Holy Doors of Mercy

My first experience with a Holy Door of Mercy was on August 2, 1989, when I was visiting the charming city of Assisi, Italy, the home of the beloved “FRANCESCO.” I was so taken by Francis’ kindness and goodness and peacefulness that a year later, July 31, 1990, we named our 4th son “F R A N C I S.” Our Francis is now 25 years old.

How happy I was on March 13, 2013, when our newly elected pope took the same name for the same reason.

porziuncola-assisiLa Porziuncola in Assisi, Italy


The Pardon of Assisi

For over seven centuries on the 1st and 2nd of August, in Santa Maria degli Angeli, the “Feast of Pardon” is celebrated. It is one of the highlights of the year for the entire community of Assisi. While visiting the Porziuncola (the tiny church within the walls of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels) on these two days, pilgrims can receive the gift of plenary indulgence, the forgiveness of all their sins.

Tradition says that one night in 1216, while St. Francis was praying in the little church of the Porziuncola, he saw Christ and the Virgin Mary above the altar, surrounded by angels. That evening they asked him what he wanted for the souls of the faithful. Francis asked them for a broad and generous pardon with a complete remission of all sins for all those who repent and confess, after entering the little church. The prayer was granted on condition that the Pope, vicar of God on earth, was informed about it.

At that time Pope Innocent III had just died in Perugia and the papal conclave held there elected Pope Honorius III. Francis and Masseo went to Perugia, and were able to obtain  from both Pope Honorius III and the cardinals, a plenary indulgence for those who crossed the entrance of the Porziuncola on August 2nd, a liberation “from the guilt and punishment in heaven and on earth” since baptism until the day and time of entry into the church.

S.M.degli.Angeli042Concession of the Indulgence, fresco by Tiberio Diatelevi (1470-1524)

A few days later a Francesco tearfully announced, to the people at the Porziuncola: “My brothers, I want us all in Heaven!” This famous moment is imprinted in another fresco by Tiberio Diatelevi. Both frescoes are in the Chapel of the Roses in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi.

S.M.degli.Angeli043 (1)St. Francis preaching, fresco by Tiberio Diatelevi

Walking through that Holy Door of Mercy in 1989 on the feast of the Pardon of Assisi was a special moment in my life that I will never forget.


Holy Door of Mercy

Pope Francis opening Holy DoorPope Francis opening the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica, inaugurating the Jubilee of Mercy.


On December 8, 2015 during his homily, Pope Francis said that this Holy Year is “itself a gift of grace.”

“To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them,” he continued.

Pope Francis concluded his homily by saying “as we pass through the Holy Door, we also want to remember another door, which fifty years ago the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council opened to the world.”

Pope Francis said the anniversary cannot be remembered only for the legacy of the Council’s documents, but must also remember the “encounter” which happened at the Council.

The Jubilee challenges us to this openness, and demands that we not neglect the spirit which emerged from Vatican II, the spirit of the Samaritan, as Blessed Paul VI expressed it at the conclusion of the Council” – he said – “May our passing through the Holy Door today commit us to making our own the mercy of the Good Samaritan.”


Holy Doors of Mercy in the Jubilee of Mercy
Dec 8, 2015 to Nov 20, 2016

On December 13, 2015 all the Holy Doors in Cathedrals and designated churches throughout the world opened to pilgrims. I remember thinking, “Wouldn’t it be a great year to walk The Way of St. James of Compostela?” because I read that the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela has a Holy Door. After the long pilgrimage hiking across southern France to northern Spain it would be a wonderful reward to be able to walk through that Holy Door.

PuertadelPerdnSantiagodeCompostelaHoly Door of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain

I am presently in the South of France getting ready to lead 2 week-long Saint Mary Magdalene Novena Pilgrimages over the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene (July 22nd). Two days ago I drove to St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, and the first thing I did was walk to the basilica because I wanted to go down to the crypt for a personal visit. This crypt holds the Skull of Mary Magdalene in a gold reliquary behind an iron gate.

On approaching the front door of the basilica I was surprised at the same time so happy to see the sign to the right of the door, “PORTE SAINTE,” relaying that this is also a Holy Door!

What a gift of grace this is!
Holy Door - cropped
Holy Door of Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine
Holy Door of the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine,
St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, France
To find your way to other Holy Doors of Mercy click below:
Holy Doors of Mercy
NOTE: The website linked above lists the Holy Doors of Mercy throughout the world, country by country. When I looked up “FRANCE,” I did not see the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine listed so I have written to them so they can add it.


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