Opening the Door on a New Year: Pilgrimage to the First Holy Door Outside of Europe January 04, 2015 12:52

As our followers know, our name/logo “Mahalo Ke Akua” means “Thanks be to God” in Hawaiian.  We aim to touch people of all faiths and backgrounds, because we believe the ideals of gratitude, humility and love should be principles of humanity.  

Our faith background is rooted in Catholicism, but have always been open to learning about other faith backgrounds as we believe most of all in unity and love under one Creator, by whatever name you call Him.

When we learned of the first Holy Door outside of Europe in Québec City, Canada we started planning a pilgrimage to this rare symbol of universal faith and welcoming.

What is a Holy Door?

A Holy Door is a symbol of unity with the Universal Church. It is also a symbol of community assembly, an invitation to persons of good will to enter, whatever their religious denomination.

Each of the four papal basilicas in Rome has a Holy Door.  They are opened during Jubilee years, when pilgrims (who have prepared themselves spiritually through discernment and prayer) enter through those doors to gain the plenary indulgence (entire forgiveness of sin that can normally only be granted by The Pope).

Holy Doors are sealed after the Jubilee, and opened only once every 25 years.

The Significance of Notre-Dame de Québec’s Holy Door

Notre-Dame de Québec was the first Catholic diocese north of Mexico and the Spanish colonies. Seen as the mother parish of all Catholic dioceses in Canada and the U.S.

On December 8th 2013, in a rare ceremony performed only once a generation, Notre-Dame became the seventh Holy Door in the Catholic world, the first outside of Europe (four are in Rome, one in Ars-sur-Formans, France, the other in Santiago de Compostela in Spain), to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the basilica.

Notre-Dame de Québec’s Holy Door is a heavy two-sided bronze door, with Christ on one side and Mary on the other.  The closing ceremony was on December 28th 2014; the Holy Door will be locked until the next time the Holy Doors in Rome are opened, in 2025.

Learn More About Notre-Dame de Québec’s Holy Door at the links below:

Official Website 

Article: Holy Door Opens in Quebec, the first outside of Europe

Our Experience at Notre-Dame de Québec: The Day We Held Hands with Jesus

When we arrived at the Cathedral-Basilica, we had to wait in line outside the Garden of the Jubilee.  I generally cannot handle temperatures below 80°F, and it was nearly a one hour wait in 14 °F weather.

They say the time spent in the Garden of the Jubilee should be used for contemplation to prepare you for your experience, and it’s interesting how my contemplation came about – at a point, my toes were in excruciating pain from near frost-bite, which made me think of my history of pain as a road to my spiritual enlightenment… 

I used to not attend church regularly, claiming “love is my religion” and that I was “spiritual, not religious”.  In Fall 2012, I experienced emotional pain so traumatic I turned to God and church.  At Mass one Sunday, there was an announcement about a speech being given about “Spirituality vs Religion, Which Side Are You On?” which sparked my interest.  The Priest who spoke was highly charismatic, and in speaking to him afterwards realized that even as a Catholic Priest, had interfaith leanings, which I was very happy to hear, as I also view my spirituality as universal.  I started attending Sunday Mass regularly, because he changed my view of church, he and other Paulist churches introduced me to a new world of open and welcoming church communities.  I started to get involved in discernment programs where I was guided by spiritual companions, Brothers and Sisters who became instrumental in my faith formation.

In January 2013, I experienced a significant heartbreak, and was convinced by a friend to shake it off with a weekend trip to Chicago, where I attended Sunday Mass at Holy Name Cathedral.  The Priest’s homily reminded me of the importance of attending church regularly, “so that we can continually be rooted in the practice of forgiveness and love, so that we may BE love for a world that so desperately needs it”.  That Mass marked a turning point in my life, a renewal of my faith, and in the months to follow, through a series of other God-sent experiences that came out of the initial experience of pain, I discovered my vocation.

The Holy Door is considered a passage to inner peace, and I realized in the Garden of the Jubilee that the pain leading up to the Holy Door was symbolic of the pain I experienced in order to get on this path of my faith journey.

The Holy Door itself is symbolic, with its depiction of a 3D open armed Jesus, as it represents so many things: a passage to peace, a sign of hope, the church welcoming all, Jesus as the door to Heaven, and holding hands with Jesus in order to enter.

The timing of our pilgrimage was significant as well – the fourth Sunday of Advent, the last weekend before the Holy Door was to close.  Advent is both a beginning and an end (the beginning of a new liturgical year, and the end of the calendar year), and is a time of reflection and anticipation for the Lord’s coming.  The parallels of passing through a Holy Door and receiving plenary indulgence at a time that is an end that gives birth to a new beginning is so rich in hope and renewal, the perfect way to end 2014 and welcome 2015.

During the Mass that followed our passage through the Holy Door, the Priest began speaking in French, luckily I was able to translate throughout the Mass for my Makuahine, but there was an alarmed look on many faces.  The Priest stopped and announced, “I am aware that people have travelled from all over the world to visit our church, and yes, Mass will be celebrated in French, but regardless of culture and language, we are united by faith, so when we recite prayers and the Apostles’ Creed, please proclaim in your own languages, and we will celebrate together as one church”.  This statement of unity and oneness made the pilgrimage complete, a wholly welcoming, renewing, enlightening experience of faith.

We hope that you have been inspired to make a Holy Door pilgrimage in 2025, regardless of your faith.  Please join us in a community of love and unity. Aloha nui loa!