December 15, 2015 // Uncategorized

Holy Doors opened

For more photos of the opening of the Holy Doors across the diocese visit the photo gallery.

FORT WAYNE — Just as Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Dec. 8, marking the official start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades opened the Holy Door at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Fort Wayne at the 5 p.m. Mass Sunday in a similar ritual. The same celebration was held at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame, all in response to Pope Francis’ directive to follow his example by opening Holy Doors in every diocese throughout the world. The Holy Doors were aptly opened on the Third Sunday of Advent or “Gaudete” Sunday because “gaudete” means rejoice.

The ritual opening of the Holy Door signifies the opportunity of the faithful to join with the universal Church in experiencing the love of God and gaining indulgences promised in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, and the year will be devoted to celebrating the sacred mysteries and carrying out liturgical acts of praise and supplication.

In Fort Wayne, a large crowd gathered first at Mother Theodore Guérin Chapel, where Bishop Rhoades invited them to bless and praise God. He delivered a brief exhortation, followed by a prayer for the Church. He proclaimed a reading from Luke’s Gospel and read an excerpt from Pope Francis’ papal Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, “Misericordiae Vultus,” announcing the Jubilee Year.

The procession began with the words, “Brothers and sisters, let us go forth in the name of Christ: He is the way that leads us in the year of grace and mercy.”

Then the faithful, along with a large group of postulants, novitiates, nuns, Franciscan Brothers Minor and Knights of Columbus processed to the entrance of the cathedral where the bishop performed the celebratory rite of opening the Holy Door.

Bishop Rhoades knelt as he crossed the threshold of the cathedral, then turned and displayed the Book of Gospels with the words of God’s divine mercy while choir sang the antiphon, “I am the gate, says the Lord…” Then, led by the liturgical procession, all entered through the Door of Mercy.

The procession of the faithful is an important part of the rite, as it represents the pilgrimage, the journey each makes in this life. And the opening of the Holy Door of Mercy recognizes that Christ is the sole door through which to enter into salvation.

During his homily at Sunday’s Mass, Bishop Rhoades explained, “The Jubilee Year of Mercy is an invitation to joy. We rejoice because the Lord is near. He is near with His mercy.”

He continued, “We began this liturgy with the opening of the Holy Doors of our cathedral: the Doors of Mercy. There is a profound relationship between mercy and joy. This Jubilee Year of Mercy is an invitation to joy. We rejoice because the Lord is near. He is near with His mercy. Jesus reveals to us the mercy of the Father. It is in and through that mercy that we find joy in our lives, that we find peace in our souls. When we encounter the mercy of the Lord, we are filled with joy and peace.”

Bishop Rhoades said when he opened the Holy Doors, the Doors of Mercy, “I prayed that all who enter those doors during this Jubilee Year will feel that they are welcome here, that the Church is their home. I pray that all those who are saddened by sin will receive the joy of the Lord through the sacrament of Reconciliation. It is by receiving the Lord’s mercy that we can experience anew the joy that He so desires for us.”

The bishop encouraged all to be witnesses of joy and resist being, as Pope Francis says, “sourpusses.”

“The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of joy, the bishop said. “One who is moved by the Spirit is a person of hope and a witness of joy. It’s all about trust, trust in God’s mercy, trust in the victory of grace over sin, of life over death. It is trust in Jesus Christ, that He is the Savior. The good news of the Gospel is precisely that, good news. It is the Gospel of salvation, the Gospel of mercy.”

Pope Francis says that “the Church is not a haven for sad people, the Church is a joyful home! And those who are sad find joy in her, they find in her true joy!”

“It is of great importance that all people, Bishop Rhoades said, “especially those hurting as a result of sin, feel welcome in the Church, that they know that the doors of every Catholic church are doors of mercy. I pray that all those who are sad may find joy in the Church, not some superficial joy, but true joy: the joy that comes from listening to God’s word and the joy of the sacraments, the joy of worshipping God, the joy that comes from prayer and conversion. But also that they find joy through our witness of love and mercy, our welcoming spirit.”

