Parishioners from St. Joseph's Basilica walk through the church's Holy Door.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Parishioners from St. Joseph's Basilica walk through the church's Holy Door.

January 11, 2016
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Walking through the Holy Door in Edmonton's St. Joseph's Basilica can be a step into a new way of life, says the basilica's rector.

"The important thing is that they go to Confession and that there is a desire in their lives to turn away from sin," says Father Martin Carroll.

The Holy Door for the Year of Mercy, which leads from the baptistry near the east entrance to the church into the north aisle of the basilica, represents the first time there has been a holy door in Edmonton during a jubilee year.

Normally, the only holy doors are those in the four basilicas in Rome, but Pope Francis wanted the faithful to participate fully in the Year of Mercy without having to travel to Rome.

A holy door is a ritual expression of conversion. Pilgrims pass through it as a gesture of leaving the past behind and crossing the threshold from sin to grace and from darkness to light.

So if you go through the basilica's Holy Door of Mercy, you are making a commitment to change your life in some way.

JESUS IS THE DOOR

After all, the door symbolizes Jesus, who once said, "I'm the door" to make it clear no one can come to the Father except through him.

As well, if you pass through the door, you can receive a plenary indulgence if you meet certain conditions.

Father Carroll said those who pass through the Holy Door during this Year of Mercy receive a plenary indulgence which removes all of the temporal punishment for sins committed up to that time - provided the recipient goes to Confession, receives Communion, and prays for the pope and his intentions.

Pope Francis inaugurated the Jubilee Year of Mercy Dec. 8 by opening a holy door at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. He asked bishops around the world to do the same.

Archbishop Richard Smith opened the Holy Door in the corner of the basilica Dec. 13. Standing in front of the door, the archbishop said, "Open the gates of justice, we shall enter and give thanks to the Lord."

THE LORD'S GATE

As the door opened, Smith said, "This is the Lord's gate; let us enter through it and obtain mercy and forgiveness."

Carroll chose the door that leads from the baptistry into the north aisle of the basilica as a holy door because that door is rarely used.

Fr. Martin Carroll, rector of St. Joseph's Basilica, stands in the Holy Door for the Year of Mercy.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Fr. Martin Carroll, rector of St. Joseph's Basilica, stands in the Holy Door for the Year of Mercy.

"I wanted to choose a door that's not normally used so that people have to make a particular intention to go through it," he explained.

"That door is closed most of the time so now people have to deliberately make a right turn when they come into the basilica to go in there."

After you walk through the door and confess, the punishment due for those sins is remitted, the priest said. "The sins need to be forgiven in the sacrament of Reconciliation. So a person has to go to Confession, come to Mass and pray for the pope's intentions."

People can pass through the Holy Door in the basilica but can go to Mass and Confession in their own church if they wish.

Carroll said the holy door is open whenever the church is open. For those unfamiliar with the basilica, a sign is posted in the entrance area pointing to the Holy Door.

"I think it's really convenient because is right by the entrance," said 19-year-old Aly Pascual, who planned to go through the door during the recent holidays.

Maria Hicks described the door as a sign of welcome not only for Catholics but for all people. "It's an open door for everybody, even those who have strayed away from the Catholic faith."

"This (Holy Door) is an awesome gift from the Holy Father to all of us," said Dale Nobert of St. Agnes Parish as he rushed out of the basilica. "I go through it every chance I get."

There are no prayer cards beside the door, just a flyer explaining its meaning. Carroll said a prayer card might be produced in the near future but he didn't seem convinced one is necessary.

"We pray for the Holy Father's intentions and that can be any prayer you want," he said. "You can say an Our Father and a Hail Mary; you don't have to say any special type of prayers."

Carroll said people who are ill and cannot go through the Holy Door must join their suffering to the suffering of Jesus to receive the indulgence.

"They won't be able to physically go through the Holy Door but they can be united with the Church by making a conscious acceptance of their suffering and uniting that to the sufferings of Jesus."

Those who are in prison are not excluded either. "If they recognize the need for God's mercy and there is a desire on their part to turn away from sin, they can go to the prison chapel and participate in the Mass and go to Confession; they can also receive the indulgence," the basilica rector said.

"The Holy Father wants them to be aware that they are not excluded from God's mercy and maybe they, more than anyone, realize their need for God's mercy for what they've done."

People can walk through the Holy Door until the end of the Holy Year of Mercy on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 20. The motto of the holy year is, "Compassionate like the Father."