There is an accessible version of this website. You can click here to switch now or switch to it at any time by clicking Accessibility in the footer.

YEAR OF MERCY SPECIAL FEATURE: Tradition enshrined in New Norcia’s Holy Door


Dom Robert Nixon lights a candle inside the church at New Norcia, which dates from the 1840s. Photo: Supplied.

By Caroline Smith

The Benedictine Monks of New Norcia have had much to celebrate in recent months as they walked through a very special door of their Monastery late last year that led them into both the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the rediscovery of their 19th century traditions.

Around 60 people attended the Ceremony of the Opening of the Holy Door on 13 December 2015, which saw Emeritus Abbott Bernard Rooney bless the door of a church dating back to the 1840s.

Reflecting on the event, and recounting the history of the town of New Norcia, which was founded in 1847 by Spanish Benedictine monks, Benedictine Monk Dom Robert Nixon said that having a Holy Door set up in the old church might remind people of this history, together with the significance of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

“(Founding) Bishop Salvado, the early monks, and many generations of our monastic family have passed through the door, as well as the parishioners, guests and pilgrims,” he said.

“We have set up by the door a small shrine, with literature providing guidance about the significance of the door, the indulgence granted by the Holy Father, and suggestions for prayer; as well as the opportunity for people to light a votive candle.”


The Holy Door at the New Norcia church. Photo: Supplied.

A historic portrait of Christ Before Pilate by Fr Lesmes Lopez - who lived in New Norcia until 1921 - also adorns the door, connecting it to both the history of the community and the issue of mercy, Dom Nixon said.

“The portrait is a visual reminder of Our Lord’s mercy, even before his persecutors,” he said.
He added that mercy was an important ingredient in any monastic community, making it a good topic to focus on during the Jubilee Year.

“The Year of Mercy is a reminder of one of the essential ‘kerygma’ of the Gospel- ‘blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy shown them’,” he said.

“Mercy is the oil which makes possible the harmonious running of a monastic community, or indeed any community, and is a cornerstone of the Rule of St. Benedict.”

To emphasize this, events throughout the Jubilee Year would help parishioners and visitors to reflect on mercy.

“We recently had a particular Mass dedicated to mercy, including the second Rite of Reconciliation, on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and our Institute of Benedictine Studies will be offering a special reading weekend on Cardinal Kasper’s book Living a Life of Mercy, on July 29 to 31,” he said.

Considering Pope Francis’ decision to place a special focus on the issue this year, Dom Nixon said he was underlining the importance of mercy not only as a virtue but as a commandment.

“Pope Francis, like Benedict XVI before him, has reminded us that forgiveness is not simply an admirable human quality, but that it is nothing less than an inviolable commandment given by Our Lord,” he said.

“Mercy does not involve compromising the unchangeable commandments of God or the traditions of the Church - but rather affirming that, however powerful sin might be during the darkness of this mortal life, God’s mercy’s will ultimately triumph, since it is the precious blood of Christ itself which was shed as the price of our redemption.

“In today’s world, every Christian needs to remind themselves of this each day.”