The Year of Mercy is almost over, and I still haven’t taken the kids on pilgrimage to the Holy Door. Sure, the pilgrimage is optional. Sure, I take them to Mass and religious ed every week, so I’m at least hitting the bare minimum for Catholic parenting. But we’ve only got one month left in this jubilee, and we’ve been too busy to walk through that door.
Want to know the worst part? We live 15 minutes from it.
We drive past the Archabbey all the time, as we’re rushing from one activity to the next. We’ve even been on the grounds a few times, but too caught up in our plans to walk a little further, pray a little harder, and make our pilgrimage.
Part of the issue is that I want the pilgrimage to include prayer with the monks. If we’re going to make a mercy pilgrimage, it should be a really good pilgrimage, right? Not one of these quick ones that aren’t that special. And it should happen on a fall day with a blue sky and a nice breeze and glorious trees, so my kids can remember it forever, even on their darkest days.
Besides, what if we made the visit, crossed through the door, and didn’t have time to make it to Confession in the next 20 days? And to receive the Eucharist that day? We’d have wasted it! No plenary indulgence for us.
And so, we haven’t been because we don’t have time to make more than a mediocre pilgrimage, and my kids deserve a great pilgrimage, don’t they?
Isn’t that how mercy always goes, though? We all need God’s Mercy, all the time. And Jesus is right there, all the time, with his hands stretched out waiting for us. But we’re too busy. We have work and school and chores and neighbors and cars and radios and we don’t stop, even for a moment, and take him up on his offer of Mercy. We know, intellectually, that we need Mercy, but we don’t have time. We’ll get to it later. Until there’s a crisis, everything stops, and we realize what we need.
It makes sense that, at the Crucifixion, St. Dismas was the only one to beg for and receive a promise of Mercy. He had nothing else to do. He was at his lowest moment. He wasn’t busy. He was dying. He had time to ask for what Jesus always wants to give us, and he had a hard and fast deadline. He had time for Mercy, because he knew how little time he had left.
I need to take my kids to the Holy Door before the Jubilee Year ends. I need to take them to Confession more often. I need to wake up every morning, say, “Jesus I Trust in You” and “Lord, have Mercy on me, a sinner.” And I don’t, because I hit the ground running, dash from activity to activity, stay up too late, and pray too little.
I need to make time for Mercy, and yet Mercy doesn’t need time. It just needs my heart to turn upward long enough to receive the grace already on offer. But I tell myself I don’t have time for that.
I think Francis knew what he was doing when he gave us a deadline for the doors. It focuses the mind and forces us to put things on the calendar. It’s similar to the way that the end of the liturgical year always focuses on the end of the world and the end our lives. Without the clear cut-off, people like me would never make time for Mercy.
More to read: No Matter Where I Am, a Catholic Church Is Always Home