Catholic · Mercy · mid-Life

A Tale of Two Jubilees: Mercy or Me?


Dear Susan,

Leave it to Pope Francis to upstage us. After months of planning to make this past year all about us and our Golden Jubilee celebration, the Pope did a mic drop, declaring the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy  right in the middle of our special time.  I find it no accident that having spent 50 years on this earth, the world is suddenly in need of more mercy.  Our jubilee ended in August, but we have a couple of months left in the Jubilee of Mercy. So for those who haven’t had a chance to get their mercy on yet, there is still time to celebrate.

Birthday hot air balloon ride in California wine country – mid-life crisis or crisis waiting to happen?

As you know, the Church has regular jubilees every 25 years or so, but Popes can declare extraordinary jubilees to highlight a particular area of focus or celebration. You get cool stuff with jubilees, kind of like you get with milestone birthdays.  Instead of the awesome party (us), a trip (us) or a nice mid-life crisis red convertible (your husband), you get special church celebrations, Holy Doors, and indulgences, like time off in Purgatory.



This year, the Pope’s special, unplanned jubilee focused on all aspects mercy- giving and getting. And it has been great. There was a special prayer of mercy, a song of mercy (Misericordes sicut Pater), and people were encouraged to study and live out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  People actually got to learn what the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are. People were urged to go to confession. Priests were urged to be really nice to the people who went to confession. People were encouraged to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet, the set of prayers given to St. Faustina specifically meant to counter the great evils in today’s world.  While I was getting to learn works of mercy in ways I had never thought of before (see, Divine Mercy for Moms) and going to confession more, my hands-down favorite part of the jubilee was the Holy Doors.

This year, I have collected Holy Doors the way others have collected Pokemon.  So what is this all about? The Vatican opened a special door of mercy for the jubilee and encouraged dioceses around the world to do the same. I am waiting for someone to come up with “The Doors of Mercy” poster, like they used to have for certain cities.   I know we Catholics love our outward signs of faith and the doors fit the bill. Not only are the doors a visual reminder of the jubilee but – wait for it – they provide a kinesthetic mercy experience! (I didn’t get that teaching certificate for nothing.) If you walk through a Holy Door once a day and meet certain conditions, like going to confession and receiving the Eucharist, the Pope declared you can receive a plenary indulgence, taking away all or part of the punishment for sin.  You can do this for yourself or someone in Purgatory. I think it was a sign from above that we have holy doors just three miles away.  Aside from having a lot of deceased relatives, I have a sinking feeling my kiddos will not be praying for my soul in Purgatory, so I am loading up on as much mercy as I can get. I watch people at Mass exiting through the side doors and I feel like yelling, “Are you serious? The plenary indulgence is over here!” Why would you not do this?


Of course, all good things must come to an end. I am going to miss the Jubilee of Mercy as much as I miss my own jubilee year, which ended in a startling dose of reality. At the beginning of the Golden Jubilee, I loved spending time with you and our friends in the lap of luxury: a private guest house, driving a Porsche, enjoying a private dinner at the French Laundry. A year later, my husband and I were back in Napa, staying at the Embassy Suites, driving a Chevy and eating burgers at Gott’s. A humbling and somewhat fitting end to the year! At least we were there for a charity event for an animal shelter so we could get some mercy street cred. That wouldn’t even have occurred to me a year ago! Let me see… that would be at least three corporal works of mercy. Wait – do they apply to dogs?  Can you clothe a naked dog? Is dog training kind of the same as “admonishing the sinner”?

This may not be a holy door but it was practically a religious experience.


In the end, both were great trips, regardless of circumstances,  and both jubilees were unforgettable. I am glad that my special year was one in which I learned the value of mercy.  Just as importantly, both experiences taught me the lesson of living with intention and purpose. Both jubilees were once-in-a-lifetime experiences, which, at our age, takes on a whole new meaning.  And learning to receive mercy? Perhaps that was the best gift of all.


Only nine more years until the Diamond Jubilee,


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