By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz will seal a door in St. Peter Cathedral on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the 5:15 p.m. Vigil Mass as part of diocesan preparations for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy declared by Pope Francis on Divine Mercy Sunday. The Pope sealed a door at St. Peter’s Basilica, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outide the Walls in the Vatican earlier this year. Bishops around the world were invited to follow suit in their home dioceses.
All the doors will be symbolically closed until Sunday, Dec. 13, when cathedrals around the world will open them as “holy doors” for the Jubilee. The opening ceremony will be celebrated in the Diocese of Jackson at the cathedral’s 10:30 a.m. Mass. Pilgrims can use the Holy Doors to gain indulgences during the year.
In the communiques from the Holy Father’s office and from the Pontifical Commission for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is coordinating the worldwide planning for this special jubilee, it was strongly suggested that there be one holy door in a diocese with that being at the cathedral. As distance may be a factor for some, Bishop Kopacz has designated several pilgrimage sites around the diocese as places of prayer, mercy and reconciliation.
In a letter to pastors at the designated sites, Bishop Kopacz wrote: “Since pilgrimage is a key element of any jubilee year and to allow the faithful who may not be able to make it to the cathedral to participate in the pilgrimage of walking through a holy door, I have designated numerous pilgrimage sites around our diocese. In several places I have designated all parishes in a town as “stations” to make up the whole pilgrimage site.
“Pilgrims will need to make a visit to all stations as part of the one pilgrimage. I think asking the faithful to make pilgrimages to several stations in one site reflects the spirit of mercy and forgiveness intended by the Holy Father in declaring this Jubilee of Mercy,” wrote Bishop Kopacz.
In announcing the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis explained in Misericordiae vultus, the papal bull declaring the special jubilee: “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.
“At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. For this reason I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.” (Misericordiae vultus, 2-3)
A diocesan calendar in conjunction with the official Vatican calendar has been established with several days designated as pilgrimage days and also days of mercy. These days offer opportunities for pilgrims to visit diocesan pilgrimage sites and receive an indulgence.
Pilgrims may gain an indulgence for visiting the pilgrimage site, praying for the Holy Father’s intentions, participating in adoration and/or Mass if available and then going to confession within eight days of the visit.
In his letter explaining the special Jubilee indulgence, Pope Francis states: “It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy…. It is indeed my wish that the Jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective.”
Designated days of mercy are occasions for parishes and individuals to find specific ways they can perform the corporal works of mercy. The Pope outlined in the bull suggestions for jubilees to celebrate people with specific ministries, such as priests and religious, catechists, youth and other groups.
Other opportunities for growing in a better understanding of mercy and being a people of mercy are being developed to make the year a real occasion of grace-filled growth for our parishes, organizations and families. These opportunities coincide with the Holy Father’s themes of mercy to prisoners, those with disabilities, and so on. More on these activities will be communicated to parishes later in autumn.
When our Holy Father declared a Jubilee of Mercy this past spring, one has to wonder if he knew it would come at a time when our world really needs mercy more than anything else.
The world is a very scary place. European leaders are struggling to find a way to handle an influx of people from parts of an embroiled section of our world. Every day we face a barrage of media reports featuring shootings at schools, senseless killings, and angry voices. Yes, a year to focus on mercy and our faith as Christians in the face of this world will be a welcome moment in the life of our church and our communities.
I cannot think of a better time for there to be a Jubilee of Mercy. May we not waste this gift of a jubilee. For more information on the Jubilee of Mercy visit: http://www.iubilaeummisericordiae.va/content/gdm/en.html. A list of pilgrimage sites is available on the diocesan website, www.jacksondiocese.org.
By Mary Woodward