The Year of Mercy 2015 - 2016

Insignias Ready For Holy Door Year of Mercy


Exterior of Holy Cross Church's Holy Door for the Year of Mercy is ready. A 3D printed papal insignia has been affixed above the entry to the door with two simple wooden crosses to signify each of the doors. 

Inside the church, smaller papal and episcopal coat of arms have been displayed along with information on the Year of Mercy, the significance of the Holy Door and the stipulations for receiving indulgences.

The door will be opened with a liturgical celebration at mass this weekend.


Holy Door Papal Seal

It still needs a little work, but here is a scanned and 3dPrinted verison of the Papal Seal for our Holy Door of Mercy. I'm still working on Bishop O'Connell's seal - it has more pieces and more colors, so it's a bit more challenging to get done.

IMG_2567Join us on Sunday at the beginning of the 10:30 AM mass for the Rite of Sealing the Holy Door before it is opened again to begin the year of Mercy in December.

Holy Door of Mercy - A Theology


From Federated Diocesan Liturgical Commissions

Papal Seal of Francis

  Bishop O'Connell's Episcopal Seal














A holy door or porta sancta has been used since the fifteenth century as a ritual expression of conversion. Pilgrims and penitents pass through it as a gesture of leaving the past behind and crossing the threshold from sin to grace, from slavery to freedom, and from darkness to light. Often these rituals are associated with prayer, pilgrimage, sacrifice, confession, and indulgences.

But the door finds meaning only when the believer associates the door with Christ. Jesus is the Door! 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’ (Ps 118:20).”

Saint John Paul II offers a similar exhortation: "To focus on the door is to recall the responsibility of every believer to cross its threshold. To pass through that door means to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; it is to strengthen faith in him in order to live the new life which he has given us. It is a decision which presumes freedom to choose and also the courage to leave something behind, in the knowledge that what is gained is divine life [cf. Mt 13:44-46]” (Saint John Paul II, Incarnationis Mysterium, 8, in the year 2000).

John’s gospel clearly depicts this relationship between Jesus and us. “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 fitting that a Holy Door be situated within a church building. The door of the Church is the ianua ecclesia – “the silent witness to all the moments of our lives” (USCCB, About the Jubilee Door, 1999). Often sacramental rituals begin at the door – 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.

Therefore, let us create Holy Doors in our cathedrals or other significant churches which can be worthy symbols of Christ and a welcome invitation to seek Him within our communities of faith.

Merciful Forgiveness For the Evil of Abortion

The media is buzzing with news about Pope Francis' decision to extend to all priests permission to forgive the sin of abortion and reunite the penitent with the church and its sacraments during the Year of Mercy. Not surprisingly, some of it is slanted and/or incorrect. The pope is not relaxing the teaching on the immorality of abortion, but changing a disciplinary practice in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Church teaches that anyone who undergoes a completed abortion commits a grave moral evil, and anyone who performs one, helps procure one or assists at one cooperates with a grave moral evil. Those who do so deliberately and freely with knowledge of its serious consequences commit a mortal sin which disrupts their relationship with God and separates them from the church and its sacraments. Recent popes beginning with John Paul II have noted that fear, coercion, economic and social factors may lessen a person's culpability for the sin, but not the moral gravity of the offense.

There are two aspects to the sin of abortion - restoring our relationship with God and being welcomed back into communion with the church and its sacraments. Here are Bishop O'Connell's words on this subject:

     Canon Law states that "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs an automatic excommunication (c. 1398)."  This law pertains to all who deliberately procure an abortion or who deliberately cooperate or assist in its procurement.  The Church considers abortion so serious a sin that it attaches a penalty of automatic excommunication to its procurement.  There are two realities involved: (1) the sin of abortion itself and (2) the penalty of automatic excommunication attached to it.  Abortion as described here is considered a "reserved  sin;" that is, its absolution (the sin) and the lifting of its attached penalty (the automatic excommunication) requires the permission of the bishop, requested by the confessor confidentially as "a case or instance" without ever revealing the identity of the penitent involved.  The confessor asks the penitent to return to confession after his receiving permission from the bishop to absolve the sin and lift the penalty and he imparts absolution (of the sin) and remission (of the penalty).

Pope Francis has eliminated the need for recourse to the bishop during the Holy Year of Mercy ordinarily attached to the procurement of abortion.  All priests, therefore, may absolve the sin and lift the penalty of those confessing the sin with true contrition without first requesting the permission of the bishop.

In the Diocese of Trenton, some years ago, as permitted by Canon Law, Bishop John Reiss extended that same faculty to all priest confessors in the Diocese of Trenton without restricting it to any period of time.  That permission was never withdrawn and is still in force.  The Holy Father's extension of this provision does not represent anything new or not already in practice in the Diocese of Trenton.

I was informed by Bishop Reiss of this privilege at my ordination and am blessed to have been able to be part of the joyful reconcilation when a woman or a man seeks the merciful graces of the Sacrament of Penance.