89 Practical Recommendations for the Spiritual Works of Mercy
“The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently.” (CCC 2447)
The misery of others isn't restricted to only their physical needs, though this is essential and mustn't be overlooked (James 2:15-16). Some needs are invisible and can only be discerned though a prayerful attitude and an open heart. Thus, the Church, in her glorious wisdom, reminds us of our duties to care for the spiritual as well as the corporal needs of others.
Suggestions for the Corporal Works of Mercy can be found here. Here are some practical suggestions for the Spiritual Works of Mercy:
To instruct the ignorant:
- Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It's not as difficult as you might think, and you might learn something you didn't know.
- Teach RCIA/CCD classes at your parish.
- Financially support Catholic organizations that support religious freedoms such as the Catholic League.
- Actively learn about your Catholic faith and share your understanding with others.
- Don't be shy about evangelizing. As Pope Francis reminds us, either the Faith grows or we need to invest in mothballs.
- Volunteer to assist at a parish retreat.
- Make sure your children and grandchildren are properly catechized. Catholic school tuition might be a burden for some, but the education and spiritual formation it provides is well worth it.
- Read good literature and encourage others to do so also.
- Share your insights, knowledge and spirituality with others.
- Be patient with those who are only beginning to master new skills.
- Go on a service trip or short-term mission trip.
- Support others on their own service/mission trips.
- Invite an unchurched friend or family member to attend Mass with you. Even if they refuse, your invitation will give them something to think about. They will be less likely to turn you down the next time you ask.
To counsel the doubtful:
- Remind those in doubt that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Light and that whoever follows Him will never stubble in the darkness. (1 John 1:7)
- Volunteer at a suicide prevention hotline.
- Be a mentor for a teenager/young adult through Catholic Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
- Keep sacramentals on hand to give to those in spiritual need.
- Watch out for the signs and symptoms of despair in yourself and others and respond with hope.
- Avoid unloading your negative criticisms or perceptions onto people. The world is full enough of those thoughts already.
- At each example of cynicism, skepticism, doubt and despair which you encounter, offer hope.
- Speak openly of your hopes. Optimism is contagious. You might very well inspire someone.
- It may not be easy to be optimistic all the time but it beats the heck out of the alternative.
- Ask those you encounter about their hopes. Support and encourage them in their pursuit of them.
- Seek out those who have important things to teach and learn from them. (Prov 19:20)
- When dealing with those in doubt, remember St. Paul's admonition to the Corinthians: "For what seems to be God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God's weakness is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor 1:25)
- When asked for advice, make sure you mention Jesus and His One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. it's good PR.
- Reach out to a friend/family member who's struggling with his faith to join a prayer group or perhaps a lay religious community like the Secular Franciscans, Third-Order Carmelites, or Tertiary Dominicans.
- Reach out to those in spiritual need and invite them to Mass. You might just be saving a life.
- Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever despair. Ever.
To admonish sinners:
- Write a letter to the editor when he's been particularly blockheaded.
- Don't keep silent when there is an attack on the Faith. Remember what Christ says He'll do to mealy-mouthed cowards. (Rev 3:15-17)
- Be courageous, yet compassionate, in reminding others of what they're doing.
- Those who hope to denigrate the Church and its followers are looking for a fight. Give it to them, but do it clearly and with compassion. It's called "tough love" for a reason — it might sound tough but it's loving at its core.
- Do NOT participate in gossip.
- We must never judge others but we are allowed to judge behavior. Do so as kindly as possible. We can judge behavior but are strictly forbidden from judging individuals. (Mt 7:1-5)
- Go to confession often. Gaining insight into your own sins and receiving God's grace to deal with them is a good way to help others
- Intervene fast and hard in situations where people are doing spiritual and moral harm to themselves or others.
- When those who attack the Church ask how you can be so certain of your claims, ask them the same question.
- Don't cause scandal. People are watching and judging everything you say and do. Show them how well you take your Christianity.
