The Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the provincial superior of the Marians’ Stockbridge, Massachusetts-based province, leads a procession through the Holy Door at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. The blessing occurred just hours after Pope Francis kicked off the Church's extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on Dec. 8. The Shrine has been named an official pilgrimage location for the year.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy Begins

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From the Vatican to all points on the compass, a "gift of grace" is ours for the taking.

Pope Francis inaugurated the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy on Dec. 8, urging the faithful to come to know the face of God's mercy — Jesus Christ — and to show that face of mercy to our friends, neighbors, and enemies alike.

"This extraordinary Holy Year is itself a gift of grace," Pope Francis said in his homily for the Jubilee's opening Mass, just before opening the Holy Door in St. Peter's Basilica.

Only hours later, the Marian Fathers in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, opened a newly installed Holy Door of their own at the inside entrance to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. Indeed, at the request of Pope Francis, for the first time in the 700-year-old tradition of Jubilee years, dioceses around the world opened their own Holy Doors at specific pilgrimage locations. The Shrine in Stockbridge was selected by the Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, the bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, to be among the diocese's official Jubilee Year destinations.

Check out scenes from the Shrine's celebration:

As the Holy Father has explained, to pass through a Jubilee year Holy Door is meant to symbolically illustrate an "extraordinary pathway" toward reconciliation during the time of Jubilee. Pilgrims who pass through a Holy Door — which is only opened during Jubilee years — can receive a plenary indulgence, according to the usual conditions.

"To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them," the Holy Father said in his homily. "This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God's mercy."

The Marians expect a very busy pilgrimage year.

The Dec. 8 opening of the Jubilee of Year of Mercy coincided with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the patronal feast day of the Marians who, since their founding in 1673, have spread devotion to the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. The Pope chose this feast day to inaugurate the Jubilee Year in order that the faithful will turn to Mary for her intercession and be strengthened by her witness of trust and humility.

"What an historic moment," the Very Rev. Fr. Kaz Chwalek, MIC, said to the more than 200 Marian Helpers, priests, and brothers who were the first to step through the Shrine's Holy Door on Dec. 8.

"The Holy Father says these are urgent times, difficult times," Fr. Kaz said. "In a prophetic voice, he says the world needs mercy today more than ever."

To those assembled, Fr. Kaz reiterated what is the Holy Father is asking of each of us this Jubilee Year. We are to read and mediate on Scripture; perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy; and live the sacramental life to the fullest.

"May this Year of Mercy be a year in which we will measure our future life," Fr. Kaz said. "May it be the year in which we say, 'The good Lord has transformed me.'"

Visit our website to learn more about the Jubilee Year, including the plenary indulgences available to the faithful.

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