I was on retreat when my parish’s holy door went up officially. The Pope announced that there would be a Jubilee Year of Mercy, and there would not only be a Holy Door at the Vatican, but at every Cathedral across the world. This Pope is nothing if not inclusive. He walks the walk, which is one of the many reason that I am so fond of him. I was very excited to have joined the church about the same time as his election to Bishop of Rome. Without ever having met him, I felt welcomed by the world church as much as I had been welcomed by my parish church,.
I had planned on going through the Holy Door at our Cathedral, but was very excited to learn that our parish was one of a handful that was permitted to have our own official Holy Door. People have come from as far away as a two hour drive to walk through our holy door.
The one thing about walking through the door wasn’t that I could easily do it. it’s not a regular door. There is a purpose to it. The people who enter through those doors should do so with a purpose, with a reason and a contemplative mind. Like all doors, walking through this one is a beginning, not an objective.
When I decided to walk through the door, I knew it would be only the first time for me. I would definitely do it again, but the first time, was the commitment to exploring the Year of Mercy and my own feelings towards reconciliation and forgiveness, not only for others, but for myself.
Knowing it was going to be of at least two times, I could have just walked through and been done with it. Every time I entered my church for Mass, I glanced over to the double doors, and wondered if I should go that way.
No. I wasn’t ready.
In the last week of Advent as I prayed on it and went through my own reconciliation service for the season, I had somehow become ready.
These were some of my thoughts on that morning:
I was feeling self-conscious as if all the eyes of the parking lot were upon me. It was right before a daily mass, and there was literally almost no one there. Except the Deacon’s wife. Of course, she was. I was feeling better, and she spoke to me:
“Coming in?” she asked, glancing back over her shoulder.
“Yes, but I’m doing something first.”
I wasn’t sure how weird I sounded, but instead of giving in to my anxiety and following her into the church through the regular door, I stood at the edge of the parking lot, just at the curb.
I read the Pope’s Year of Mercy prayer. It mentioned some of the many times Jesus offered mercy to not only his followers, but strangers, people he’d just met, people who betrayed him.
We are all of a “G-d who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy” and that reminded me that our G-d is not a vengeful one.
So many things went through my mind as I recited this prayer under my breath. I carry it with me and remind myself that this is a Holy Year. I am overwhelmed sometimes that I am alive at a time that will be remembered for eternity (the Papacy of Pope Francis). I truly believe this. he will be spoken of through the ages, and I am somehow a part of that.
I read the door as prayer:
I reached out and opened the door of Mercy. I tried not to hold my breath but it was involuntary. There was a gust of warm air – like a breath upon me.
Was it acceptance?
Was it the holy spirit bidding me enter?
I crossed the entrance to the holy water, and blessed myself with a watery cross, from head to heart, left shoulder to right.
I had been thinking about it since the Pope first announced this holy year.
I had been waiting for the right moment, but when would that be? Why did I want/need to walk through the door of mercy?
The Pope asked us all of pilgrimage including through our own holy doors. Not only our local cathedral doors, or our parish doors, but our own.
Instead of waiting for the right moment, maybe I was supposed to walk through now, begin the year long pilgrimage and I would come to the right moments instead of waiting for them to come to me, and missing them.
I can wait or I can start now and notice the moments before they pass by.
I am hyper-aware of things.
At a recent RCIA lesson, with Father J, I was reminded me of life’s interconnectedness. We discussed the interconnection between the spiritual, the religious and pop culture, mainly Star Wars (and others if I did my research) that emulate and metaphor the religious doctrine. We think that we’re floating mindlessly, drifting and looking for connections when they’re right there. We need to relax and we will see what is right in front of us.
Now that I’ve taken the small, but huge step through the door, I’m seeing so much. Then I saw two things posted by my godmother related to Pope Francis and his homilies and feelings on mercy and they’ve clicked for me.
I never see people when I’m out. A week or so after this holy door entrance, as if by coincidence, everywhere I went, I saw people I knew. Arlene at CVS, one of the rosary ladies and Emma at the post office, Diane B at the grocery store, and a day later I ran into this preschool mom who I haven’t seen in about five years, but I had been thinking of her in the last few weeks. Her daughter and my daughter went to preschool together, but are in different school districts. In my daughter’s class there is a girl with the same name, so I’ve wondered about their family. It is just so funny since I randomly picked this Starbucks in my roundabout of errands. After that I went to Target and saw a preschool Dad who I saw there last week also.
Mercy is so many of the things, and I need to know how to give it, and how to receive it, and how to give it to myself. It’s being aware of the every day mercies I deny myself or don’t offer. It is seeing the Jesus figures in the escapism I relish from Superman to Doctor Who. It is opening my eyes to the possible, and letting go of some of the practical and always continuing to feel and find the me.
I turn fifty the week after the Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy closes. I don’t know that I will find what I’m looking for from this time to that. I do know that anything I do find, become aware of will not be for naught. It all means something, and perhaps when I walk through our Holy Door the second time, I’ll have a clearer view of what I want to see on the other side, and how to go about finding it in my pilgrimage, both with the physical journey and the contemplative one.