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How to Practice the Works of Mercy
How to Practice the Works of Mercy

How to practice the Works of Mercy during the Year of Mercy

It’s been just over a month since Pope Francis kicked off the Jubilee Year of Mercy,

“Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought of how the Church may render more clear her mission to be a witness to mercy… I have decided to announce an Extraordinary Jubilee which has at its center the mercy of God. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy.”

The Holy Father went on to quote Him-to-which-he-reports: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the high-bar has been set. Good thing for us that the Pope believes in following the example of Jesus in helping us figure things out, saying, “It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy…Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples.”

A long time ago in a catechism class far, far away…

To paraphrase a certain movie character, “Corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Now, those are terms I've not heard in a long time. A long time.”

The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are a handy encapsulation of the way in which Christians should encounter one another. A couple of generations ago, they were required memorization in Catholic schools—not so much, these days, but that doesn’t make them any less useful. Here they are:

The Corporal Works of Mercy

  • Feed the hungry.
  • Give drink to the thirsty.
  • Shelter the homeless.
  • Visit the sick.
  • Visit the prisoners.
  • Bury the dead.
  • Give alms to the poor.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy

  • Counseling the doubtful.
  • Instructing the ignorant.
  • Admonishing the sinner.
  • Comforting the sorrowful.
  • Forgiving injuries.
  • Bearing wrongs patiently.
  • Praying for the living and the dead.

Now that I know that, what do I do?

Starting with this post, we’ll be dedicating one post each month to ways in which each of us, in our own daily lives, can live out the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Need some more ideas? Browse our store for books about the Works of Mercy.

One of the great blessings about being Catholic is that we have our bishops—the descendants of the Apostles—thinking about ways to help us well before we even realize we need help. Check out what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has to say about living the corporal works of mercy. Here are a few ideas based on their suggestions:

Feed the hungry: Volunteer at your local food pantry or soup kitchen.

Give drink to the thirsty: Don’t waste water, especially during shortages.

Shelter the homeless: Donate blankets to a shelter for the homeless.

Visit the sick: Help out at a nursing home (e.g. sing, read, paint, call bingo).

Visit the prisoners: Do something for a charity that helps the families of prisoners.

Bury the dead: Write to someone who is dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Give alms to the poor: Don’t buy that extra cup of coffee. Donate the money.

That’s just a short list of possibilities. There are many others and we’re counting on you to help us discover them. Please share your ideas on living out the Corporal Works of Mercy on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at #worksofmercy so we can share them on the blog.

Be Merciful

In our next episode… “Bury the dead.” That one sounds strange. Doesn’t it? Even a little bit creepy. But as we see above, there’s no shovel required. Next time, we’ll take a closer look at that somewhat confusing call to action.


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