On 8 December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Holy Father Pope Francis opened the Holy Doors of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to inaugurate the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy 2016. On the same day, Bishop James V. Johnston presented to Abbot Gregory Polan, O.S.B., a letter designating Conception Abbey’s Basilica of the Immaculate Conception an official pilgrimage site for celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph.
On the Third Sunday of Advent, or Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday following these special events, Abbot Gregory reenacted at Conception Abbey the pope’s solemn ritual at Saint Peter’s: the doors of the Basilica at Conception Abbey were solemnly opened and our own celebration of the Jubilee Year inaugurated with all the joy appropriate to Gaudete Sunday, when the Church admonishes all her members to “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
The Holy Father has expressed the hope that a “revolution in tenderness” may be achieved through the celebration of the Jubilee Year. He indicates that celebrations are to emphasize the fact that God’s mercy is readily available to all who belong to the Church. “To live the indulgence of the Holy Year means to approach the Father’s mercy with the certainty that his forgiveness extends to the entire life of the believer,” the pope said in Misericordiae Vultus, the official apostolic letter announcing the Jubilee Year. Furthermore, the Church has a special role in bringing God’s loving mercy to the whole world.
In designating the Basilica at Conception Abbey an official pilgrimage site for the Holy Year, Bishop Johnston noted the importance of relationship between the diocese and the monastic community. Quoting Pope Francis, the bishop affirmed that “this door of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception ‘will become a DOOR OF MERCY through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope’.” Thus the plenary indulgence of the Jubilee Year of Mercy is now available to those who visit Conception Abbey during the Jubilee Year.
The ritual opening the Holy Doors included a sprinkling of the congregation with holy water, recalling the purification from sin achieved by our baptism, and concluded with a prayer that all who pass through the doors might truly experience the mercy of God that is the heart of this jubilee celebration: “Grant that your faithful may pass through this gate, and be welcomed into your presence, so that they may experience, O Father, your abundant mercy.”
Pope Francis provides these directions regarding the pilgrimage and the plenary indulgence: 1) To obtain the indulgence, the faithful are invited to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Doors as a sign of their deep desire for true conversion. 2) The pilgrimage is to be linked to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and 3) to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, with prayerful reflection on God’s mercy to us, and our call to extend that mercy to others. 4) The pilgrimage is also to include a profession of faith (the Creed) and prayers for the pope and his intentions.
The monks of Conception Abbey are honored that their ministry of hospitality will thus provide a foundational element for the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in our diocese. “Our manner of tenderness and mercy, compassion and generosity should speak to those we meet; so our small part in the Holy Father’s ‘revolution of tenderness’ will speak more in deeds than in words,” Abbot Gregory said in his homily marking the opening of Conception’s Holy Doors.
The Guest Department of Conception Abbey has planned several programs and events to allow pilgrims to participate in the Holy Year. These include a Holy Hour for Mercy on the following Sundays and feast days during the Jubilee Year: the First Sunday of Lent (14 February 2016); Divine Mercy Sunday (3 April 2016); the Feast of Corpus Christi (29 May 2016); and the Solemnity of Christ the King, concluding the Year of Jubilee (20 November 2016). The Holy Hour services will be celebrated from 2 to 3 p.m., and will include solemn entrance through the Holy Door, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, opportunity for confession, Scripture readings and homily, and other prayers. Confessors will be available at each of these observances.
Parish groups are welcome to visit the basilica on weekdays for celebration of the Eucharist at 11:45. Lunch is also available for such groups in our guest dining room. Programs for pilgrims would provide time for both personal prayer and for the official Prayer of the Jubilee Year. Due to the number of guests we welcome each day, we ask that group visits be arranged at least two weeks in advance of the anticipated date. To schedule visits for yourself or your group, or for further information, call (660) 944-2809, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.