The Spiritual 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.

Works of mercy can be directed not only toward the needs of the body, but the needs of the soul as well. Indeed, the most serious form of poverty of all can be the poverty of the spirit, not only because it drains life of all energy, joy, and sense of purpose, but also because it is the one kind of poverty that can last forever. 

The evangelist Billy Graham tells the story of a private dinner he shared with one of the wealthiest men in the United States. During the meal the man confessed that despite having every good thing money could buy, he was miserable beyond words. The lesson: money cannot buy happiness. It's a cliché, but it's true. Clearly, this wealthy gentleman suffered from moral poverty. 

Indeed, 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.

That's why, in addition to the corporal works or mercy, the Church has outlined the spiritual works of mercy. Look to these works as preventative medicine for poverty of the spirit. The spiritual works of mercy are as follows:

(1) Admonish sinners.
(2) Instruct the uninformed.
(3) Counsel the doubtful.
(4) Comfort the sorrowful.
(5) Be patient with those in error.
(6) Forgive offenses.
(7) Pray for the living and the dead.

Counsel the Doubtful

Everyone has moments of doubt in their faith journey.  Nevertheless, we should always remember that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and turn to him along our way.

  • Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may eventually become wise" (Prov 19:20)
  • The Cross of Christ "the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength" (1 Cor 1:25)
  • Has someone asked you for advice? Orient your response to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
  • 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, share a book you found useful in dealing with your friend's faith concern, and worship at Sunday Mass

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Instruct the Uninformed.

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 service trip or short term mission trip.  No time? Donate to support someone on their service trip
  • Volunteer to help with religious education programs at your parish
  • Invite someone to go to mass with you this weekend
  • Know your faith! Read through the USCCA to find out more about the Catholic faith and how to live it

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Admonish Sinners.

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. 

  • In humility we must strive to create a culture that does not accept sin, while realizing that we all fall at times
  • Don't judge, but guide others towards the path of salvation (see Mt 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" (Mt 7:5)

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Comfort the sorrowful.

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.

  • Lend a listening ear to those going through a tough time
  • 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

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Forgive offenses

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

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Be patient with those in error

Pray for the living and the dead.

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. 

  • Frustrated with someone? Step away from the situation, take a few deep breaths, pray the Our Father, asking God for patience

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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
  • Keep your own book of prayer intentions, writing down the names of those who you are keeping in your prayers
  • Ask a friend or family member if there is anything you can pray for them about
  • Through prayer, entrust your cares and concerns for those around you to God

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