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By Deacon Steve Hodge
This past year we Catholics have been celebrating the Jubilee of Mercy, in which we remember God’s compassion, love and mercy. Pope Francis asked that every diocese throughout the world have a Door of Mercy available for the people to walk through during this Jubilee of Mercy to remind us of our merciful God.
In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis there are two Doors of Mercy. Both were opened on December 8, 2015 and both will be closed on November 13, 2016. One is located at Saint Meinrad in southern Indiana and the other is located at SS. Peter & Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.
I have been the pastoral associate at SS. Peter & Paul Cathedral since the beginning of 2016 and have seen hundreds of people visit our cathedral to walk through the Door of Mercy. Some have been individuals, some have been families, some have been part of a small group, and others have been part of larger groups and parish pilgrimages. Many people come specifically to walk through the Door of Mercy, say a few prayers and then leave. Others come and may add a tour of the cathedral, mass or the sacrament of reconciliation. Regardless of how much time they spend during their trip to the cathedral to visit the Door of Mercy, all of these pilgrims share one thing in common; that is they have the opportunity to experience God’s grace in a special way that is out of the ordinary. Walking through the Door of Mercy is not ordinary because the door will eventually be closed in November and will no longer be available.
Several parishes in the archdiocese have invited their parishioners to participate in a parish pilgrimage to the cathedral. Earlier this year, a group from St. Malachy in Brownsburg, travelled to the cathedral for a special mass, a walk through the Door of Mercy and a tour of the cathedral. Their pastor, Fr. Vince Lampert, led the pilgrimage for nearly 400 of his parishioners. The mass was beautiful and concluded with the congregation following their pastor as he recessed out into the narthex and then returned into the cathedral with a walk through the Door of Mercy. Afterwards they were given an hour long tour of the cathedral and the chapel.
On two separate occasions, a group of approximately 40 people and their pastor Fr. Rick Eldred, from St. Vincent de Paul in Bedford, arrived on a tour bus. They walked through the Door of Mercy, were given a tour of the cathedral and the chapel, and finished with mass in the chapel.
A few weeks ago, approximately 50 people along with their pastor, Fr. Steve Jarrell, from Christ the King in Indianapolis, walked through the Door of Mercy and joined our parish for the 5:00 pm vigil mass on Saturday evening.
Fr. Todd Riebe recently invited the Knights of Columbus to join him for a walk through the Door of Mercy, to participate in the sacrament of Reconciliation and to pray a rosary together.
A Respect Life group from SS. Francis & Clare in Greenwood, arrived at the cathedral one afternoon, walked through the Door of Mercy, and celebrated mass and the sacrament of Reconciliation before they began their walk to Terre Haute to visit the Shrine of St. Theodora Guerin.
We have had several groups of school children arrive at the Cathedral for a tour and a walk through the Door of Mercy. A group of middle schoolers from St. Mark in Indianapolis toured during the summer and, this past week, a group of 3rd graders, their teachers and their parents visited from SS. Francis and Clare in Greenwood. They had the added bonus of meeting with Archbishop Tobin during their stay. A group of ‘home schooled’ children and parents also visited the cathedral for a tour and a walk through the Door of Mercy. All of the children were well behaved and asked several questions about the Door of Mercy and the cathedral. They learned about the bishop’s ‘cathedra’, the root word for cathedral. They were fascinated by the communion rail and the reconciliation room in the chapel.
We have had dozens of other groups visit the cathedral during this Year of Mercy, however, I can only guess as to how many individual pilgrims visited the cathedral to reflect on God’s infinite mercy. I suspect that we have had thousands of people walk through the Door of Mercy this year.
One of the thousands of individual pilgrims that arrived at our Cathedral was a man from another state who had been visiting Doors of Mercy throughout the United States. When he arrived in Indianapolis, he had already visited over 25 Doors of Mercy and had plans to visit many more.
I’d now like to share the story of Casey, one of our individual visitors to the Door of Mercy. Casey had been a guest in our soup kitchen who was introduced to me one day in March. We discussed the issue of homelessness and the decline of ‘low income’ housing in our area that was currently underway. During our conversation, Casey, homeless himself, hinted that he had been not been practicing his faith for decades. He was a cradle catholic but he didn’t elaborate as to why he was non-practicing. I sensed that he had a heavy burden that weighed him down and hindered his relationship with God. At the end of our conversation I invited Casey to visit our cathedral and walk through the Door of Mercy. I asked him to offer some prayers for the homeless and the poor. As I returned to my office, my mind returned to my ‘to do’ list that was on my desk.
A few hours later I walked in to the cathedral to check on our cleaning crew who were washing and waxing our floors to prepare for Holy Week. I was a bit startled when I looked toward the Door of Mercy and I saw Casey standing in the doorway with his eyes closed and his lips moving in prayer. A few moments later Casey looked up and saw me and then we began another conversation. This time, though, our conversation was more about spirituality and less about homelessness and low income housing. That evening, Casey came to our chapel and joined us at the 5:15 pm mass. A few days later, he attended the 5:15 pm mass again and afterwards sought out the confessional for the sacrament of reconciliation. Casey was ‘on fire’ spiritually because he was reminded of God’s love and mercy while standing in the Door of Mercy and because of his participation in the sacrament of reconciliation. Casey joined us at the cathedral for all of the Holy Week masses and the Easter vigil. A few weeks later, he was able to spend 5 days at Saint Meinrad in Southern Indiana praying with the monks as he continued his renewed life in Christ. All of this was possible because of the gift of God’s great mercy and Casey’s willingness to accept that gift.
These are just a few of the parishes, groups and individuals who walked through the Door of Mercy at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. There were many others who went unmentioned. Mentioned or unmentioned, this year has been a special year for all of God’s people who have walked through a Door of Mercy because we have been reminded in a special way of God’s infinite mercy. May we never tire of hearing that message and experiencing God’s mercy in our lives.