The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Monday, December 14, 2015

Saint Meinrad's Holy Door of Mercy

"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
Luke 6:36

Window panels by Br. Martin Erspamer, O.S.B.,
in Saint Meinrad's Holy Door of Mercy

As you likely know by now, Pope Francis has declared the year that began December 8 (the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) as an Extraordinary Jubilee Year in the Catholic Church throughout the world. The theme of this “Holy Year of Mercy” (which runs until November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King) is “Merciful Like the Father.” The theme's inspiration is from Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke (6:36): “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (in light of this passage, one might also meditate on the phrase from the Lord’s Prayer which includes both a supplication and a promise: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”).

This the first Holy Year proclaimed since the year 2000, and the first Extraordinary Jubilee Year since 1983 (both during Saint John Paul II’s pontificate). This Holy Year of Mercy is unique in one very special respect—one in which Saint Meinrad Archabbey is participating. So keep reading...

All of the major basilicas in Rome have special symbolic (typically quite large and ornamental) “holy doors” which are sealed from the inside and are only opened during designated jubilee years. As the website Crux points out, “the door usually is sealed with bricks as a symbolic reminder of the barrier of sin between human beings and God.” Pilgrims who pass through the holy doors of these basilicas during jubilee years, and participate in particular devotions therein, are afforded certain spiritual graces—with the ultimate goal being conversion of heart. There are many particulars to all of this—including indulgences for pilgrims, planned devotional and catechetical events during the year, and special sacramental provisions—which one can investigate more thoroughly on other Internet sites (such as the Vatican's Jubilee of Mercy site or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops site).

Pope Francis presided at the ceremonial opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica on December 8. During his homily that day, Pope Francis said: “To pass through the holy door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father, who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy.”

In the coming weeks, the holy doors of other basilicas throughout Rome will be opened.

What makes this holy year especially unique—for the Church throughout the world, and for Saint Meinrad Archabbey—is that Pope Francis has asked every diocese around the world to open a Holy Door in its “mother church” or cathedral. In addition, local bishops around the world have been granted the authority to designate certain shrines within their dioceses (those frequented by large groups of pilgrims) as places for Holy Doors to be established during this jubilee year. This is the first time in the Church’s history for such a “widening” of the holy door concept, reflecting Pope Francis’ desire for the entire world’s participation in this jubilee year.

Within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, in which Saint Meinrad Archabbey is located, Archbishop Joseph Tobin has designated two churches during this jubilee year for “Holy Door” status. One, of course, is the archdiocese’s cathedral, Ss. Peter and Paul in Indianapolis. The other is—yes, you guessed it!--Saint Meinrad Archabbey.  How awesome is this place! (to borrow from Jacob’s exclamation in Genesis 28:17.) Saint Meinrad Archabbey, then, is one of the relatively few non-cathedral pilgrimage sites throughout the world participating in the Holy Father’s Extraordinary Year of Mercy. Our own Holy Door—as with the one in Indianapolis at Ss. Peter and Paul—was officially opened yesterday in a short ceremony prior to Mass.

The “official” Holy Door is the northernmost door at the front (west) entrance of the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln (the door to the far left if you are standing outside at the bottom of the marble steps looking up at the main entrance to the church). In preparation for yesterday’s ceremony, our Br. Martin designed five special window panels for the door—at the top, the pontifical seal of Pope Francis; at the center, the Lamb of God (representing Christ, whose sacrifice takes away the sins of the world and offers mercy to all); and surrounding the Lamb, three ministering angels. These panels are pictured at the top of this post.

One of our guests present at yesterday’s Mass here remarked afterward that she was somewhat disappointed that there wasn’t an actual “opening” of the door such as at St. Peter’s Basilica. I suppose that such elaborate ceremonies (with very large, ornamental doors that are ordinarily not used—unlike ours here), are still reserved for the likes of Rome (a little Googling will retrieve some photos of the ceremony at St. Peter’s on December 8). Really, though, all the pomp and circumstance is not the point. The real invitation of this Holy Year of Mercy is to open the doors of our hearts to both receiving and granting mercy after the pattern of Christ—to practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as taught by the Church. As Saint John Paul II said at the beginning of his pontificate: “Open wide the doors for Christ!”

Indeed, allowing Christ—both Gatekeeper and Gate; the Way, the Truth, the Life—into our hearts is the key to it all, as reflected in the opening prayer of the ceremony here on Sunday (from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization):
Blessed are you, Lord, holy Father, who sent your Son into the world to gather all men and women, wounded and scattered by sin, into one body through the shedding of his blood. You appointed him both shepherd and gate for the sheep, so that whoever enters may be saved, and whoever comes in and goes out will find pasture for eternal life. Grant that your faithful may pass through this gate, and be welcomed into your presence, so that they may experience, O Father, your abundant mercy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
So, especially during this Holy Year of Mercy—whether in Rome, Indianapolis, Saint Meinrad, or places in-between, “let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (Hebrews 4:16).

The Holy Door is to the far left.


  1. We are lucky enough to attend the Cathedral on this side of the Ft. Wayne-South Bend Diocese, and we opened our Door of Mercy yesterday, also. What a special blessing and experience the Church and Christ have extended to all of us!

  2. Thanks, John. Yes, it is indeed a special blessing.

    A blessed Advent and Christmas to you.

    Br. Francis