What Are the 7 Corporal Works of Mercy? (The Catholic Meaning)

clock October 3, 2012 05:45 by author John |

"And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." - Luke 3:10-11

The 7 Corporal Works of Mercy are:

  1. To feed the hungry;
  2. To give drink to the thirsty;
  3. To clothe the naked;
  4. To harbor the harborless;
  5. To visit the sick;
  6. To ransom the captive;
  7. To bury the dead.

Faith calls us to follow the 10 Commandment, to receive the Sacraments, and to pray, but it also calls us to practice charity for our neighbors when they are in need. While we know that faith is essential for our salvation, we also know that we cannot be saved by faith alone. As we see in the Book of James:

"You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called 'the friend of God.' See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." - James 2:22-24

These works of Mercy are the more practical and visible ways to exercise our faith to those in need. The first and second of these works are closely related. In contemplating them, we ask ourselves, how often do we help provide for the needs of those who are hungry and thirsty? Do we help out at food pantries; do we donate food or money to buy food for the hungry? Our witness can be extremely powerful by giving "our daily bread" to those who so desperately need it.

We are called to give clothing to the naked. This thought should compel us to consider the excess of clothing that many of us have. How many pairs of shoes do we need? How many pairs of pants and shirts are really necessary for us? Is it possible for us to donate these excesses of ours in order to bring hope to those who need it?

The issue of homelessness is very prominent in our world. Imagine the pain of those who truly have nowhere to go. Are our doors open to those who are in need? Do we offer to take in the homeless? Do we give money to the many Catholic shelters that provide such crucial aid to those who are unable to provide for themselves?

We must visit the sick. In doing so, we uphold the dignity of the human person. Consider the feelings of those who spend so much time in hospitals and nursing homes without the comfort of those they love. How many of our elderly are permanently confined to stark building with little love or attention paid to them? We should freely choose to visit the shut-ins, the sick, and the lonely. We can be a great source of hope in their lives.

Now the sixth work of mercy will undoubtedly perplex many. How many captives do we know? People are not kidnapped in our presence very often. This particular act of mercy is always of some value to us, however. Consider those in places without the right to freely practice religion. The mere act of going to mass likely brings the threat of imprisonment. Do we offer any help to these destitute faithful? Do we offer or even investigate the options available to us in providing help to them? Do we even pray for them? Consider also the possibilities of visiting the imprisoned. Do we care for those in jail? Let us not forget those who are imprisoned, especially those who are held captive because of their love for God.

Finally, the last of the works of the corporal works of mercy urges us to bury the dead. Fortunately, in our society, burying the dead is normally done with the necessary respect. There are situations, however, where this respect is forgotten and we treat the dead with neglect. Consider the cases of cryogenic freezing in the hope of reviving them many years later. Clearly this does not show the proper respect for their bodies. Consider those who turn their loved ones ashes into diamonds or other types of jewelry or who scatter their ashes. Of course there is also the disrespect show to those who are aborted. They are thrown in the dumpster as medical waste. Let us always show due respect for the bodies of those who have gone before us.

In practicing these corporal works of mercy, just as with the spiritual works of mercy, we build up the dignity of the human person. These are opportunities for grace in our daily lives. In exercising the works of mercy, we truly follow the commands that Christ gave us:

"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'" - Matthew 25:34-40



What are the 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy? (The Catholic Meaning)

clock October 2, 2012 05:30 by author John |

Mercy is a virtue. It compels us to alleviate the suffering of another. The Church presents us with 7 spiritual and 7 corporal works of mercy. These are ways in which we can practice charity to others and thus bring about tremendous good in the world. The practice of these works is required of all of us. These works are binding. Though it may not always be possible to practice them, as the situation does not present itself to perform these works at all times, we should always take the opportunities to live by these works when possible.

The 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy:

  1. To instruct the ignorant;
  2. To counsel the doubtful;
  3. To admonish sinners;
  4. To bear wrongs patiently;
  5. To forgive offenses willingly;
  6. To comfort the afflicted;
  7. To pray for the living and the dead.

