Cathedral, Basilica to welcome Holy Year by opening Holy Doors Dec. 13

| December 3, 2015 | 0 Comments
The Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis seals its Holy Door in September ahead of the Year of Mercy. The door will reopen Dec. 13. Courtesy the Basilica

The Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis seals its Holy Door in September ahead of the Year of Mercy. The door will reopen Dec. 13. Courtesy the Basilica

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Holy Year of Mercy will mean more intensive prayer and performing acts of mercy. Johan van Parys, director of liturgy and sacred arts at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, described the jubilee year as an extension of Lent.

“We look at it as a yearlong retreat [where] we re-emphasize prayer and action and also fasting,” van Parys said, noting that the Basilica’s programming and outreach will center on mercy during the year designated from Dec. 8 through Nov. 20, 2016.

Traditionally a time of clearing debts in order to right relationships with God and others, the Church’s jubilee years include reconciliation, pilgrimages and indulgences, van Parys explained. Because of their Holy Doors, the Basilica, co-cathedral in the archdiocese, and the Cathedral of St. Paul will serve as pilgrimage churches where Catholics can obtain the jubilee indulgence. An indulgence, van Parys explained, is the fulfillment of the penance attached to the absolution of sin — the celebration and affirmation of God’s mercy.

“Pope Francis talks about the Holy Year as a year of spiritual amnesty,” van Parys said, noting that Catholics must meet specific requirements. “By righting relationships, we get affirmed of our indulgence. And that’s why the pope speaks not only of prayer, reconciliation, walking through holy doors [and] celebrating the Eucharist, but then also doing works of mercy. So, it’s both prayer and action, and the action is showing mercy because we are being shown mercy by God.”

The Basilica will open its Holy Doors before the 9:30 a.m. Mass, and the Cathedral of St. Paul will open its Holy Doors with Archbishop Bernard Hebda, apostolic administrator, before the 10 a.m. Mass Dec. 13, the same day Pope Francis will open the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. Van Parys will be at the Vatican Dec. 8 for the opening of the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Some parishes have designated honorary holy doors for the Year of Mercy, but they don’t serve as pilgrimage sites unless named by the archbishop.

For the Basilica’s Holy Door opening, van Parys said people will gather in the church and then walk out and then back in the doors. When the doors are open, the celebrant will open the Gospel book, showing the world that Jesus is the way. Then, the congregation will follow the Word through the Holy Doors and renew their baptismal promises once inside.

“There’s nothing magic about walking through a holy door,” van Parys said. “It’s a spiritual exercise, it’s a spiritual experience, and it’s us walking through those doors saying, ‘Jesus is the door to heaven.’ And by walking through the door, we also commit ourselves to living according to the Gospel and taking on Jesus in our own life so that we may eventually go with Jesus through the gate to heaven at the end of our life.”

Throughout the Year of Mercy, the Basilica will have events focused on the works of mercy, as well as increased opportunities for eucharistic adoration, Stations of the Cross, First Friday devotions and reconciliation. Van Parys said the events are for the entire archdiocese, not just Basilica parishioners.

Across the archdiocese, parishes are encouraged to ring their church bells at 3 p.m. daily and participate in First Fridays by fasting, attending Mass, praying in a eucharistic adoration chapel, and performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

To highlight the works of mercy individuals and parishes are performing, the archdiocese is promoting a “Mercy Works” video challenge, much like the Ice Bucket Challenge from 2014. Parishes and schools can submit all of their Year of Mercy events and initiatives online at On social media, Catholics are encouraged to use the hashtag #MercyWorks.

At the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall general assembly in November, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis said Catholics can observe the jubilee year in many different ways that allow them to be “credible witnesses to mercy.”

“The idea is to have local events so all of the people can participate and adopt God’s merciful attitude,” explained Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, Connecticut.

For more information about how the Year of Mercy will be celebrated in the archdiocese, visit

– Catholic News Service contributed to this report

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Category: Year of Mercy