Holy Doors of Mercy:
Spiritual Background and Meaning

Jesus said “Truly, I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10: 7-10

Many are the doors through which we pass in our lifetime. At birth, we emerged through a gateway to life and later, we entered the doorway to a new life at our baptism. We have stood on thresholds and looked forward, sometimes eagerly, sometimes with hesitation, at opportunities that lay before us. Doorways to new schools, first homes, tables of friendship, have greeted us along the way. We all know that eventually we will pass through one final door, the gateway from this life to eternal life.

During the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis invites us to contemplate the notion of a Holy Door, “a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.”

Holy Door at St. John Lateran

Holy Door at St. John Lateran1

We pass through some doors to enter holy space where we worship and give praise to God through sacred rites and private prayer, to encounter God’s love and abundant mercy. However, we are called not to “build our tent” in this space but to emerge through those same holy doors sent forth to cross the thresholds of other sacred doors – doors where we encounter the face of God in the poor and marginalized, physically or spiritually. We are called to be witnesses to God’s enduring love and limitless mercy through our own engagement with those who have not felt that love nor known that mercy from others.

In many families, there is the Epiphany tradition of blessing the doors of our homes and inscribing them with the initials of what custom says were the names of the three wise men, “C, B, M,” who came to the home of the Holy Family where the doors were opened in welcome. During this Year of Mercy, like that home in Bethlehem, may our homes and families, the domestic church, be places of welcome and mercy toward one another and to all who enter into our homes and lives.

As Pope Francis has designated certain church doors in Rome as Doors of Mercy. {Each diocese will also] designate specific church doors as a Door of Mercy.] These churches are sites where individuals, families and other groups may make a pilgrimage, a holy journey, seeking, remembering, and receiving God’s mercy.

“The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: 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.”1

(Excerpts from Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, Proclamation of Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy)