Enter into the Spirit of This Holy Year

20151227_120211By Father Michael Venditti – As I write this column, we are in the midst of what Holy Mother Church calls an “Extraordinary Year of Jubilee,” something that may happen only once or twice in any Catholic’s lifetime. Each pope who inaugurates a Holy Year always chooses a theme for it, and for this one the Holy Father has chosen the subject of Mercy. On December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Father opened the “Holy Doors” of Saint Peter’s Basilica, so that anyone who passes through them can receive the special indulgence granted to faithful Catholics during this special year. On that day, we marked the occasion here at our Shrine with a special Holy Hour after our usual Noon Mass. Each bishop around the world also opens Holy Doors in his cathedral, and may designate other churches in his diocese to have Holy Doors as well.

A holy door or porta sancta has been used since the 15th Century as a ritual expression of conversion. 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. But a holy door finds meaning only when the believer associates the door with Christ. Jesus is the Door! In the words of Pope Francis, “There is only one way that opens wide the entrance into the life of communion with God: this is Jesus, the one and absolute way to salvation. To Him alone can the words of the Psalmist be applied in full truth: ‘This is the door of the Lord where the just may enter’ (Ps 118:20).” And, thanks to Bishop Bootkoski, our bishop, our Shrine has been designated one of the few places in our diocese which has a Holy Door. It was sealed shut and blessed at the conclusion of Holy Mass on the First Sunday of Advent. We couldn’t open it on the same day the Holy Father opened his because the law of the Church requires that he must open his first.

So, our door was opened with a solemn ceremony during the Mass on the Feast of the Holy Family, the Sunday after Christmas, and it will remain open until the Holy Year closes on the Feast of Christ the King, November 20th, 2016. This is a very significant thing because, during a Holy Year, any Catholic who has made a complete and sincere confession, received Holy Communion in the State of Grace, and prayed for His Holiness the Pope, receives a plenary indulgence when he or she passes through the Holy Door. And because confession is such an integral part of the observance of any Holy Year, I chose to focus my Advent Sunday homilies at the Shrine exclusively on this sacrament, which you can read for yourself on my personal web site, FatherVenditti.com.

During this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I should like to make three recommendations to you, three simple things that I’m suggesting you might consider to help you enter into the spirit of this Holy Year wherever you may be, even if you’re not close to a site that’s blessed to have a Holy Door:

1) Embrace the fasting regulations of Lent throughout the year. If you are one of those who uses the option of replacing the Friday abstinence from meat outside of Lent with some other penance, consider not doing that during the Holy Year. If you are already observing the Friday abstinence all year long and not replacing it with another penance, consider taking a page from the Eastern Churches, and abstain from meat on Wednesdays as well as Fridays. In the early Church, from the 2nd Century on, they abstained on both days.

2) Add an examination of conscience to your evening prayers. Of course, an examination of conscience is traditionally always part of a Catholic’s night prayers, but—let’s face it—how many of us actually do it faithfully? The Holy Year would be a good time to rediscover that tradition. (The Blue Army Gift Shop offers an Examination of Conscience pocket leaflet. Call the Gift Shop at 908-689-1700, Ext. 218, to obtain a copy).

3) Go to confession often. If you’re going to confession once a month, during the Holy Year go twice a month. If you haven’t been to confession in a while, now is the time to get back into the habit. Remember that confession does two things for us: not only does it offer us absolution from the sins we’ve committed, but it also gives us a special grace to avoid sin in the future; and, even if we’re foolish and brazen enough to believe we don’t need the first, we always need the second. And it is a fact that people who confess frequently always find they have more to confess, not because going to confession makes them sin more, but because going to confession makes them more sensitive to the venial sins we all commit every day that can so easily escape our notice. This is probably the most important recommendation, since making a good confession is one of the requirements for obtaining the indulgence when walking through a Holy Door.

As this Jubilee Year of Mercy continues, let us resolve to reproduce in ourselves that for which the Collect of the First Sunday of Advent prayed some months ago, just before the Holy Year began: that we may “resolve to run forth to meet [our Blessed Lord] with righteous deeds at His coming, so that, gathered at His right hand, [we] may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.”

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  1. I am so excited about the Holy year of Mercy. My spouse and I are taking our RCIA class and will finish up at Easter 2016. After that we can take the Eucharist again and go to confession. Everyday we pray the Fatima prayer and say or at least listen to the Rosary with Mother Angelica on EWTN or on the CD that I bought. We are also members of the BLUE ARMY.

  2. Sharon—I will have you and your husband in my daily prayers. So glad you are taking RICA classes! May God and our Blessed Mother send you many blessings! Your in Christ, Maxine

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