HARTFORD – Two events in December will usher in an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which begins Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Responding to Pope Francis’ call to celebrate the jubilee year, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair will officiate at a special liturgy Dec. 13 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph and invite pilgrims to enter through a “Holy Door of mercy.” The event will begin at 3 p.m. with prayers and a procession through the Holy Door.
A second event on Dec. 27 will be a Jubilee of Families, coinciding with the Feast of the Holy Family.
Father Michael Ruminski, who assists at the cathedral and coordinates Year of Mercy events for the archdiocese, said one of the side doors in the cathedral’s vestibule has been sealed with aluminum plating and will serve as the Holy Door.
“The door itself is Christological,” Father Ruminski said. “It is a symbol of Christ. When the doors are opened, we are reminded of the Gospel of John [10:9], when Jesus says, ‘I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.’”
Just as the pope opens the Holy Door in Rome to inaugurate a holy year, Archbishop Blair will open the sealed door inside St. Joseph Cathedral, he said.
The ceremonies following the procession through the door will include vespers, or evening prayers; hymns; exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; and benediction, Father Ruminski said.
All priests, deacons, religious communities and faithful of the archdiocese are invited, he said.
“We are also requesting two representatives from each parish to be there. We would like the cathedral to be standing room only,” he said.
The idea of a jubilee year stems from Mosaic law, he said. “We hear in the Mosaic law that every seventh year is a year of rest, and every seventh seventh year is to be a great jubilee. That’s where we get the concept that every 50 years there is to be a jubilee year. In Mosaic tradition, it was a year when all debts are forgiven, all slaves are released. It was a great time of rest and restitution and forgiveness in the nation of Israel,” Father Ruminski said.
In Catholicism, a jubilee year is a special time in which to receive forgiveness and reconciliation, he said.
Jubilee years now occur every 25 years in the Catholic Church, rather than every 50 years, to allow every generation to experience one. Additional, or extraordinary, jubilees of varying lengths are occasionally proclaimed by the pope, he said. Extraordinary jubilee years were proclaimed in 1933 and 1983 to mark 1,900 and 1,950 years, respectively, since Christ redeemed us on the cross, he said.
Father Ruminski said a plenary indulgence will be granted to pilgrims who enter the Holy Door at St. Joseph Cathedral during the Year of Mercy and say a prayer for the intention of Pope Francis.
On Dec. 27, the archdiocese will welcome families to the cathedral, where Archbishop Blair will celebrate Mass. It is an opportunity for every family in the archdiocese to make a special pilgrimage to St. Joseph Cathedral, their mother church, he said.
“That should be a very beautiful celebration,” he said.
During Lent, the faithful of the archdiocese will be encouraged to perform works of mercy and to contemplate God’s mercy, Father Ruminski said. “One way will be through Lenten mercy groups [at the parish level], which will be a four-week meditation on mercy,” he said. These meditations will begin on the second Sunday in Lent and end on Palm Sunday, he said.
Special events are envisioned for the second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, he said. Plans are incomplete, but events may include a brief foot pilgrimage in Hartford ending at the cathedral.
During the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis will perform acts of corporal and spiritual works of mercy in Rome, and Archbishop Blair will perform similar acts here, Father Ruminski said.
Other archdiocesan agencies, including Small Christian Communities, are offering ideas for an evolving plan of action for the jubilee year. Plans will be announced when they are finalized, Father Ruminski said.
“We all do works of mercy throughout our lives,” but we are called in a special way to do so this year, he said. “We’re doing this because we have been transformed somehow by the grace in the goodness of God,” he said.
“Mercy is really not receiving what you should receive. We should receive condemnation; we should receive death; but God instead has chosen to show forgiveness,” Father Ruminski said.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy will end on Nov. 20, 2016, the feast of Christ the King.