By Tom Connolly     2/29/2016

From the moment of his installment as the Holy Father, Pope Francis has emphasized a theme of mercy. While presiding over a Penance service at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome during the 2015 Lenten season, Pope Francis announced that an Extraordinary Jubilee year will be celebrated worldwide to Divine Mercy.

The Jubilee Holy Year began on the celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 6, 2015, and runs through November 20, 2016, the Sunday dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

This Jubilee will be the 30th Jubilee invoked since Pope Boniface VIII introduced the first Jubilee in 1300. Since then a Jubilee has been celebrated approximately every 25 years. However, several Popes have broken tradition and have declared an Extraordinary Jubilee year.

An Extraordinary Jubilee year is one declared as a celebration for an event of importance and urgency. Prior to Pope Francis’ declaration, Pope John Paul II heralded Jubilee years in 1983 and 2000.

“The Pope has declared this year as the year of mercy because he saw an urgent need for mercy throughout the world,” says Katie Dawson, Director of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange.

“We face many challenges that need to be addressed and the Pope challenges us to make moral choices. He wants us to know that God loves us and has mercy on us.”

This Holy Year provides an opportunity for us to come in contact with our merciful God and to experience His forgiveness, His tenderness and to let others know about it and bring others to Him.

Today Jesus, by His body that is the Church, comes close to us, forgives us, and invites us to stay with Him, to walk with Him, to live with Him and to live as He lived.

“Pope Francis wants this Holy Year to help people rediscover the God of love, to come close to Him, to experience His forgiveness, to know the joy of living close to Him and to share this with others,” says the Titular Archbishop of Scala and the Apostolic Nuncio of Greece to the Vatican Rev. Edward Adams.

“This mercy of the God of love is seen concretely in the Gospel: Jesus, the Son of God, forgives people of their sins, goes out to the sick, gives sight to the blind, consoles the poor, the widows, even the pagans. All of this is because of the great love that God has for us.

“Pope Francis says that the Church of our time has the obligation to bring the news of this God to others, and to do so with enthusiasm.”

During a Jubilee Holy Year an important symbolic act for pilgrims is to pass through the Holy Doors. Christ identified Himself as “the door” and he calls us to pass through the door from sin to grace, which every Christian is called to accomplish. Jesus says, “I am the door” (John 10:7) in order to make it clear that no one can come to the Father except through Him.

Two locations to celebrate Holy Doors in the Diocese of Orange can be found at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange and Mission Basilica in San Juan Capistrano. Pilgrims pass through the Holy Doors as a gesture of leaving the past behind and crossing the threshold from sin to grace.

Pilgrimage sites have also been established for the devoted in the Diocese of Orange at Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Habra, St. Joseph Church in Santa Ana and Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove.

Sister Katherine “Kit” Gray, C.S.J, Director of Mission Integration and Ongoing Formation for Christ Cathedral and Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector and Episcopal Vicar for Christ Cathedral, have recently established prayer celebrations for all to mark the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Eleven stations have been designated at sites throughout the Christ Cathedral campus to provide the faithful with a way to prayerfully reflect on the Works of Mercy.

Each Station is dedicated to one of the Works of Mercy. Reflection guides are available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese and provide a description of the station, a brief reflection and a prayer.

“The Jubilee Year offers us an opportunity to think about the powerful and challenging call to mercy and forgiveness,” says Sister Katherine.

“I consider this year to be a time of reflection and to love thy neighbor.”

The Jubilee Year is the occasion for us to rediscover how wonderful it is to live with God, to know His mercy and through our faith to make known the “works of mercy.” To heal, to free people from the chains of evil, and to give them hope by bringing them to the love of a God who is really our Father.

During this Holy Year of Mercy Pope Francis challenges us to display to the world the very heart of Our Lord’s Gospel of love.


Additional Website resources for the Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy:

Vatican website

United States Conference of Bishops website www.usccb.org

Diocese of Orange website

Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange


Holy Door

The Year of Mercy began on the Third Sunday of Advent with the ritual “opening” of the Holy Door. There are two locations in the Diocese of Orange where holy doors may be found: Holy Family Cathedral and Mission Basilica in San Juan Capistrano.

A holy door or porta sancta has been used since the 15th century as a ritual expression of conversion. Pilgrims and penitents pass through it as a gesture of leaving the past behind and crossing the threshold from sin to grace, from slavery to freedom, and from darkness to light. Often these rituals are associated with prayer, pilgrimage, sacrifice, confession and indulgences.

In the words of Pope Francis, “There is only one way that opens wide the entrance into the life of communion with God: this is Jesus, the one and absolute way to salvation. To Him alone can the words of the Psalmist be applied in full truth: ‘This is the door of the Lord where the just may enter’ (Ps 118:20).”