By Dave Jolivet
FALL RIVER, Mass. — Earlier this year Pope Francis announced to Catholic faithful across the world a Year of Mercy to begin in December. He proclaimed, “Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought of how the Church may render more clearly her mission to be a witness to mercy; and we have to make this journey. It is a journey which begins with Spiritual conversion. Therefore, I have decided to announce an Extraordinary Jubilee which has at its center the mercy of God. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live in the light of the Word of the Lord: ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’ (cf. Lk 6:36). And this especially applies to confessors! So much mercy!
“This Holy Year will commence on the next Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and will conclude on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe and living Face of the Father’s mercy. I entrust the organization of this jubilee to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, in order that it may come to life as a new step on the Church’s journey in her mission to bring the Gospel of mercy to each person.
“I am confident that the whole Church, which is in such need of mercy for we are sinners, will be able to find in this jubilee the joy of rediscovering and rendering fruitful God’s mercy, with which we are all called to give comfort to every man and every woman of our time. Do not forget that God forgives all, and God forgives always. Let us never tire of asking forgiveness. Let us henceforth entrust this year to the Mother of Mercy, that she turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey: our penitential journey, our year-long journey with an open heart, to receive the indulgence of God, to receive the mercy of God.”
The theme of the Holy Year will be “Merciful Like the Father.”
The Holy Father will open the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica on December 8 in Rome that it may, he said, become “a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God Who consoles, pardons and instills hope.”
The pope instructed that on December 13, the “Doors of Mercy” be opened at cathedrals throughout the world thereby inviting all faithful Catholics to join the Universal Church in solidarity during this Jubilee Year.
Fall River Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., will symbolically join with bishops all over the world at a ceremony at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River on December 13, the Third Sunday of Advent, at 3 p.m., at which time he will open the “Doors of Mercy” in the Diocese of Fall River.
“Let us join with the Holy Father and all who heed his call to open our hearts to this Holy Year pilgrimage of faith in fact or in recognition of our Spiritual pilgrimage through prayer and works of mercy to the Father,” said Bishop da Cunha.
Father Jon-Paul Gallant, diocesan director of the Office for Divine Worship told The Anchor, “Our diocesan celebration will be combined with the annual Marian Medal awards. The opening of the ‘Door of Mercy’ at the cathedral will be celebrated in the context of Solemn Daytime Prayer and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament presided over by the bishop.”
At the cathedral, the bishop will lead a procession of clergy and laity to the main cathedral door and pray, “Open the gates of justice, we shall enter and give thanks to the Lord” (Ps 118:19). As the doors open, the bishop will continue, “This is the Lord’s Own gate: let us enter through it and obtain mercy.” After which he will lead the procession through the opened doors with the Book of the Gospels.
“This symbolic pilgrimage will remind us of our Spiritual journey of faith from sin through the ‘Door of Mercy.’ representing Jesus Who describes Himself as the ‘sheep gate’ (Jn. 10:7,9), to the forgiving mercy of God, the Father,” added Father Gallant.
Pope Francis has told the faithful that all who “experience the grace of the Jubilee” will receive Jubilee Indulgences as “a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father Who welcomes and forgives, forgetting sin completely.”
The Holy Father instructed that in order to obtain the indulgence, “the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every cathedral or in the churches designated by the diocesan bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion. It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy.
“It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and the entire world.”
In keeping with the Holy Father’s desire to make pilgrimage sites available to those who cannot make the pilgrimage to Rome or to the diocesan cathedral, Bishop da Cunha said, “Taking advantage of the discretion given to local bishops by the Holy Father, I also wish to announce the following other churches in our diocese where ‘Doors of Mercy’ will be opened to allow a greater opportunity for those who cannot travel to the cathedral to make a pilgrimage to a church near them:
— St. Mary’s, Taunton;
— National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, Attleboro;
— Our Lady of Mount Carmel, New Bedford;
— Corpus Christi, East Sandwich;
— Holy Trinity, West Harwich.”
The doors of each of these pilgrimage sites will have been blessed and opened by delegates of Bishop da Cunha in the context of the celebration of the Mass earlier on December 13.
“These locations can also be used as places of celebration on the deanery level throughout the Year of Mercy,” said Father Gallant. “One such initiative requested by the Holy Father is a penitential celebration of ‘24 hours for the Lord,’ during Lent of 2016 (March 4-5) during which churches throughout the world will be opened with the Blessed Sacrament exposed for adoration and priests will be available to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance for all who seek the Father’s mercy.”
Remaining true to his care for the poor and marginalized, Pope Francis has ensured that Jubilee Indulgences will be available to all Catholic faithful.
“Additionally, I am thinking of those for whom, for various reasons, it will be impossible to enter the Holy Door, particularly the sick and people who are elderly and alone, often confined to the home,” the pope said. “For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord Who in the mystery of His Passion, death and Resurrection indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and loneliness. Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving Communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence.”
The pope also declared his own mercy to those who are incarcerated and those whose freedom is limited. “The Jubilee Year has always constituted an opportunity for great amnesty, which is intended to include the many people who, despite deserving punishment, have become conscious of the injustice they worked and sincerely wish to re-enter society and make their honest contribution to it,” said the Holy Father. “May they all be touched in a tangible way by the mercy of the Father Who wants to be close to those who have the greatest need of His forgiveness. They may obtain the indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.”
Pope Francis also said that Jubilee Indulgences can be obtained for the deceased. “We are bound to them by the witness of faith and charity that they have left us,” he said. “Thus, as we remember them in the Eucharistic celebration, thus we can, in the great mystery of the Communion of saints, pray for them, that the merciful Face of the Father free them of every remnant of fault and strongly embrace them in the unending beatitude.”
In calling for this Holy Year, Pope Francis said, “I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the Spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus Himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence.
“Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father Who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity.”
There will be various celebrations and events throughout the diocese commemorating the Year of Mercy over the next 12 months.
As these events are made known, The Anchor will publish them so that all across the Diocese of Fall River may join with the Holy Father and the Universal Church in reflecting and acting upon the infinite mercy of God.