Pope Francis has announced the Catholic Church is to celebrate a Jubilee Year of Mercy from December 8, 2015 until November 20, 2016. This is a great reminder for all of us to focus more on the merciful love God has for us and which we are called to have for one another.
The Pope asks us to make the Jubilee “a moment of true grace for all Christians and a reawaking to the path of the new evangelization and the pastoral conversion.”
He continues on to say, “In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: ‘Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old’” (MV 25).
At St. Mary’s there are many student organizations and activities to help you do this, and to meet other Catholics who wish to do the same. The celebration also includes the opportunity to receive the Year of Mercy plenary indulgence.
Our Bishop Joe Vásquez designated the following churches to be pilgrimage sites for receiving the indulgence in the Austin diocese:
Why make a Pilgrimage?
Pilgrimages have been a Christian spiritual practice for many centuries, particularly during jubilee years. The act of making a pilgrimage can be an important spiritual method, similar to fasting and other practices that bring our physical humanity and our spiritual humanity together for spiritual growth. Often the destination point of a jubilee pilgrimage is the Holy Door, which is a special entrance to a basilica set aside and used only to receive pilgrims at the culmination of their long journey.
The Holy Door is a tradition of Jubilee Years. They are usually located only at St. Peter’s in Rome and a handful of major basilicas, but Pope Francis wished it to be done across the world as a sign and reminder that God’s mercy is available wherever you are. Our Bishop Joe Vasquez appointed St. Mary’s to be one of the five Year of Mercy pilgrimage sites in the Diocese of Austin, and so we have this specially designated Holy Door of Mercy at St. Mary’s this year.
Pilgrimages are often associated with an indulgence. The Year of Mercy indulgence is available to us as part of this celebration of mercy. Indulgences are often misunderstood, and at times in history they have been misused. But when understood correctly indulgences are an amazing form of atonement for our sins, a conduit to receive God’s generous mercy, and even a way for us to participate in bringing God’s mercy to others. There is more information below about pilgrimages and the indulgence, as well as at AggieCatholic.org, or seek out one of our campus ministers to discuss any questions you might have.
“The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim traveling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. . . . May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.” (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 14)
What is an Indulgence?
An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment due for sins that have been forgiven. Catholics believe that temporal punishment can be atoned for in this world or in purgatory. The remission of this punishment can be granted on behalf of the individual petitioner or on behalf of departed souls. A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment for a living soul, and immediately releases a departed soul from purgatory.
How do I Receive the Indulgence for this year of mercy?
According to the Vatican decree, conditions for the special Year of Mercy indulgence include the normal requirements set by the church for all plenary indulgences, as well as taking a pilgrimage to go through a Holy Door and/or perform a work of mercy.
For able-bodied Catholics:
Take a pilgrimage. Make a journey to one of the five diocesan pilgrimage churches where “holy doors” have been designated for the Jubilee Year. Traveling to a pilgrimage site and crossing through a Holy Door is a spiritual journey that signals, as the Holy Father said, “the deep desire for true conversion.”
It is appropriate that the sacramental confession and especially Holy Communion and the prayer for the pope’s intentions take place on the same day of the pilgrimage, but it is not necessary. The sacramental rites and prayers may be carried out within several days (about three weeks) and at a place other than the pilgrimage site.
For the elderly, confined and the ill:
For persons physically unable to visit a pilgrimage site, Pope Francis has said that they may obtain the Jubilee Indulgence by “living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial.” Receiving Communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various available means of communication.” These persons may also perform one of the Spiritual or Corporal Works of Mercy as their abilities permit.