- Respond to negativity and prejudice with positive statements. Make sure you point out the speaker's hypocrisy and his disregard of the Golden Rule.
To bear wrongs patiently:
- Get thee to a confessional booth and get thee therein often.
- Just let it go. Don't live in the past.
- In all your dealings with people, keep Christ's words in mind: "Remove the beam from your eye first before attempting at taking the splinter from your brother's eye." (Mt 7:5)
- Don't just pay lip service to forgiving others. You really have to take your own advice.
- If you must be angry, do so but do it without being unforgiving. (Eph 4:26-27)
- Do not be bitter. Instead, place your hope in God so that He may rescue you from your troubles.
- If you are frustrated with someone, step back and gain some perspective. Take a walk and pray one Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be. And be sure to ask God for patience.
- Let go of grudges. You're probably the only one who remembers.
- Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It will inspire you to be more patient with others.
- Wear or carry a Cross as a reminder to forgive others.
To forgive offences willingly:
- Forgive others. No, seriously. You must forgive everyone. How else do you expect to see Heaven?
- Pray for those who have wronged you and ask God for forgiveness for those you've wronged.
- Pray to God asking Him for the courage to forgive.
- Bravely ask others to forgive you. Strive to not hurt anyone.
- Be positive with those who are having a difficult time.
- Make a pledge that you will forgive everyone in your life both at Advent and Lent for, if not then, when?
- Write a letter/card/email of encouragement to someone who is suffering.
- Keep your criticisms to yourself.
- Don't nitpick. If you must pick nits, pick your own nits. A nit not picked is not a nit of which to be ashamed. If you pick nits, you might be a nitwit.
- Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. That will save you from getting angry too often.
- Presume that people who act aggressively toward you are carrying a horrible emotional pain which they are incapable of enduring.
- Pray for those who have wronged you. After all, who else will pray for them?
- Be open to assist the grieving and, for the love of God, don't judge them. Just showing up is half the battle.
- Listening to those going through a tough time shouldn't be a burden. Remember what you've sometimes prayed for. Ask God for the patience needed to help others.
To comfort the afflicted:
- Encourage the discouraged.
- Empathize with the grieving.
- Befriend the estranged.
- Love the unlovable.
- Be positive. Nobody benefits from your negativity — certainly not those hoping for solace.
To pray for the living and the dead:
- Memorize the Eternal Rest Prayer, also known as the Prayer for the Poor Souls in Purgatory Prayer, and say it each time you learn of someone's death. (e.g., Eternal rest, grant unto him/her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him/her. May s/he rest in peace. Amen. May his/her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.)
- Keep the above prayer in mind when watching the news and read newspapers. Pray for those in need.
- Each time you hear an ambulance or fire engine, pray for both the rescuers and those in need of being recused.
- Don't be shy about asking other Christians to pray for you. You might as well ask non-Christians as well.
- If you don't already pray the Rosary daily, ask yourself if you have better things to do. Then ask yourself what's so important that you can't set aside 20 minutes in order to talk to your Father.
- Join your parish's funeral ministry group.
- Join your parish's bereavement ministry group.
- Join the Legion of Mary/Purgatory Society/Knights of the Immaculata.
- Attend wakes and funeral of those you've known.
- Volunteer with a hospice program.
- Visit your relatives and friends in the cemetery. Pray for the dead and ask them to pray for you.
- Donate to ministries that offer free Catholic burials to those who are unable to afford one.
- Pray at an abortion mill for the lives lost to abortion.
- Attend services for an inmate who was executed.
- Seek out the holy among you. As Scriptures reminds us, the prayers of the holy are particularly efficacious. (James 5:16)
- Request a Mass intention for those grieving a death.
- Request a Mass intention for those who've passed away.
- Create an email list of Catholic friends and family members and ask them for prayers for special intentions.
- Entrust your cares and concerns about both the living and the dead to God in Jesus' Name. (Jn 14:13-14)
- Remember those who've asked for our prayers during Mass when the intentions are read aloud.