Nothing magical happens when I walk through a holy door. If others have been converted, or healed, or transformed, I have not been.
At St Maria Maggiore in Rome, I saw a woman place her hands into the hands of one of the sculptures on the holy door. It was beautiful to witness, the way a child takes her mother’s hand- trustingly, and with the fear and sadness of separation. For her, walking through this door was truly holy.
While I am always excited to walk through another door, and pleased to add another door to my list, my moments of mercy always come a bit later, like a tablet whose effects are only felt hours after its taken.
At first, entering the holy door at St Peter’s to attend the penitential service with the Holy Father seemed stressful and not at all holy. There were loud groups and security checks. I felt like I was at an airport.
It was only later that I realised that all- the legions, the loners– are invited to experience God’s mercy, that the door is open wide so that all may enter in, that this gathering was holy, because God was present.
At first, the sacrament of reconciliation seemed discouraging. My first confession of the Year of Mercy was such a disaster that I decided I would forego the indulgence just to avoid the sacrament. It was only later that I realised that God forgives all our inequities.
If I wanted to experience God’s compassion to the fullest, I would have to become as humble as the prodigal son, and truly become contrite. Once I realised that, the sacrament became easier. The priests I celebrated this sacrament with were embracing, friendly, and supportive. They, like the holy doors, became instruments of God’s mercy.
At first, I thought the Jubilee of Mercy meant that when I walked through the holy doors, God’s merciful gaze would fall upon me.
It was only later that I realised that I hadn’t simply entered through the doors and stayed in the churches. I had also exited.
God’s love and mercy weren’t just for me to experience in the churches. I was meant to be an agent of this mercy in every area of my life, so that others may experience His love.
At first, I didn’t know how to answer people who asked me why I had undertaken this project. Unless you are a carpenter or an architect, it is difficult to explain a sustained interest in doors. It was only later I realised that I wasn’t so much drawn to the doors as I was to their promise. It was only later I remembered the words to a song from my youth:
Open, open door, waiting there for me
To enter into a life both rich and free.
Jesus is the door, his arms are opened wide
And I am drawn by his love to come inside
(The Open Door, Kathie Hill)
When I visit the doors, I visit Jesus.
A few years ago, I told my confessor that I didn’t feel I could go to communion. He listened intently, and then said,
It is exactly in that moment when you feel furthest from God, that He wants to be closest to you.
His words have guided me through the Jubilee of Mercy, and my Holy Doors challenge in particular. I see the doors of mercy as an invitation from God to come closer, even when, and especially when, I feel furthest from him.
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