A couple of months ago, I posted a reflection on my experiences of walking through different Holy Doors during this extraordinary Jubilee Year. I wondered what experiences others were having with the opened Holy Doors, which the U.S. Bishops had described as “one of the central components of the Jubilee of Mercy.” I have now walked through two more Holy Doors, on two different continents, and my initial impression of the incredible diversity of expressions has only been confirmed. Here are my two most recent experiences:
In terms both of context and content, the spiritually richest Holy Door was the one at the Cathedral of Speyer, in Germany. The richness of the experience was due in part to the fact that this sanctuary is not only an ecclesial but also a culturally very prominent space. Its full title, The Romanesque Imperial Cathedral Basilica of Speyer, points to the fact that the church is both the cathedral church of the bishop of Speyer and also a UNESCO world heritage site. The door designated as the Holy Door at the Cathedral Basilica was one of the side doors, thus distinguishing this entry from the main tourist entry into the sanctuary. The door was marked with banners, lights, and flower – all things I had witnessed in other cathedrals. What distinguished this one was the thoughtfulness and care that had been taken to enable pilgrims who had walked through the Holy Door to continue to walk through the inside of the cathedral in meditative pilgrimage. An attractive leaflet with contemplative texts and beautiful images guided this “journey of mercy” through the sanctuary, with stops at the baptismal font, the Romanesque nave, the statue of Mary, the main altar, and, finally, a corner of the church where one could linger, write a prayer on a piece of paper and pin it to a wall, or request a conversation with a priest.
My most recent walk through a Holy Door was spiritually compelling and moving for very different reasons. I visited the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston last month, and walked through its Holy Door of Mercy. This too was a side door, marked with banners, flowers, and lights. Was made the visit so compelling was not so much the visuality of the Holy Door or the walk through the sanctuary (as beautiful as both are), but the fact that I learned of the unfolding mass shooting in Munich through a text alert on my smartphone while in the Cathedral. Seeking mercy – especially for all those affected by this senseless mass killing – and walking through the Holy Doors with a feeling of carrying people on my back, gave this visit an unexpected urgency and depth.
If you have not walked through a Holy Door of Mercy and wish to before these doors are closed in late November, the Vatican website provides an interactive Google map that shows all the Holy Doors around the world (or at least all those that have been registered with the Vatican).