Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called for an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy within the Church which is to begin on December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and conclude on the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 20, 2016. In the Bull of Indiction for the Holy Year, Misericordiae Vultus, the Pope proclaims that, "Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in Him."
Merciful Like the Father (cf. Lk 6:36) is the "motto" chosen by Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy. He expresses that, "In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives His entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return. He comes to our aid whenever we call upon Him." The Jubilee of Mercy offers us, in the Diocese of Palm Beach, an opportunity to join with the Universal Church in celebrating God's mercy in our lives and in sharing that mercy with each other in a concrete manner. It truly is meant to be a special year of grace.
One of the primary signs chosen by Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy is the door of St. Peter’s Basilica which has been used in other Jubilee years. The Pope will formally open this door on December 8 through which the faithful of the world are invited to enter on pilgrimage during the year. On that day, the door will become, in the words of the Pope, "a Door of Mercy, through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope." Pope Francis has asked that on the Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, every bishop open the door of his cathedral as a Door of Mercy for the Jubilee of Mercy which I will be privileged to do at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola at the 10:30 am Mass.
While the door of St. Ignatius will be officially designated the Door of Mercy for our Diocese, I am also asking that every parish designate a particular door which is to be associated with the Jubilee of Mercy at the local level. This door will be a reminder of our spiritual union as the Church and a visible sign of the Church’s universal communion. It will display a large banner for the Jubilee of Mercy which will serve as a sign of our unity and our common journey in experiencing the mercy of God in our own communities and in sharing that mercy with each other. The designated door will be blessed on the Third Sunday of Advent.
Pope Francis has granted a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, to the faithful who cross the Door of Mercy of every cathedral throughout the world. The Door of Mercy at St. Ignatius Cathedral will offer this plenary indulgence. This door will be open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 4 pm throughout the Jubilee of Mercy. I believe that Pope Francis’ words on the indulgence are significant in understanding God’s overwhelming mercy, “To gain an indulgence is to experience the holiness of the Church, who bestows upon all the fruits of Christ’s redemption, so that God’s love and forgiveness may extend everywhere. Let us live this Jubilee intensely, begging the Father to forgive our sins and to bathe us in His merciful ‘indulgence.’”
I am asking that another simple designation of a door be made in every home of every individual and family during this Jubilee of Mercy. Your designation of this door will be a reminder of the Jubilee of Mercy and a simple prayer, such as the Holy Father’s, printed below, can be placed upon it and prayed as families gather at the door. This would be a simple reminder that God dwells among us and His mercy never departs from us. It is especially fitting to share this mercy with each other in our homes. May this household door remind us during the Jubilee of Mercy that we must open the most intimate door of our hearts to the love and mercy of God always present within us.
During this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, each parish will decide the best manner in which to celebrate the year for their own circumstances. Particular times will be set during the Jubilee of Mercy for the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. God’s Mercy will be a continual emphasis in preaching and in parish programs and events. Pope Francis has asked that the Friday and Saturday preceding the fourth week of Lent, March 4-5, be celebrated as 24 Hours for the Lord. On these two days, in addition to the regular schedule of Reconciliation, each parish will make the Sacrament of Reconciliation available at set times. As is their usual practice, the Passionist priests are happy to make known that one of them will be available for confession during normal daytime hours during the Jubilee of Mercy at Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center in North Palm Beach.
In our Diocese of Palm Beach, I am asking that the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy be associated in a special way with the vocations of priesthood, religious life and family. The priest is the minister of God's mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a unique manner as he stands in the Person of Christ forgiving sin. He is also the minister of God's mercy in a unique manner when he celebrates the Eucharist and stands in the Person of Christ making present His Sacrifice and the gift of His Body and Blood. Religious life is the manner in which the mercy of Christ becomes evident as women and men commit themselves to living in a manner that radically imitates the life of the Lord Himself. It is in the family that we are at home and most deeply experience the unconditional love of each other so many times manifested in mercy.
In this regard, I ask your family to consider a visit to the Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul during the Jubilee of Mercy. Special arrangements can be made through contacting our Vocation Director, Father Brian Lehnert, (561-775-9555 or 561-775-9552), who will be happy to facilitate such a visit. The Seminary will also have its doors open to welcome visitors every Wednesday at 12 noon for the celebration of the Eucharist. I ask that parishes not hesitate to call upon Sister Joan Dawson, OSF, the Episcopal Delegate for Religious, to make available the wonderful video on religious life which was put together by our religious during the current Year of Consecrated Life. Families are encouraged to make a pilgrimage together to St. Ignatius Cathedral as well as to get together to come to their own parish church for the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as Eucharistic Adoration. In addition, all families are encouraged to participate in the Family Fully Alive in Christ Rally sponsored by the Florida Catholic Men for Jesus Christ on Saturday, February 20, 2016, at the Palm Beach Convention Center in West Palm Beach. All of these practices can go a long way in being vehicles of grace for us during this special year.
In addition to our celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, our adoration of the Eucharist and our personal prayers, let us consider to do something for others during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. From the practice of spiritual works of mercy to the many outreaches in corporal works of mercy, which emphasize our sacrifice for others, God’s mercy can be experienced in a very personal way.
The following words of Pope Francis are inspiring ones to keep before us as we approach the Year of Mercy:
"I present, therefore, this Extraordinary Jubilee Year dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us. In this Jubilee year, let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of casting open the doors of His heart and of repeating that He loves us and wants to share His love with us. The Church feels the urgent need to proclaim God's mercy. Her life is authentic only which she becomes a convincing herald of mercy. She knows that her primary task, especially in a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction, is to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God's mercy by contemplating the face of Christ. The Church is called above all to be credible witness to mercy, professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ. From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. It is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it. Every time someone is in need, he or she could approach it, because the mercy of God never ends. The profundity of the mystery surrounding it is as inexhaustible as the richness which springs up from it.”
As the Holy Father also commends us to Mary during the Jubilee of Mercy, may we in a special way look to our patroness, Our Lady Queen of the Apostles, as she invites us to experience the mercy of her Son in our lives here in southern Florida.
As Blessed Advent and Jubilee of Mercy to all!
Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Year of Mercy
Lord Jesus Christ,
You have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
December 4, 2015