This series of teaching editorials will cover topics related to mercy as we celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy from December of 2015 to November of 2016.
What does an open door mean? For some, it may be a simple act of hospitality; others may see it as a symbol of hope. For some it will be an expression of compassion, and others will know it as shelter from suffering.
In whatever way we understand an “open door” in our own lives, its power to create God’s kingdom in this world and heal suffering are both tangible and spiritual.
The symbolism of opening doors has been central during this Jubilee Year of Mercy as Pope Francis has engaged in the act of opening doors. Such an act has a rich history of inviting people to enter into the presence of God.
In his document, “Misericordiae Vultus,” (“The Face of Mercy”) formally proclaiming the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis discussed the opening of the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica. He writes, “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.”
(Churches around the world also have designated Holy Doors, including many in the Archdiocese of Louisville. They are meant to be a place of pilgrimage, prayer and reconciliation.)
Although many of us may not experience passing through a holy door at one of the great basilicas, we are challenged to become doors of mercy in our own communities. We are called to be the experience of God’s love in ways that renew the spirit and create life-changing opportunities.
For the many organizations of Catholic Charities, the act of opening doors is inherent in everyday life. By opening our doors, we invite others to encounter the living Gospel message of Christ.
Whether it is feeding the hungry, clothing the needy or assisting those in crisis, our doors open to welcome those in need, the young and the old, the working class poor, the refugee, those on the fringe of society and those who have been forgotten.
One need not look far into the Gospels to see Christ preaching the bond of solidarity between himself and the poor. When asked, “Lord when did we see you without a coat, hungry or imprisoned” his reply was simple. “What so ever you do to the least, you do unto me.”
Just as Christ continually expressed a preference toward the poor, disenfranchised and marginalized of society, each program within Catholic Charities seeks to embody the teaching of Christ by reaching out in service to those most in need.
For the poorest in our city, the Sister Visitor Center’s open doors embody compassion. Our food pantry in partnership with Dare to Care and local parishes feed the hungry by serving the poorest neighborhoods in our city. The clothes closet, largely organized and staffed by volunteers, offers the dignity of clean and weather appropriate clothing as well as personal hygiene items to those in need.
The emergency assistance program, in partnership with grants and donations from area programs and ministries, creates an opportunity for our case managers to counsel those in need and keep those in crisis from becoming homeless due to loss of shelter, heat and water.
For refugees who find themselves far from home and struggling to rebuild their lives and learn a new language, open doors can symbolize hope and the chance to begin again. Through the services offered by the Migration and Refugee Services, English as a second Language Services, Legal Services and Common Earth & Common Table, opportunities can be found to rebuild lives that have been shattered by war and disaster.
For the marginalized, over-looked and forgotten of our society, open doors become shelter and protection. Such programs as our housing development work to provide safe housing for seniors in our community while Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocates for those in long-term care facilities.
For the staggering number at a heightened risk or victimized by human trafficking, we open our doors to offer education, assistance and a pathway to safety.
Through these various ministries, we at Catholic Charities seek to be the face of Christ to all we serve and to see the face of Christ in all whom we serve. Our doors become a symbol of hope, a pathway of stewardship and an opportunity to enter into right relationship with one another by becoming the Body of Christ as we leave the open doors of our homes and go out into the world.
For Catholic Charities, our open doors of mercy represent the very real presence of God’s kingdom on earth, a font of God’s mercy, compassion and outreach. We seek to do God’s will and manifest the words we pray so often “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Sister Michele Intravia, OSU
Director of the Sister Visitor Center of Catholic Charities