Holy Door to be sealed at St. Mary’s Cathedral

Categories: Around the Diocese,Year of Mercy

Image of the Year of Mercy and papal tiara will identify Holy Door; Mass will also celebrate vocations

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor


Benedictine Brother Lew Grobe sets up a test on the St. John’s Abbey woodshop’s laser engraver Nov.3 before the Year of Mercy logo is laser-cut onto a plaque that will identify the Holy Door at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

The row of heavy wooden doors that aligns the front of St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud has welcomed people from all walks of life, from countless corners of the world. Inside its walls, many of those same souls received God’s love, forgiveness and Christ himself in the Eucharist.

As Catholics everywhere prepare to celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, one of those massive doors will be deemed a Holy Door.

The door will be sealed by Bishop Donald Kettler at a special Mass at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 that also will celebrate vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.

The door will reopen Dec. 13 at the 9:45 a.m. Sunday Mass, just a few days after the start of the Year of Mercy on Dec. 8.

What is a Holy Door?

Pope Francis asked that all dioceses around the world designate a Holy Door at their cathedral or another special church or shrine for the Year of Mercy.

Such doors have a long tradition in the church. The first record of a Holy Door was at St. John Lateran in Rome in 1423. Historically, the pope, using a trowel and three bricks, would lay a foundation. Then, masons would build a wall in front of the door. During a holy or jubilee year, the pope used a hammer and chiseled away at the door, unsealing it and inviting pilgrims to enter.

This tradition spread to other churches until 1975, when the ritual changed and no longer involved the trowel and bricks but simply the closing and locking of the door. Today, Holy Doors are opened about every 25 years or on special occasions like the Year of Mercy that runs through Nov. 16, 2016.

According to the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, the door of the church is “the silent witness to all the moments of our lives.”

year-of-mercy-info“Often sacramental rituals begin at the door,” the Federation said in a resource document for the Year of Mercy. “Here, the priest or deacon welcomes the parents as they bring their child for baptism; here, he greets the bride and groom as they begin the wedding liturgy; here, he greets the catechumens at the Rite of Acceptance; and finally, the priest greets the casket at the beginning of the funeral liturgy.

“In the words of Pope Francis, ‘There is only one way that opens wide the entrance into the life of communion with God: this is Jesus, the one and absolute way to salvation.

To him alone can the words of the Psalmist be applied in full truth:‘This is the door of the Lord where the just may enter’ (Psalm 118:20).”

Passing through the door

Part of the symbolism of the Holy Door is to encourage pilgrims to travel to it and pass through the door throughout the Jubilee Year.

“The reason it is important for us to be doing this here is because the pope has dedicated this year to mercy,” said Timothy Johnston, director of worship for the St. Cloud Diocese. “There is so much going on around the world, within our families and local church. There is a great need for reconciliation, a great need for mercy. And it is important for us to reflect on what God’s gift of mercy means in our own lives.”

It is a door, but it is a symbolic door that reminds everyone that Christ is the door, the portal, to eternal life, Johnston said.

“We, as a church, use signs and symbols to help communicate the sacred, the mysterious, so this is a way during the Jubilee Year for pilgrims to come to the cathedral and pray at the outside of the door,” he explained. “Once it is opened, the symbolism becomes about conversion in our own lives. You start on the outside and walk through the door, across the threshold, with the intention of starting anew, with the intention of prayer focusing on Christ as the one who saves, the one who brings us from darkness into light.”

Johnston encourages people to enter into the spiritual and physical journey.

“It isn’t just to visit the door,” he said. “As pilgrims, we are recognizing that we are sinners, that we are in need of God’s mercy. It is the actual physical journey, walking or driving, of going to a sacred place for prayer, for Mass, for some sort of spiritual experience where you can begin to put your heart and mind in a disposition to reflect on God’s mercy, to focus on that area of our lives where we need healing, where we need to confront our own brokenness, so that Christ the Healer can be the one to redeem us.”

The sealing of the door will take place prior to Mass Nov. 12. Bishop Kettler will provide a short catechesis about the door; he will then bless the door and lock it. A logo for the Year of Mercy and an image of the papal tiara will identify it as a Holy Door. More information on the opening of the door and pilgrimage opportunities will be published in upcoming issues of The Visitor.