The first work is to instruct the ignorant. By this we are called to instruct others in the faith. This involves teaching formally and dispelling misconceptions and fallacies when they arise. How often do we hear people speaking as if they had authority, only to spread false teachings about Christ and His Church? When these situations arise, we must spring to action. We must therefore, be informed about our faith so that we may properly teach it to those who do not yet know the fullness of the truth.

When we encounter those who are unsure of their faith, we must affirm them in it and help them grow. Everyone’s faith is tested, as that is the only way it can grow. Untested faith is a house of cards, waiting to collapse. Our faith must be tested in fire so that it may be strong. There are times, however, when that fire causes the faith to be soft and malleable on its way to solidifying. During these times when our loved ones are suffering loss, persecution, or anger, and their faith is in doubt, we must stand by them and offer show them the way. We must show them the ultimate source of strength, Jesus.

The third of these works of mercy is to admonish the sinner. This can be the most difficult to carry out. We know that sinfulness is a very secretive and explosive matter. The sinner frequently recognizes his sins, but is defensive about them. Neglect of this particular work of mercy has led to our society being so morally relativistic. If the truth is not made known, it will be forgotten. Though it may cause strife at times, we must bear this cross and carry on. We must tell people when they are sinning. They will likely counter with the line “Stop judging me!” Of course we should not judge others, but sins are committed in plain sight, and so they must be addressed. We must not make assumptions about sins that are implied or that might not have taken place, but we must inform people when they are blatantly sinning.

We must bear wrongs patiently. This is also a very difficult task. Our pride gets in the way. We must not be taken advantage of, says our ego. Truly, when others offend us, injure us, attack us, or undermine us, we are called to “Turn the other cheek”. We can do no better than to imitate Christ, the silent victim, who by His patient, courageous endurance of all forms of bodily and mental torture. He was beaten, insulted and killed, yet in His acceptance, He purchased our redemption. How marvelous would our reward be if we could just bear the slightest wrongs with joy and hope in our eternal reward?

Inseparably bound with the patient endurance of offenses, is the forgiveness of them. When our heart is filled with bitterness and grudges, we find no room for the love of Christ within it. Forgiveness requires heroic virtue at times. Mercy dictates that we forgive others’ faults and wrongs, even when it pains us greatly and gives us no temporal satisfaction. Heroism requires sacrifice. Sometimes the greatest heroism stems from the sacrifice of pride. Forgiveness is an eternal virtue, as we will find forgiveness after death to the degree that we showed it to others in this life.

There are times when all we can do is to give a thoughtful word to someone in pain or sorrow. We must comfort the afflicted. In doing so, we help others cope with difficulties. We build up the dignity of our brothers and sisters in Christ when we give them our time and comfort, for those who suffer, sometimes suffer the most painful of ordeals when they find no one who is willing to help them in their struggles. They find their dignity and self-worth crushed. Let us never leave a friend in misery without some heart-felt words or a loving embrace to lift them out of their affliction.

Finally, the greatest and most powerful form of mercy is prayer, for though we can provide physical and emotional aid to our neighbors, the Lord God can provide the greatest aid, which is spiritual. Our prayers are the most important form of mercy we can give. It shows our ultimate dedication to the alleviation of the burdens of others. Our private intercession for our neighbors and for the departed brings us little fame or admiration from others, but in the end, when we stand before God, we will be able to give an account of our prayerful mercy to others, and so Jesus will in turn show us mercy.

These works are not optional. They are indeed binding and necessary for our eternal salvation. We are called to be merciful. The opportunities are frequent and urgent. Let us not pass by the afflicted in their times of trial. Let us love others through these spiritual works so that through our sacrifice, we may bring others to the greatest joy, which is the vision of God in all His splendor in Heaven.



