"Un Ti Morceau"

"A Little Something," mini-lessons and reflections by our pastor, Father Paul Counce

Corporal Works of Mercy

Published January 15, 2012 by Fr. Paul Counce

In my last morceau I listed the spiritual works of mercy. To be complete, mention needs be made of those traditional, complementary loving actions toward others which are meant to address their physical and other concrete needs: the corporal works of mercy. (Is 58:6-10 and Mt 25:34-40 are the great Biblical sources for these.) Again, listing them is the easy part:

  • To feed the hungry
  • To give drink to the thirsty
  • To clothe the naked
  • To visit the imprisoned
  • To shelter the homeless
  • To visit the sick
  • To bury the dead

I’m on safe ground in giving great credit to our local St. Vincent de Paul Society for their wonderful efforts in our community to meet so many of the needs on this list. The Bishop Ott Works of Mercy Trust is another vehicle for accomplishing much concrete good in our diocese. (Oh, and thanks for your ongoing generosity to these efforts: donations to both, and to our Parish Food Pantry and to the downtown churches’ shared Christian Outreach Center, can be made through the Parish Office whenever you like.)

But we have to take care to make sure that we don’t leave tangible works of mercy to others. The most challenging on the list is surely “To visit the imprisoned,” since prisons – for good reasons! – aren’t the easiest places to get in and out of. Still, those who have committed crimes should not be forgotten and abandoned, and there are a significant number of wonderful Catholics who visit them in our local prisons and juvenile-detention facilities. (I can put you in touch with experienced volunteers who can arrange to help you try out this most rewarding ministry, even just once. Any takers?)

But remember that some people are imprisoned elsewhere. Female victims of domestic violence and the fragile elderly who no longer can move about easily on their own quite often feel “trapped” in their living situation. These too are people who need concrete merciful efforts from us to be reminded that they are not alone. Look around: you are probably not so very far from someone who “can’t get out” as you might think!

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