Spiritual Works of Mercy

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

The human spirit longs for the nourishment of truth, goodness, and beauty if it is to be healthy and strong and if it is to grow in sanctification and be prepared for the life to come.

The Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy and Corporal Works of Mercy have long been a part of the Christian tradition, appearing in the works of theologians and spiritual writers throughout history.  Just as Jesus attended to the spiritual well-being of those he ministered to, these Spiritual Works of Mercy guide us to “help our neighbor in their spiritual needs”

The seven Spiritual Works of Mercy are listed below.  After each work of mercy there are also suggestions and words of advice for living them out in our daily lives.

To Pray for the living and the dead. Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can support others.  Joining together in prayer for the living and the dead entrusts us all into God’s care.

  • Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who is going through a tough time.
  • Request a mass intention for a friend or family member who has passed away.
  • “Pray constantly and attentively for all.” (Ephesians 6:18) In your daily prayers, remember to pray not only for the living, but the dead. Praying for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed is connected to our belief in purgatory.
  • Keep your own book of prayer intentions, writing down the names of those who you are keeping in your prayers.
  • Through prayer, entrust your cares and concerns for those around you to God.

To instruct the ignorant. Learn about our faith and be open to talking with others about our beliefs.  There is always something more to discover about our faith.

  • Go on a spiritual retreat or mission trip.
  • Volunteer to help with religious education programs at your parish. Lead a Bible study, have movie nights that educate and inspire the faithful.
  • Invite someone to go to mass with you this weekend.
  • Know your faith! Read through the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) to find out more about the Catholic faith and how to live it.

To council the doubtful. Everyone has moments of doubt in their faith journey. It’s in these times when a comforting conversation with a priest or loved one can remind us that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and to turn to Him always. Just as words of encouragement from others have helped us along the way, so too, can our words bring relief to those struggling with their faith.

  • Follow Christ with the witness of your life so that others may see God’s love revealed in your actions.
  • Accompany a friend who is struggling with believing to join a parish group for service or faith formation.
  • Movies about our faith can really make a difference and have a positive impact on someone who is experiencing doubt in their faith.

To admonish sinners. This Spiritual Work of Mercy encourages us to reach out to others who are living a sinful life and help them find the way back to living a life without sin. This is so important because as followers of Christ, we can’t sit back and not do something to help someone overcome sin so they can find salvation. As the old saying goes, “All that is needed for evil to succeed is for good people to say or do nothing!”

  • In humility we must strive to create a culture that does not accept sin, while realizing that we all fall at times.
  • Do not judge but be supportive in helping others find their way and correct their mistakes.  Together we can learn to walk more closely with Christ. (Matthew 7: 1-2).
  • When you correct someone, don’t be arrogant. We are all in need of God’s loving correction.
  • We should journey together to a deeper understanding of our shared faith.
  • “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).

To suffer wrongs patiently. Turn to Jesus who knows what it means to be wronged, mistreated, betrayed, and innocently put to death. He will be there to help you bear your crosses. Many people suggest taking slow breaths and counting to ten when you feel yourself about to react to someone who is angering you (pushing your buttons). Not a bad idea but, perhaps, we should be asking God in that moment, “Jesus, teach me to be patient, let me see as you see, may your words be my words, and may my love for you extend to others.”

  • Do not be bitter about wrongs done against you.  Place your hope in God so that you can endure the troubles of this world and face them with a compassionate spirit.

To forgive offences willingly.  If only we had God’s endless mercy and ability to forgive all those who hurt us. In our human weakness, we may think that we’re making a point by holding a grudge and showing anger towards someone, but in fact, as the saying goes, “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Forgiving others is difficult at times because we do not have God’s limitless mercy and compassion.  But Jesus teaches us that we should forgive as God forgives, relying on him to help us show others the mercy of God.

  • Let go of grudges.
  • Saying sorry is something we learn as kids, but how often do we really mean it? Forgiveness transforms hearts and lives.
  • Participate in the Sacrament of Penance.
  • Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet

To comfort the afflicted. Are there times when you know someone is grieving and sorrowful, but you don’t know what to do to help so you do nothing? Just being there to hold their hand, embrace them, listen to them talk, or just sit with them in silence is the best thing you can ever give them. Whenever you hesitate to reach out to someone who is grieving, imagine what it must be like for them to not only grieve, but to grieve alone.

  • Be open to listening and comforting those who are dealing with grief.  Even if we aren’t sure of the right words to say, our presence can make a big difference.
  • Make a home cooked meal for a friend who is facing a difficult time.
  • Write a letter or send a card to someone who is suffering.
  • A few moments of your day may make a lifetime of difference to someone who is going through a difficult time.
Divine Mercy Chaplet