ROCHESTER — As worshipers at Sacred Heart Cathedral turned toward a closed entrance door behind them, the voice of Rochester Bishop Salvatore R. Matano rang out from the other side Dec. 13.
"Open the gates of justice; we shall enter and give thanks to the Lord," the bishop declared, quoting Psalms 118:19.
Then Bishop Matano came into view as he pushed the door open, saying, "This is the Lord’s gate: Let us enter through it and obtain mercy and forgiveness." He then processed down the cathedral’s center aisle, flanked by several diocesan priests, to celebrate Mass.
Thus officially began the Diocese of Rochester’s observance of the Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis inaugurated on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, by opening the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Year of Mercy will run through Nov. 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King.
Throughout that period, the central inner entrance at Sacred Heart Cathedral will be known as the Holy Door of Mercy, in keeping with Pope Francis’ desire for bishops worldwide to designate holy doors at their respective cathedrals for the Year of Mercy.
About 400 people attended the Dec. 13 afternoon Mass, at which Bishop Matano opened the Holy Door. During his homily for the liturgy, which fell on the third Sunday of Advent, Bishop Matano observed that people seeking mercy for themselves during the upcoming year also will be better disposed to extend mercy toward others.
"As we strengthen our relationship with the Lord, we then are inspired to imitate our savior, to help our brothers and sisters in need — the poor, the forgotten, those incarcerated, the victims of abuse, those from other countries seeking to make a new home among us, and the victims of violence fueled by prejudice," the bishop said.
Worshippers at the Mass received Year of Mercy booklets containing such helpful information as relevant prayers and Scripture passages; a listing of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; and guidelines for making a good confession and reciting the rosary. According to Father Kevin McKenna, rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral, the booklets will be available all year long for pilgrims to the cathedral.
Catholics throughout the world are encouraged to take advantage of numerous opportunities to experience God’s mercy during this extraordinary jubilee year. Jubilees are specially designated years during which emphasis is placed on granting of the remission of sins, as well as blessing and pardon from God. The Year of Mercy is considered "extraordinary" because it is occurring outside the normal 25- or 50-year cycle for jubilee years. The last jubilee year, known as the Great Jubilee, occurred in 2000 under the papacy of St. John Paul II.
In the coming months, Sacred Heart Cathedral will be the site of many additional Year of Mercy events. For instance, a 6:30 p.m. Mass will take place on the first Friday of each month, followed by eucharistic adoration and the availability of individual confession.
Worshipers are encouraged to make special efforts to pass through the cathedral’s holy door. Combined with prayer and reception of the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist, this act will result in reception of a plenary indulgence — a remission of temporal punishment deserved for sins.
Parishes throughout the diocese also have scheduled special opportunities for adoration, confession and daily Mass during the Year of Mercy.
Pope Francis announced the Holy Year of Mercy on March 13, expressing his hope that all Catholics "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."
EDITOR’S NOTE: Click here for a full listing of Year of Mercy events scheduled in the Diocese of Rochester. For an online version of the Year of Mercy booklet, visit www.dor.org/tasks/sites/home/assets/File/YearofMercy_PrayerBook_online.pdf.