Opening the Holy Door in the Jubilee Year of Mercy

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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.

Never Go to Mass Empty Hearted, Empty-Handed

holy_massWe have the tendency to go to mass empty-handed–or rather, empty-hearted. How?

As Catholics, it is our spiritual obligation to attend mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.  But probably, it has become so routine for us that it has become just that–obligatory.  We do the sign of the cross, make the responses, fall in line for holy communion, do the prayers–then it’s done.  Our “job” is done for the week.  We have better excitement watching a movie.

But going to mass should be more than that.  We should always have that anxiety of meeting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  People have seem to lost that belief.  We must always have that intensity of finding Jesus in the mass, especially at the consecration when the host and chalice are raised.  In an apparition by the Blessed Virgin, she has requested people to offer prayers at the moment of consecration.  It is at this moment that our Guardian Angels offer to Jesus all our prayers and intentions.

Isn’t that beautiful?  Our guardian angel carries our prayers and intentions.  So whatever is our prayer and intention it goes straight up to Jesus, STRAIGHT UP.  So we should always have our attention focused on the main celebrant.

Bring with you intentions of your friends, for healing, for supplication, whatever.  Are they sick or in despair?  Are they people who terminally ill?  Do you have problems that need guidance?  Bring these at the foot our Lord during the Holy Eucharist.  He appreciates those that bring with them their hearts and good intentions.

Let me just replicate what the Virgin of Guadalupe said to St. Juan Diego:

Do not be distressed, my littlest son. Am I not here with you who am your Mother?

A blessed week to everyone.

A Call to Catholics Everywhere: Proper Dress Code at Mass

I’m not ashamed to say it: I lived in a period where proper and decent clothing was expected when attending mass.  I was always in my Sunday best, and that meant wearing a frilly dress, while the men folk wore pants.  I also wore a chapel veil well into my teens until I became self-conscious of it and stopped using it altogether.  Wearing a V-neckline was a no-no, and if you wore it you would be scorned like a slut.

 In recent years however, we’ve become so lax about it.  Blame it on the humid weather and fashion trends.  Catholics everywhere have lost their touch on the proper decorum during mass.  We dress so casually that inner wear looks like outer wear.  Ladies wear the skimpiest outfit and line up for communion leaving nothing to the imagination.  No offense to people who have the body to flaunt it, but when we enter the church we expect to be in the presence of God who deserves all our hearts and attention.  But what happens when we see a lady wearing a figure hugging dress sashaying the queue for communion?  Does it keep your mind focused on Jesus?

 Philippine Bishops Heed Need for Conservative Dressing

 As early as 2007, the Philippine Bishops Conference has called for the observance of the proper dress code during mass.  That means that shorts, minis, see-through or sleeveless shirts and spaghettis are no longer acceptable inside the church.  Not only will the attendees be refused communion but they will also be disallowed from attending mass.

 And this isn’t only happening here.  Catholic churches all over the world have issued their own call to dress more appropriately when inside the church, noting the universal laxity of almost everybody these days. 

 Arguments about the dress code

 Who do we need to do it?  It all boils down to giving the utmost respect to the mass.  We have to give respect to the celebrant who represents Christ and the multitude of angels who are present during every mass.  As Catholics, we seem to have forgotten this or probably have not heard it explained this way.  If we see the mass in any other way than a sacrifice and manifestation of Jesus’ redemptive love, we will not give it the infinite value it deserves.

In the directives given by our Blessed Mother to late seer Veronica Leuken at Bayside, New York, she requested that tradition be observed in the churches, but that the mass remains valid for all the faithful, traditional or not.  Our Lady even called on the women to wear a veil as a sign of respect to the angels who are present during the sacrifice (http://www.nuestrasenoradelasrosas.org/directives/d01.htm). 

A lot of people argue, this is my choice and the Lord will love me regardless of what I wear.  True.  But remember what Jesus said in Jude 23:

“But others save, pulling them out of the fire. And on others have mercy, in fear, hating also the spotted garment (i.e. SIN) which is carnal”.

 Here is what some of the saints have to say about the mass:

 

St. Padre Pio

“Renew your faith by attending Holy Mass. Keep your mind focused on the mystery that is unfolding before your eyes. In your mind’s eye transport yourself to Calvary and meditate on the Victim who offers Himself to Divine Justice, paying the price of your redemption.”

—–

“Every Holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we ourselves, do not know.”

—–

“The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” 

Saint Gregory

“The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass.” 

Saint Augustine

“When Mass is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar.”

With all these said and done, why should we not give proper deportment when attending mass?  Remember the words of Fatima seer Jacinta Marto when our Lord revealed His displeasure at how fashion was causing people to sin.  If that was the sentiment then, imagine His possible sentiment now, when we dress so casually and at times, “barely there”.

 Be Like Mary

 Let us follow the example of Mother Mary who is always the example of perfect modesty.  Although She may have existed during the time when dresses covered the feet, She has never appeared to have changed in Her long gown appearance. 

 Let us all rally behind the Church and observe modesty at all times, heart, mind and appearance.

A Different Kind of Holy Week

In this part of the world, Holy Week is never felt more stronger than here.  During this short period, everything and everybody seems to be in a standstill.  Every household is quiet (either because you simply choose to be or you’re off on vacation) and presumably, meditating.

For a die-hard Catholic like me, I try to make each Holy Week meaningful for me and my family.  This year, we trekked Antipolo City to do our yearly Visita Iglesia, then made a short segue to the St. Pio Centre in Libis, Quezon City.
If going to Antipolo was an effort, going to this quaint church in Libis is a real treat.  It was to be my first visit to this church that has been dedicated to this famous Italian saint.
No stranger in this sacred place, hubby wanted to show me around the area.  The church had a courtyard at the back, which the church volunteers arranged to mount each fourteen stations of the cross.  The novelty here is that upon entering the courtyard, you are given a small cross that you have to carry on your shoulder for the full length of the prayer.  The crosses come in different sizes, but all light enough to   manage the weight.  Devotees have the option to walk their way barefoot, but for the non-adventurous like me, keeping your shoes on is ok.
So off we went happily inside the courtyard with our crosses on our shoulders, happily thinking that the crosses were small and light enough.  But half way through the walk, I began to feel the burden of this small cross that I was losing concentration on the prayer and more on the dull pain.  By the time we ended the last station, I felt really exhausted.  Imagine how Jesus must have gone through, and His cross was undoubtedly much bigger!  Truly humbling!
A blessed Holy Week to all!