Holy Door opening kicks off Year of Mercy in Green Bay Diocese

By Sam Lucero

GREEN BAY — Pope Francis launched the Holy Year of Mercy Dec. 8 by opening the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica. When he announced the Holy Year observance last April, he described the significance of commencing a Holy Year by opening a holy door.

“I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception,” he wrote in a document titled Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy). “On that day, 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.”

Craig and Shelly Yakel of Frontier Custom Cabinets of Luxemburg stand near the new holy doors they installed Dec. 5 at the entrance to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion. The doors, constructed of elder wood, were installed in time for the Year of Mercy. The holy doors will be blessed and opened with a celebratory rite prior to the 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Dec. 13, by Fr. Peter Stryker, shrine rector. The Papal Coat of Arms and the Vatican’s Jubilee of Mercy logo are displayed over the doors to show solidarity with the Holy Father’s worldwide celebration of this Year of Mercy. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

According to the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, the use of holy doors dates back to the 15th century.

“A holy door, or porta sancta, has been used … as a ritual expression of conversion,” the federation stated in a document prepared for the Year of Mercy. “Pilgrims and penitents pass through it as a gesture of leaving the past behind and crossing the threshold from sin to grace, from slavery to freedom, and from darkness to light. Often these rituals are associated with prayer, pilgrimage, sacrifice, confession and indulgences.”

The federation noted that sacramental rituals often begin at the church door.

“Here, the priest or deacon welcomes the parents as they bring their child for baptism; here, he greets the bride and groom as they begin the wedding liturgy; here, he greets the catechumens at the Rite of Acceptance; and, finally, the priest greets the casket at the beginning of the funeral liturgy,” the federation explained.

During a general audience in November, Pope Francis dedicated his teaching period to the symbol of the holy door.

“If the door of God’s mercy is always open, the doors of our churches, our love, our communities, our parishes, our institutions, our dioceses also must be open so that we all can go out to bring God’s mercy” to others, he said.

Pope Francis invited dioceses around the world to designate at least one holy door for local faithful to enter.

“… in every local church, at the cathedral — the mother church of the faithful in any particular area — or, alternatively, at the co-cathedral or another church of special significance, a Door of Mercy will be opened for the duration of the Holy Year,” Pope Francis announced in Misericordiae Vultus. “Thus the jubilee will be celebrated both in Rome and in the particular churches as a visible sign of the church’s universal communion.”

The pope said that holy doors could also be added to local shrines frequented by pilgrims, “since visits to these holy sites are so often grace-filled moments.”

In the Diocese of Green Bay, Bishop David Ricken will inaugurate the Holy Year at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral on Dec. 13 by opening the designated holy door, which is located at the entrance to the Bishop Wycislo Center. The ceremony will take place before the 9 a.m. Mass.

Bishop Ricken has also designated two shrines as sites to visit for the Holy Year: the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion and the Shrine of St. Joseph, located at St. Norbert College Parish in De Pere.

The shrine in Champion had two doors constructed by Frontier Custom Cabinets of Luxemburg. The doors, made of elder wood, were installed on Dec. 5. They will be blessed and opened during a celebratory rite Dec. 13 before the 11 a.m. Mass by Father of Mercy Peter Stryker, shrine rector.

The holy door at Old St. Joseph Church will also be blessed and opened on Dec. 13.

Works of mercy
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the works of mercy are “charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.” (2447)

During the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis asks Catholics to reflect on these spiritual and corporal works of mercy. “It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty,” he wrote in the papal bull of indiction for the Year of Mercy.

“And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples.”

Here is a closer look at the corporal and spiritual works of mercy:

Corporal works of mercy

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Welcome the stranger
  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the imprisoned
  • Bury the dead

Spiritual Works of Mercy

  • Counsel the doubtful
  • Instruct the ignorant
  • Admonish sinners
  • Comfort the afflicted
  • Forgive offenses
  • Bear patiently those who do us ill
  • Pray for the living and the dead
  • Michael F. J. Lee

    It would be helpful if the Compass would also list the parishes in our diocese that have been designated as Doors of Mercy. I know for certain — having read the letter from the bishop — that the parishes of St. Mary of the Angels, and Saints Peter & Paul in Green Bay have been so designated.

    This information would help to make the observance of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy more accessible to more people in our city and diocese.