Padre Pio in the Confession Box

Holy Doors

The opening of the Holy Door in Rome has long been a central feature of the tradition of Holy Years in the Church. For centuries Popes have opened the Holy Doors in the four major basilicas of Rome. For the Great Jubilee Year of 2000, Pope St. John Paul II allowed Holy Doors to be opened throughout the Church so that as many people as possible could receive the Holy Year indulgence. In the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis followed the example set by Pope St. John Paul II, by allowing many Holy Doors to be opened throughout the Church. The first Holy Door Pope Francis opened was not in the Vatican but in Africa, at the Cathedral of Bangui, during his apostolic visit to he Central African Republic. 

The Door of Mercy

But this is not the only innovation which the present Pope has introduced for the Holy Year. He said that “the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instils hope”. As I have travelled around the country and preached in many places that have Holy Doors, I have seen the extraordinary appeal the “Door of Mercy” has for many people. Time and time again I have met people as they have returned to confession after many decades because they experienced the “Door of Mercy” as being open to them and they felt encouraged to go through and begin again.

Jesus the Good Shepard

When Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepard, he refers to himself as the door, he says in John 10:9, “I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out to find pasture”. This teaches us that Jesus himself is the Door into God’s mercy and we must enter through him to receive the mercy that allows us to live our lives in peace and joy, for he says that he has come that we may have life and have it to the full. 

O Blood and Water

Jesus opened himself up as the door of mercy on the Cross. We read in the nineteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel: “Since it was the day of preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with spear and at once there came out blood and water.” 

This passage describes for us the opening of the first and only true door of mercy. It is the heart of Jesus that is the doorway for us to meet the mercy and love of God. We don’t know why the soldier pierced the side of Jesus. Was he angry or frustrated, did he do it just to make sure that Jesus was dead? For whatever reason the soldier pierced the heart of Jesus he unwittingly opened the door of mercy for the whole world.

God's Responce to our sinfulness

It wasn’t an act of love which opened the door but an act of violence. Jesus’ mercy is his response to violence and hatred. God’s response to our sinfulness is mercy and forgiveness. This is God’s way of responding. All around us we see violence causing violence, hatred being piled upon hatred; this is our way of responding, not God’s. The blood and water which flowed from the heart of Jesus, once it was opened by the spear became for us all a font of mercy and love. All other doors of mercy are invitations for us to go through this real Door of Mercy into the heart of Jesus.

The Door of the Confession Box

As we celebrated the Year of Mercy and were invited to go through the Door of Mercy, we remembered that every door of every church is a door of mercy, and every door of every confession box is a door of mercy. The Jubilee Year was a reminder to us of the great gift of mercy that we have every day in the Church and which we receive in the sacraments.

The Door of Mercy of every confession box is a special invitation for us to personally receive the mercy of God. All the others sacraments we tend to celebrate in groups, as a parish or a congregation, but when we go into “the box” we go alone. We go to tell our own personal stories and to receive the personal love of God for each of us. Our need for mercy opens the door of mercy, just as it was violence that opened the heart of Jesus on the Cross so when we come to the Lord admitting we have sinned Jesus opens the flood gates of his mercy into our lives.

Trust in His Mercy

For God, each of us is special, each has his or her own journey to make, that is why the Church insists, out of mercy, that we go to individual confession. For Jesus we are not a face in a crowd or just a number. Jesus speaking as the Good Shepherd teaches us: the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, one by one he calls his own sheep. This personal contact in the confessional is not there to embarrass us but to take us seriously. God listens to “my” need for forgiveness and mercy and his showers his mercy into my weak and often broken life, my life which is wounded and so often wounds others because of my unhappiness and selfishness. As in the Blessed Eucharist the Lord feeds our hunger so in the confessional my need of mercy causes the Lord to show mercy. 


Let us enter in joy through the door of mercy and learn how we are loved and how we in our turn will become doors of mercy to others by opening to them the love of Jesus.

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St. Eunan's Cathedral, Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland

St. Eunan's Cathedral

Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland



You can pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with the Sisters of Merciful Jesus everyday at 3pm via the webcam in St. Eunan's Cathedral, Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland.