Dear Friends in Christ,
The Jubilee of Mercy will begin next month on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and the official commencement of the Jubilee will occur in Rome when Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. Jubilees have been kept in the Church since the year 1300, and they regularly occur every 25 or 50 years following the Jewish custom of keeping a special time of forgiveness of sins and debts every 50 years. One standard feature of Jubilee pilgrimages to Rome is the custom of passing into the four papal basilicas through the Holy Door at each church – a door which is opened only for this purpose during Jubilee years. And this practice, in turn, comes from the Lord Jesus who said “I am the door” to signify that only through Christ can we come to God the Father. (John 10.7) Because the Lord Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we must pass through him to obtain everlasting life, and this begins in us at Baptism, through which one enters the Church as through a door.
After opening the Holy Door of St. Peter’s on 8 December, Pope Francis will then open the Holy Door at his own cathedral church, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on 13 December – the Third Sunday of Advent. The pope has asked that at every cathedral in the world a door be opened ceremonially on that same day to be a symbol of the Jubilee, and he has also encouraged bishops everywhere to extend the privilege of a Holy Door to several designated station churches throughout their dioceses. Bishop Guglielmone has allowed each of our seven deaneries to have a station church for the Jubilee of Mercy, and in the Greenville Deanery that church will be St. Mary’s. Accordingly, before the 11 am Mass on Sunday 13 December, we will have a ceremonial opening of the bell tower entrance of St. Mary’s Church, our designated Holy Door, and this will commence for us the Jubilee of Mercy.
God is love. This we know from divine revelation, and when the love of God encounters sin, then we find mercy. In this sense, there is no mercy without sin, and that is why St. Augustine insisted the miseria (misery) and misericordia (mercy) always go together. Sin always makes us sad, and the forgiveness of sin – God’s mercy – brings us joy. That is what we celebrate in the coming Jubilee of Mercy, and a splendid preparation for this year of mercy would be to read the second encyclical letter of Pope St. John Paul the Great. It is entitled Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), and it is a magnificent meditation on the unconditional love of God revealed to the human race by the suffering, death, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. You can find the English text of Dives in Misericordia online at the Vatican website. Pope Francis has convoked the Jubilee of Mercy, but the Divine Mercy was also at the heart of the entire ministry of St. John Paul and so we invoke his intercession on the coming year of grace.