“We will soon be gazing at the manger where we are able to savor the true joy of Christmas, contemplating in the face of the newborn Jesus the merciful face of God,” Bishop Rhoades noted. “As we have opened the holy doors of this cathedral, let us open the doors of our hearts to the God who became flesh and dwells among us.”

St. Vincent’s parishioners Nick and Irene Reith were on hand for the special occasion. Nick said they wanted to attend after reading about the event in Today’s Catholic. Many others did as well and the cathedral was crowded for the extraordinary celebration.

At St. Matthew Cathedral, Msgr. Michael Heintz, rector, announced at the 11 a.m. Mass: “Open the gates of justice, we shall enter and give thanks to the Lord.”

With this prayer, the entire nave of St. Matthew Co-Cathedral waited in complete silence and anticipation. Even babies hushed as the newest holy doors were about to be un-locked. There was a palatable excitement as all stood listening, incense swirling to heaven. Turning the key, a click was heard and the words: “This is the Lord’s gate; let us enter through it and obtain mercy and forgiveness.”

Joy filled the church and the people of South Bend welcomed the Jubilee Year in their own diocese.

“Catholicism relies on sacrament and sacramental, tangible, physical reminders and tokens of God’s love and mercy. During the Jubilee Year of Mercy, these simple doors (and there is absolutely nothing remarkable about them in themselves) can become, by grace, signs of God’s mercy, open and available to all.” Msgr. Heintz explained.

The Scriptural basis for the holy doors comes from Jesus Himself. In the Gospel of John 10:9, Jesus says “I am the gate … whoever enters through me, will be saved; he will enter and go out and find pasture.” Some translations use the word “door” instead of “gate.”

“The gift of the Doors of Mercy make the cathedral, co-cathedral, and basilica churches places of pilgrimage,” said Msgr. Heintz. “While for the parishioners of St. Matthew this is their parish church and they pray here regularly, for many residents of our diocese, the cathedral is a place they may never have taken the time to visit.”

All are welcome to pray and walk through the doors. They will be open until the feast of Christ the King, in November 2016.

One parish family actually walked “on pilgrimage” from their home to St. Matthew Cathedral. John Fyrqvist, the father, explained, “Pilgrimage is a part of our family life. It is good, but hard, too, you know? With grumpy toddlers and cracks, bumps on the road, but prayer and joy filled song on the way.”

The Fyrqvist family felt “moved to have this at our own parish. To feel God’s mercy wash over us in this day, a great occasion to mark the start of the jubilee year.”

At the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame, Father Peter Rocca, rector, opened the Jubilee Door at the basilica on the University of Notre Dame campus during the 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday.

He reminded the congregation of the joy associated with Gaudete Sunday and the coinciding call to be missionaries of joy in the world. Drawing from the Gospel reading describing the teaching of St. John the Baptist, he emphasized the fulfillment of the Gospel edict to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, as a particular way to bear fruit during this Year of Mercy.

Peter Lombardo, director of community involvement, Center for the Homeless, and Sacred Heart parishioner, described the real fruits of the Holy Father’s call to corporal and spiritual works of mercy that he witnesses on a daily basis through the myriad ministries and volunteers that unite in service to the poor and vulnerable in the area.

The opening of the Jubilee Door, he explained, “is more symbolic for our people, because of so many doors that are closed to them. That opening of the door, that outpouring of grace and mercy and service, that is what is going to effect them.”

“In some ways the emphasis on the holy door and the Year of Mercy, are new but not new,” explained Father Paulinus Odozor, associate professor, Theology and Africana Studies and concelebrant of the Mass. “The pope is trying to invite us again to remember who we are and what we are all about. We are a community who believes that God, who created the world has not abandoned us, even when we sinned and disobeyed Him. God is still after us for one reason and that is to draw us back to Himself and to show us His face of love and kindness.”

Tim Johnson, Jennifer Miller and Kathy Kershner contributed to this article.

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