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A New Week – May 12, 2024

This Mother’s Day is also the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord.  Some parts of the Church still celebrate the Ascension on Thursday, and this past Thursday, May 9, the Feast of the Ascension in Rome, Pope Francis officially proclaimed the Jubilee Year 2025, which is themed “Pilgrims of Hope”.  The Jubilee Year will commence with the opening of the Holy Doors of St. Peter’s Basilica this Christmas Eve, and continue with celebrations throughout all of 2025.

The Church celebrates an ordinary Jubilee Year every 25 years, the last one being in 2000, although sometimes special Jubilee Years are proclaimed, for example, in 1933 Pope Pius XI chose to commemorate the 1900th anniversary of the Redemption, and in 2015 Pope Francis proclaimed the Year of Mercy as an extraordinary jubilee.  But what is the history of a Jubilee?  For that we need to return to our Jewish roots.

The name “Jubilee” comes from the instrument used to mark its launch, the yobel, a ram’s horn used to proclaim the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  This (Jewish) holiday occurs every year, but it takes on special significance when it marks the beginning of a Jubilee year.  The Old Testament tells us that a Jubilee year was to be marked every 50 years; this would be an “extra” year, one which would happen every seven weeks of seven years, that is, every 49 years (see Leviticus 25:8-13).  A Jubilee year was to be marked as a time to re-establish a proper relationship with God, with one another, and with all of creation, and involved the forgiveness of debts, the return of misappropriated land, and a fallow period for the fields.

Quoting the prophet Isaiah, the Gospel of Luke describes Jesus’ mission in this way: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord,” (Luke 4:18-19; cf. Isaiah 61:1-2).  Jesus lives out these words in his daily life, in his encounters with others and in his relationships, all of which bring about liberation and conversion.

In 1300, Pope Boniface VIII called the first Jubilee, also known as a “Holy Year,” since it is a time in which God’s holiness transforms us.  The frequency of Holy Years has changed over time: at first, they were celebrated every 100 years; later, in 1343 Pope Clement VI reduced the gap between Jubilees to every 50 years, and in 1470 Pope Paul II made it every 25 years.  The way in which Jubilee Years are marked has also changed through the centuries: originally the Holy Year consisted of a pilgrimage to the basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome; later other celebrations were added for the Jubilee Year, such as the opening of the Holy Doors, visits to the four major basilicas of Rome, and special jubilee year celebrations for certain groups, like families, artists, catechists, and migrants.

It has been on my bucket list to walk through the Holy Doors of St. Peter’s Basilica during a Jubilee Year, and next year I intend to make that happen, and I’d like to invite you to join me!  I will be leading a Pilgrimage to Italy and Rome in celebration of the Jubilee Year next February 7-19, 2025.  We will be visiting Milan, Bologna, Florence, Orvieto, Rome, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast. Details can be found at  An informational meeting about the pilgrimage will be held here at the St. Margaret of Scotland Church Hall on Tuesday, May 28, at 6:30pm.  All are welcome to come and learn more about the trip and meet others who are interested.  I will have limoncello to share!

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