When Pope Francis announced the Extraordinary Year of Mercy, I must admit I had a lot of questions about it. But I was curious at best–I wanted to know its special significance and the benefits attached to it.
Declared last December 8, 2015 (coinciding with the Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) and to run until November 20, 2016 (the Feast of Christ the King), it has been called an extraordinary jubilee simply because it is something that is not scheduled or predetermined ahead. What makes it more significant is its purpose: the jubilee is seen as a special period for remission of sins and obtaining universal pardon and mercy from God.
Opening of the Holy Door
In every jubilee, the pope celebrates this by opening the Holy Doors in Rome. People who pass through these doors gain a plenary indulgence among other blessings. On this jubilee year, Pope Francis has decided to make the Holy Doors accessible to the faithful by allowing every diocese all over the world to designate a Holy Door in their area.
Remission of Sins and Gaining Indulgences
To Catholics, we are taught to understand that there are two kinds of sins: mortal and venial sins. In any case, any kind of sin ought to be confessed to a priest with the recitation of certain prayers (the Act of Contrition and the absolution given by the priest-confessor). We are absolved from these sins, but the effects (or scars) of our sins are not completely erased. That is when the idea of gaining good works and indulgences come in.
And this is one big benefit of entering the Holy Door, it gains one plenary indulgence of one’s sins. I will not go into detail about indulgences, but there are plenty of good links available about it.
The Holy Doors in Metro Manila
There are several Holy Doors designated in the country, but I am only familiar with the 6 churches within Metro Manila area: the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros; Divine Mercy Shrine in Mandaluyong City; Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Makati; Our Lady of Sorrows Parish Church in Pasay City; Sanctuario de Santo Cristo in San Juan; and Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao, Quezon City.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit one of the Holy Doors. The picture above is the Holy Door from the Divine Mercy Shrine in Maysilo, Mandaluyong City. You’d notice it right away from the notice on the side which says Portia Sancta (“Holy Door” in Latin).
What You Have To Do
When entering the Holy Door, you have to make the sign of the cross with reverence and contrition. Pilgrims follow a certain procedure, recite certain prayers, and this varies from church to church. Those who are really keen on completing the pilgrimage may also opt to buy a passport at any of the designated churches. After reciting the prayers and going through the steps, those who opt to buy a passport should go to the parish office and have their “passports” stamped. It is pretty much like the passport stamping done on pilgrimage to the Buen Camino de Santiago (“Way of St. James”) in Spain. It makes the pilgrimage interesting and memorable.
Try to visit any of these Holy Doors, especially during Holy Week. It is a once-in-a-lifetime event that will enrich you spiritually.