the photos of four Americans who were held up by Pope Francis in his speech to Congress in September — Trappist Father Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and President Abraham Lincoln.
- Praying in the Cathedral’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel and reading the story of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke. (This reading will be provided.)
- Receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, when available. Pilgrims should seek this sacrament later if it’s not available.
- Praying Pope Francis’ prayer for the Year of Mercy at the Cathedral’s millennium cross from the Jubilee Year of 2000.
- Exiting the Cathedral and passing through a display that cites the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The display is meant to remind pilgrims to exercise these works during the Year of Mercy.
“Once it’s open, we want to send a message to all parishes,” said Father Nicolas. “Your Cathedral is here for you. If you want to bring a group, we’re here for you. Just show up.”
The door will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until Mass begins at 5:30 p.m. Confession is available from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
At the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., the Holy Door will officially open on Dec. 12 at a 4 p.m. liturgy, during which the new pastor, Father Terry Bradshaw will be installed by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz.
The basilica’s front doors will serve as the Holy Door. They will be open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Father Bradshaw said the church’s plans for the Year of Mercy are still developing and will include stations to inspire the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and the opportunity for reconciliation.
“It’s a unique invitation by the Holy Father for the universal church to focus upon an essential part of the Gospel — to be people who receive mercy and practice mercy,” noted Father Bradshaw.
Eighteen parishes also have designated Holy Doors, though visitors should contact a parish before visiting to ensure the Holy Door will be accessible.
Churches with Holy Doors in Louisville include: Holy Family, Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Luke, St. Peter the Apostle, St. Rita and St. William.
Holy Doors at Archdiocese of Louisville churches outside the Louisville area include: Annunciation in Shelbyville, Holy Rosary in Springfield, St. Aloysius in Pewee Valley, St. Augustine in Lebanon, St. Christopher in Radcliff, St. Helen in Glasgow, St. John Chrysostom in Eminence, St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi and St. Theresa of Avila in Payneville and St. Vincent de Paul in New Hope.
Information about each parish is available at www.archlou.org/parishes/.