The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy

Categories: Year of Mercy Resources

Corporal Works of Mercy

yom_in_our_dioceseThe Corporal Works of Mercy are found in the teachings of Jesus and give us a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise. They “are charitable actions by which we help our neighbors in their bodily needs” (U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults). They respond to the basic needs of humanity as we journey together through this life.

The seven Corporal 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.

• FEED THE HUNGRY

There are many people in this world who go without food. When so much of our food goes to waste, consider how good stewardship practices of your own food habits can benefit others who do not have those same resources.

Idea: The next time you make a recipe that can be easily frozen, make a double batch and donate one to your local food pantry or soup kitchen.

• GIVE DRINK TO THE THIRSTY

Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ do not have access to clean water and suffer from the lack of this basic necessity. We should support the efforts of those working towards greater accessibility of this essential resource.

Idea: Organize classroom students or a group of children involved on a sports team (e.g. soccer). Invite them to collect bottled water to distribute at a shelter for families. If parents can be involved, ask them to accompany their children in delivering the water to the families.

• SHELTER THE HOMELESS

There are many circumstances that could lead to someone becoming a person without a home. Christ encourages us to go out and meet those without homes, affirming their worth and helping them seek a resolution to the challenges they face.

Idea: There are millions of children and families who are on the move, fleeing from war, illness, hunger and impossible living conditions, and searching for peace and safety. Engage parish groups of children, youth, young adults and families in doing some research on the causes and challenges these families face to survive.

• VISIT THE SICK

Those who are sick are often forgotten or avoided. In spite of their illness, these individuals still have much to offer to those who take the time to visit and comfort them.

Idea: Spend time volunteering at a nursing home – Get creative and make use of your talents (e.g. sing, read, paint, call Bingo, etc.)!

• VISIT THE PRISONERS

People in prison are still people, made in the image and likeness of God. No matter what someone has done, they deserve the opportunity to hear the Word of God and find the Truth of the message of Christ.

Idea: See if your parish or a nearby parish, has a prison ministry and if so, get involved or volunteer to help out or donate to charities that give Christmas presents to children whose parents are in prison.

• BURY THE DEAD

Funerals give us the opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times. Through our prayers and actions during these times we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God and comfort to those who mourn.

Idea: Send a card to someone who has recently lost a loved one. Visit the cemetery and pray for those you have lost.

• GIVE ALMS TO THE POOR

Donate money to organizations that have the ability to provide support and services for those in need. Do research and find organizations that put people in need first, rather than profit.

Idea: Skip the morning latte and put that money in the collection basket at church or find a charity that is meaningful to you and volunteer your time or donate.

Spiritual Works of Mercy

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” (USCCA).
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.

• COUNSELING 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.

Idea: 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.

• INSTRUCTING 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.

Idea: Go on a service trip or short-term mission trip. No time? Donate to support someone on their service trip.

• ADMONISHING THE SINNER

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.

Idea: When you correct someone, don’t be arrogant. We are all in need of God’s loving correction.

• COMFORTING 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.

Idea: Lend a listening ear to those going through a tough time or make a home cooked meal for a friend who is facing a difficult time.

• FORGIVING INJURIES

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.

Idea: Participate in the sacrament of penance.

• BEARING WRONGS PATIENTLY

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.

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

• PRAYING 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.

Idea: Keep your own book of prayer intentions, writing down the names of those who you are keeping in your prayers.

— Adapted from
the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website