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The Doors of Mercy are Open

 “This is the Lord’s own gate: let us enter through it and obtain mercy and forgiveness.”

Inviting Catholics around the diocese to make a pilgrimage and experience God’s mercy, Bishop Robert Deeley opened holy doors at four churches in celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

“This jubilee year invites all believers to contemplate the mystery of mercy, to receive the grace of mercy through sacramental reconciliation, and to live the corporal and spiritual works of mercy,” the bishop said.

The doors, which will remain open throughout the holy year, are located at Saint Luce Church in Frenchville, Saint John Church in Bangor, the Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul in Lewiston, and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

A holy door is a symbol representing Jesus, who is the door, the gate, and the way to the Father. Holy doors are open during jubilee years as a visible sign of Christ’s invitation to pass over the threshold and enter into a deeper relationship with Him.

“We’re a sacramental Church, and we think that physical things can be reminders, can be signs, of invisible realities. So, God’s mercy operates at the level of the soul, of the heart, and, yet, we need signs of that,” said Monsignor Marc Caron, pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston, which includes the basilica. “A jubilee year is a sign in terms of time, and then, a shrine like the basilica, is a sign in terms of place, reminding people of that reality of God’s mercy.”

Bishop Deeley traveled to each church during December to open the holy doors, asking God to “grant that your faithful may pass through this gate and be welcomed into your presence, so that they may experience, O Father, your abundant mercy.”

Passing through a holy door allows the penitent to receive a plenary indulgence, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines as "a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven” (CCC 1471). While our sins are forgiven through the sacrament of reconciliation, a plenary indulgence, which is a full indulgence, completes the healing process. This is necessary because, even though God forgives us, sins still have consequences in our lives and can harm our relationship with God and others, including the Church (the Body of Christ).

To receive a plenary indulgence by passing through a holy door, you must have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin.  You must go to confession soon after passing through the door, receive holy Communion, and pray for the intentions of the pope, most often by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary, although other suitable prayers may be used because it is your desire to pray for the pope’s intentions that matters.

The parishes with holy doors are planning special events to welcome pilgrims.  At Saint Luce Church in Frenchville, for example, Father James Plourde, pastor, says the parish is holding a symposium on topics related to the Year of Mercy, will have benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on Tuesday evenings, and will have additional times for the sacrament of reconciliation.

“We’re going to try to bring people in with devotions, and teachings, and fellowship. That’s our goal – to get people moving in this direction,” he said.  “Pastors from the County are also going to organize individual pilgrimages from their parishes to come here.”

In addition to passing through a holy door, Pope Francis has granted that the door to receiving a plenary indulgence may also take the form of one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy, if the other conditions are also met.  The works of mercy include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison, burying the dead, praying for the living and the dead, forgiving injuries, bearing wrongs patiently, admonishing sinners, instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, and comforting the sorrowful.

Throughout the Year of Mercy, the Diocese of Portland will share ideas for living out these works.  Look for them in your parish bulletin or click here or check out our Facebook page on Monday mornings.