Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On December 8, 2015, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of Mercy in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, thus inaugurating the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy which will last until November 20, 2016. Our Holy Father fervently desires that this Holy Year “be for all believers a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God… a living experience of the closeness of the Father…” (
Letter of Pope Francis). Just a few days later, I had the joy of opening the Holy Door of Mercy at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Spokane, and, exactly two months after that I opened a second Holy Door of Mercy at St. Patrick Parish in Pasco.
In this holy season of Lent, the Church accompanies Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. Jesus calls each of us to move from where we are to where God wants us to be. He summons us to be united with Him in His Passion and Death, so as to share in His Resurrection. He calls us to be saints.
Yet we are each aware of our weakness, of our many faults, and the many times we have strayed from the path of holiness. Many of our contemporaries lie by the side of the road, wounded by sin, paralyzed by fear, blinded by pride, prejudice, and pain. At times, recognizing the weakness of our own strength, we too are tempted to give up hope. Our diocese as a whole, and each of us, can say with King David, “For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me” (
Ps 51:5). Nonetheless, from our hearts surges also the cry of the blind Bartimaeus, begging by the roadside, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (
With this letter I wish to add my own voice to that of Pope Francis as we echo the words of the apostles, “Take courage! Get up—He is calling you!” (
The mercy of God is more than the forgiveness of sins. God’s mercy
precedes our sins. Before creation existed, and for all eternity, God has always been and always will be Mercy itself. God’s mercy is creative; it brings new things to life, and restores life where it has been lost.
We see the fullest expression of Divine Mercy in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, bringing us new life and removing all that separates us from our destiny: communion with God. On the octave day of Easter the Church celebrates the Feast of Divine Mercy, proclaiming with all creation, “His mercy endures forever” (cf.,
Our vocation is a gift of God’s mercy. In this Jubilee Year, God is calling our diocese, and each one of us, to experience anew
each day the joy of forgiveness, and
each day to be transformed into agents of God’s mercy for our world. Our diocese as a whole is called to lead others forth so that they may experience this mercy themselves. This is the task of education (
“educere”= “to lead forth”). In fidelity to our vocation and our mission, together as a diocese we shall grow in holiness. These are the three priorities which I have before my eyes as Bishop of Spokane:
Mary is the foremost recipient of the Father’s Mercy, who kept her free from Original Sin from the first moment of her conception. Mary has always shared that mercy with others, most especially in cooperating with the life and mission of her Son, Jesus. Her mission of mercy continues also in other ways, such as through the healing waters of Lourdes, and in the comforting words of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Truly I will hear their cry, their sadness, in order to remedy, to cure all their various troubles their miseries, their pains” (
There are three inter-related elements essential to living this Jubilee Year fully. First, we are called to make a
pilgrimage. Symbolic of the road each of us walks in life, each of us should make a pilgrimage to at least one of the two Holy Doors established in our diocese. In reality, the Holy Door is but a symbol of the “gate to the sheepfold” who is Jesus (cf., John 10:9). Pope Francis writes that the pilgrimage to the Holy Door 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” (
14). Jesus invites us, like Peter, to get out of our boats and walk to Jesus across the waves with confidence saying, “Jesus, I trust in You!” (cf.,
The second essential element is the
Jubilee Indulgence. An Indulgence is a removal of the temporal punishment due to sins which have already been forgiven (cf.,
Catechism, 1471). Pope Francis has granted a Plenary Indulgence to each person who makes such a pilgrimage during this Holy Year as a sign of deep desire for true conversion. In order to receive the Indulgence, it is necessary to link one’s pilgrimage to the Holy Door with the Sacraments of Reconciliation and to the Eucharist. Further, we must profess our unity in the Church by praying the Apostles Creed, and pray for the intentions of the Pope with an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.
This Jubilee Indulgence can be gained every day, by every one of the faithful, in the entire world. In addition, it can be applied to oneself, or be offered for the dead. Think of the immense spiritual good that can be shared with all those who have died if each person, each day in our diocese were to gain an Indulgence for our family members, friends, and enemies who have died!
There are many who cannot make a pilgrimage to the Cathedral or to St. Patrick Parish. For example, the sick, the homebound, the elderly, the youth, and those in prison. Yet no one is excluded. The sick and elderly can join their sufferings to Christ, receiving communion or attending Mass (even through television, radio, or internet), and in this way receive the Jubilee Indulgence. The incarcerated may obtain the Indulgence in the prison chapels. Finally, “each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions (the corporal and spiritual works of mercy), he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence.”
Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy
The third essential element of this Jubilee Year is a life of mercy marked by the
Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Our encounter with the mercy of God must transform us from being mere recipients to being
agents of that mercy. We see this in the lives of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and St. Vincent de Paul. These two great Apostles of Mercy are examples for us to follow, for they experienced God’s mercy themselves and worked tirelessly as channels of mercy for others.
Divine Mercy Sunday
Throughout the year, there will be various events to help our diocese celebrate this Extraordinary Jubilee. The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated this year on April 3, will take on even greater significance, with celebrations at the Cathedral and in St. Patrick Parish in Walla Walla, as well as elsewhere. More information about these events will be forthcoming as it becomes available.
This is truly a time of grace for the Diocese of Spokane as a whole and for each one of us. As we proceed through Lent toward the glory of Easter, I pray that we will hear the call which the Father is addressing to us, and respond with joy. Transformed by His merciful embrace in the sacraments, I pray that we become living instruments of His mercy and lead others to encounter the mercy of God.
Assuring you of my prayers for you, and entrusting you to the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Thomas A. Daly
Bishop of Spokane