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What is a "Holy Door?"

Bishop Raica sealed the Holy Door at St. Mary Cathedral on October 31, 2015.

Many aspects of our Catholic faith are steeped in symbolism and meaning. As human beings, we need signs and symbols to help us encounter the reality of our faith. The Holy Door is no exception. The door itself is a rich symbol of conversion used in Christianity – of crossing the threshold of life from sin to grace, entering into a new way of life, a separation between what is outside and what is inside. The experience itself is always accompanied by prayer, pilgrimage, penance, reconciliation and confession, indulgences, and the Eucharist

We believe Christ Jesus is the ultimate portal, the door that opens to faith and life. The Gospel of John puts it this way: “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:7-10). It is Jesus who is the gate, the passageway, from death to life.

We pass through a door every time we enter the church. The door of the church is an essential part of the celebration of the sacraments. It is at the door that your parents were greeted by the priest or deacon and welcomed into the church for the first time. It was after passing through the doors of the church that you were brought to the waters of baptism becoming a beloved son or daughter of God. Every Sunday you pass through the doors of the church and bless yourself with Holy Water. On your wedding day the priest greeted you joyfully at the door of the church and accompanied you to the sanctuary. A new bishop knocks at the door of his cathedral, asking to be admitted. At the end of your life, your earthly remains are brought to the door of the church where they are sprinkled with Holy Water by the priest. All these important moments, these powerful encounters with Christ in the sacraments, take place at the door of the church.

It is by passing through the doors of the church that we come to know Christ in his Church, in Word and in Sacrament. It is through the doors of the church that we go forth into the world in order to be agents of God’s mercy and love in the world. For it is “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).

Before the Eucharistic Liturgy on October 31, The Most Reverend Steven J. Raica, Bishop of Gaylord, blessed and symbolically sealed the Holy Door of Mercy at St. Mary, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Gaylord. It will be opened on the Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, along with Holy Doors in cathedrals across the globe in celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. Bishop Raica has also designated seven other historic churches and shrines as pilgrimage sites within the Diocese of Gaylord in order to make the experience of the Holy Door of Mercy available to all the faithful. (See sidebar.)

During the Jubilee Year it is Pope Francis’ desire that “the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.” (Misericordiae Vultus, 3).