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Works of Mercy in the Domestic Church

Many years ago I attended a seminar about youth ministry. The nugget I took away is that teens that keep their faith are the ones whose families attend Mass together every Sunday, who pray together, and who do charitable works together. The first two are not surprising, but the third item is one that I would like to explore a little more.

The Church gives us a very succinct guide to charity in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

The Corporal Works of Mercy

Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Shelter the homeless
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
Bury the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy

Admonish the sinner
Instruct the ignorant
Counsel the doubtful
Comfort the sorrowful
Bear wrongs patiently
Forgive all injuries
Pray for the living and the dead

Notice that both Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are important. We must not focus on one to the exclusion of the other.

I would like to see the concepts of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy more explicitly taught. I was an adult before I every heard of these. This is where the Domestic Church comes in. I keep a copy of the Corporal and Spiritual works of Mercy taped to the inside of the kitchen cupboard. I hope this reminds my family that as we set the table for our supper, we are to give thanks for our blessings and share with those less fortunate.

I know many of us give regularly to our parish and to other charities. Are our children aware of our generosity? It is so easy to write a check or donate online without our children knowing. We need to let them see how we share our treasure. They don’t have to know how much money we are giving. They do need to know we are giving. I know the automatic payment plans are very convenient for parishes, but I think children learn an important lesson when they see their parents drop an envelope in the basket every Sunday.

When we offer canned food for the food drive or clean out our closets and donate them to the St. Vincent de Paul Society we need to remind our kids that we are feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.

We should teach our children the Spiritual Works of Mercy and point out to them how we perform them. Teaching about the faith, whether in the religious education class or on this blog, is a Spiritual Work of Mercy. My children don’t necessarily directly contribute to this process. However, when they pitch in at home so that I can take the time to teach, they are taking part in this Spiritual Work of Mercy. Certainly, offering intercessory prayers at Mass is praying for the living and the dead. However, gathering at home to offer a Rosary or other prayer for the intentions of others makes a profound impression on children.

As with all things in our Domestic Church, remember the principle of Pizza Dough Spirituality. Gently and gradually nudge your family into an increased awareness of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Your children will learn the charity you model.


Milehimama said…
I am a new CCD teacher this year for 5th grade. I made an incentive chart with the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy printed on them, and the students put a sticker for each work they performed - and we talk about how to apply them in their lives.
(For example, they may not be able to visit a prison, but they can stay home from their friends' house and play a game with their sister who is grounded; they may not be able to teach a class but they can help a younger sibling with his reading) I'm glad to see I'm on the right track!

My kids fight over who gets to throw the envelope in the basket!
Travis said…
Excellent idea milehimamma, and thanks for pointing this out. I think it would be good to make the corporal and spiritual works of mercy a larger part of all of our lives.
Kitchen Madonna said…
I love the idea of taping them in the inside of the cupboard! I'm going to do that right now!

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