Preparing for the launching of the Jubilee of Mercy, the priests of the Vicariate of Ingwavuma (South Africa) suggested opening two doors: one at the Cathedral (Hlabisa) and a second one at "Star of the Sea" Parish (KwaNgwanase) not far from the border with Mozambique. The reasoning was that some of our sodalities gather there at Vicariate level for the annual general meeting. Having a door of mercy there would allow them the chance to go through it as part of their gathering.
Being my week in the Vicariate of Ingwavuma, I was able to go to Star of the Sea for the weekend and preside the celebration.
The Mass had been planned for 9.00 am. By 8.00 it was already hot. I joked with Fr Mchunu OSM wondering if he could do something about it. "Look at the positive side, bishop, we feared it could rain... so we cannot complain about the heat" he said. He was instead worried the church would probably not be able to hold everyone. Looking outside, I did not see so many people and was therefore not really worry about it. I was wrong.
At 9.00 they courageously gathered outside under a scorching sun for the first part of the celebration. Fr Mchunu OSM briefly reminded them about the Jubilee of Mercy and shared some questions for future reflection at home and in the small Christian communities. We then went in.
It probably took no less than 10 minutes until everyone was in and found a place. Fr Mchunu OSM moved up and down the church trying to find any possible space so that no one would remain outside. The church was absolutely packed to capacity. It was a vibrant celebration.
There are only two doors in this church and one has now become the "door of mercy". During the homily I asked them to write it down outside for everyone to know. "Inside, over the door, please write down Jesus' words indicated by Pope Francis (Be merciful like the Father) so that you all remember that is your mission when you leave the place."
Then I added: "Just make sure you write it over the two doors of this church. I fear the idea that someone - going out - might prefer to use the other door just to avoid the door of mercy and the mission we should all take". The laugh of the people indicated they had fully understood me!