Letter for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy
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December 8, 2015
Dear Members of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada,
“Open the gates of justice, we shall enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the Lord’s gate: let us enter through it and obtain mercy and forgiveness.”
By these words, holy doors will be opened and the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy will begin around the world, beginning today in Rome. Next week, on the third Sunday of Advent, dioceses and special holy places will bless and open holy doors of mercy.
The holy door is a symbol of the passage from sin to grace, signifying repentance and a new start. Jubilee years are rare and significant, the last one being the Great Jubilee in 2000. As members of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, we are privileged to be part of the jubilee, that we might cross the threshold of the holy door and become, as Pope Francis asks in his prayer for the year of mercy, Jesus’ visible face in the church, clothed in weakness that brings about compassion for those who need it. The jubilee is a year of grace from the Lord.
Communal conversion and renewal result when people come together to share the good things they have.
The Father’s house has many rooms. As pilgrim people, the journey to our heavenly home can be long and difficult, fraught with failure and disappointment. The symbolism of entering through a jubilee holy door reminds us that we are being invited, yet again, to start again, to seek forgiveness and receive His Divine mercy. Over the course of this year of mercy, pilgrims all over the world will make their way to sacred holy sites in Rome and other selected places, receive absolution and healing, and obtain special holy year indulgences.
But there are so many kinds of doors. Open doors signify welcome, shelter, comfort and a passageway to a better place. Closed doors, shut tight in fear or anxiety, present obstacles, barriers and a sense of foreboding, creating even more doors and higher walls. Together we will open wide the doors; knock bravely on the ones seemingly closed to us and break down the walls that keep people alone and apart.
One Heart, One Voice, One Mission was inspired by Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) and Pope Francis’ desire for a merciful and forgiving church, one that hears the cry of the poor, feeds the hungry and advocates for justice. Pope Francis guides us when he speaks of the “art of accompaniment” and asks us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other. The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze, which also heals, liberates and encourages growth.
What better place to start, than to undertake a national effort to walk with those who are sick and dying as we announce a subtheme for the year, Palliative and Hospice Care. This truly touches our hearts―we feel compassion and pain for those who are suffering, especially those facing death and being alone. And each one of us can do something.
We are called to use our voices in new and even more effective ways in outreach, ministry and education, and the sacrament of the dying. From prayer to parliament, our voices must be heard.
Our mission will include strategic initiatives, resources and individual ways to be part of the new evangelization. It entails sharing the good news of the gospel with those who have not heard it, through witness and example, that life and death belong to God and to God alone.
Why a year of mercy now? As always, Pope Francis says it best, “Simply because the church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness.”
We know this to be especially true in Canada. Let us act as one, that we may cross the threshold of the holy door to be healed and strengthened. Let us find ways to ensure no one lives or dies alone. This is who are―Catholic women, the faces of Christ in the world.
May our patroness, Our Lady of Good Counsel, remain with us and be our strength as we endeavour to do the work of Her Son here on earth.
With prayerful thanks and many blessings,
Barb Dowding National President