My interest in jubilee doors dates back to September 2015. I knew that an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy had been declared, but it hadn’t yet taken on any particular meaning in my life. Then one Sunday morning, Archbishop Joseph Harris, Archbishop of Port-of- Spain, celebrated mass at my church.
Which door will be the Holy Door?
Someone asked him at breakfast afterwards. “Is it automatic?” I quipped “Well, no,” his Grace replied. I felt a bit silly, but the Holy Doors Challenge was born.
The aim was simple: pilgrimage to as many (automatic) holy doors as possible.
Initially, I limited myself to Germany, but soon other destinations were added. In all, I’ve visited 17 Doors of Mercy, so for:
6 in Germany,
6 in Italy,
3 in Poland,
and 1 each in Spain and England. Of these, 2 were automatic.
The doors of mercy are all different. At the Muenster Cathedral, Germany (which I’ve visited several times), it stands outside the cathedral and contains a mirror on the inside, a reminder that God’s mercy is on offer in a special way to the person looking in the mirror.
Once you enter the Paderborn cathedral’s door, brightly coloured texts lead you to sources of mercy- the baptismal font and the confessional- within the cathedral. In Osnabrueck, Germany, and Westminster, England, the door of mercy is one of several stations of mercy within the cathedral.
In Assisi, Italy, the holy door is actually the door to the Portiuncula, the old chapel that stands in the middle of the basilica of St Mary of the Angels. The well-known Camino de Santiago ends in the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and the holy door leads to the tomb of St James the apostle.
The Holy Father prays that all who walk through the doors
experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope
but if they want to obtain a jubilee indulgence, pilgrims should also combine their visits with the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. I haven’t been to confession every time I visited a Holy Door, that makes 17 times, since December. But I have been more frequently than I would have in an ordinary year.
At St Peter’s, I attended a Lenten Penitential service with the Holy Father. Otherwise, I participate in whatever is on around the time I arrive: sometimes it is the mass, sometimes Vespers, sometimes the angelus. Sometimes there’s nothing scheduled when I arrive, and so I visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Archbishop Harris once said that “you don’t arrive to heaven on a bicycle. You arrive in a [bus] filled with all your friends.” Inspired, I decided to invite friends to participate in my pilgrimages. No one replied. After a while, though, people started writing to me with prayer requests. Friends who visited other holy doors would write to say that they had thought of me.
Finally, after visiting many doors on my own, on the 25th July, feast of St James, the patron saint of pilgrims, a friend and I journeyed to the Marian Shrine at Kevalear. After that, friends accompanied me through the doors in Poland and Spain. Those visits were my favourites and I like to believe that they were my own little way of leading others to God’s mercy, perhaps they were leading me.
I don’t think that I will make it to many more doors before the feast of Christ the King. But I hope that by going through the regular church doors, I will continue to be reminded of the mercy that is on offer to me and all who enter.
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