What is the Catholic Meaning of Humility?

clock September 30, 2012 05:47 by author John |

Elisha bade the poor widow “borrow vessels, even empty vessels not a few, and pour oil into all those vessels;” and so in order to receive God’s Grace in our hearts, they must be as empty vessels—not filled with self-esteem. The swallow with its sharp cry and keen glance has the power of frightening away birds of prey, and for that reason the dove prefers it to all other birds, and lives surely beside it;—even so humility drives Satan away, and cherishes the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit within us, and for that reason all the Saints—and especially the King of Saints and His Blessed Mother—have always esteemed the grace of humility above all other virtues. – St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life

 

In the simplest sense, humility is a virtue whereby a person is keenly aware of his shortcomings and deficiencies, has a balanced view of himself and his position in the world, and submits himself to God and other people. It is not necessary for us to practice the virtue of humility by thinking of ourselves as worthless or less important than other people. Humility is being realistic about ourselves. Humility allows us to identify both our God-given gifts failings and their abundance in us in relation to others.

Humility is a component of the virtue of temperance. Temperance rightly orders our desires and expressions. Humility is a virtue that stands against the sin of pride. It is a foundational element of the spiritual life. We cannot aspire to God until we have properly formed our opinion of our place in the universe. In a sense, humility allows us to overcome ourselves in order to seek God.

Jesus spoke of the virtue of humility in His Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land… Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “(Matthew 5:5,11-12).

Humility does not entail welcoming humiliations, though they can be a path to building the virtue of humility, by showing us the errors in our pride. We can in some cases take the virtue of humility too far and in doing so, degrade our worth and even inspire the sin of pride in others. Humility should be practiced in deference to the virtue of temperance, not allowing ourselves to lower ourselves too much, but also not allowing pride to grow in us.



Catholic Cheerfulness

clock September 29, 2012 19:34 by author John |

“May no one read sadness or sorrow in your face, when you spread in the world around you the sweet aroma of your sacrifice: the children of God should always be sowers of peace and joy.” St. José María Escrivá, The Furrow, #59.

 

The old saying goes “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. It seems like an almost universally accepted truth. If only all of the truth of the Catholic Faith was as widely held. People simply respond more favorably to you when you have a smile on your face and authentic joy in your heart. A joyful person is approachable, inviting, and appealing. Perhaps more importantly, a joyful person is disarming.

It is common for unbelievers and critics to claim that Catholics are a sorrowful bunch. Many times this may be true. Some of us though meaning well simply forget that in God, Joy is abundant. We may take a serious tone in talking with people about the rules and proofs of our faith. They may see us forgoing worldly pleasures and assume that we are devoid of cheer. This of course is because they consider pleasure to be joy. How wrong they are! Nevertheless, we would all do well to be reminded of the joy we profess to others in our faith.

These days it seems like there is so much for us to be cheerless about. There are wars raging in many parts of the world. People are starving in the third world. Throughout history Christians have been persecuted. We were food for the lions in Rome. Our cathedrals were ransacked while our priests were martyred in the “enlightened” days of the French Revolution. Hitler starved us alongside the Jews in his dark days. Perhaps never in history has it been more apparent that a great persecution was looming against Christ and His Church than it is now.

Despite all of that, it is perhaps more imperative than ever that we carry the joy of Christ in our hearts. Though we enjoy many freedoms now, many of us are rightly afraid of the days ahead. When evil begins to gain the upper hand and it seems like the battle is unwinnable; when we have lost those freedoms we have taken for granted, and it seems everything points to sorrow and pain, it is precisely in those moments that we must wear that joy not only in our hearts, but on our faces. Joy may be one of the few things we have left if things continue on their course. Joy is one of those gifts, along with faith, reason, and intellect that no one can take from us unless we give up on it.

If we are cheerful, we can more effectively carry out Christ’s mission for us. Joy lightens the load and makes the journey bearable. Joy can transform the world. More importantly, joy can transform each of us. Joy can lead us to Heaven, and as C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of Heaven”