Corporal Works of Mercy

Beautiful MercyIn his book, Beautiful Mercy, Matthew Kelly enlists the help of 26 authors to discuss the quality of mercy, particularly organized around 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, and bury the dead) and spiritual works of mercy (instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, correct sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead.) He suggests we imagine how the world would be different if everyone practiced just one work of mercy each day. Are you willing to take him up on the challenge?

Here are ideas from his book, and a few suggestions from me (B) for the corporal works of mercy. Next week we can look at the spiritual works.

Corporal Works of Mercy

Feed the hungry

  • Give money, adopt a child in a poor country, volunteer at a food pantry, make sandwiches for the homeless, give change to a beggar, take food to a shut in. – Fr. Larry Richards
  • Organize a food drive, start a food pantry at your parish, make dinner for a family in need, make dinner for your family with love, “bring home the bacon” for your family, start a walkathon to provide for the poor. – Fr. Michael Gaitley MIC
  • See if your church, like ours, takes meals to the homeless regularly. Bring a casserole or be one of the servers. Volunteer for Meals on Wheels. – B

Give drink to the thirsty

  • “The Latin word for mercy, misericordia, means ‘a heart which gives itself to those in misery.’” Become a living witness to the well of Christ’s “living water” for others. – Christopher West
  • I don’t have to travel halfway around the world to find folks who thirst. A friend who single-parents a child with special needs thirsts for compassion, understanding, and welcome. And often my own family thirst for my care and attention. – Lisa M Hendey
  • Conserve water at home. Consider a donation to organizations that provide safe water to communities; see . – B

Clothe the naked

  • Give your extra clothes to those in need, knit caps for those losing their hair to cancer, extend your Christmas gift lists to buy clothes for those in need. – Dr. Allen R Hunt
  • Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Colossians 3:12
  • Choose a day annually or seasonally when you simplify your closets and donate the excess to local charities. – B


Shelter the homeless

  • Support groups like Catholic Charities who provide homes for the homeless, volunteer at a homeless shelter. Family must always be home, the shelter for the lonely, disabled, or elderly family members who can no longer care for themselves. Family members should never feel homeless, no matter what their condition. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl
  • Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2
  • Work for legislation to help the homeless. – B

Visit the sick

  • There is no substitute for human interaction. You can send a gift, make a phone call, write a letter, even say a prayer, but nothing compares to a smile and a hug. Nothing says “you matter,” “you have dignity,” “you are loved” quite like a personal encounter. – Matthew Kelly
  • Whether they are physically ailing or “sick at heart,” just a visit can be healing…. Just being present and praying is all that is needed. Do not forget about members of your own family who might need a visit. Without being a medical professional, you visited, you healed, and you gave comfort! – Fr. Donald Calloway MIC

Visit the imprisoned – ransom the captive

  • One of the wonderful parts of being in a merciful community is that our fellow community members are able to see things in us that we might not see in ourselves. … gifts, talents… They see our faults too. We help each other stay on the right path when we can. And even in our imperfection, our own brokenness, we can help others heal. Together, and with the grace of God, we are lifted up, let out, set free. – Kerry Weber
  • The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. Luke 4:18
  • Treat a caregiver to a break, whether by babysitting, or sitting with someone’s elderly parent. Volunteer with prison ministry. Look for groups that assist families of prisoners. – B

Bury the dead

  • I have seen the birth of such life in young women who came to the fountain of mercy after suffering from abortion and in young men who came seeking healing after being wounded in the darkness of pornography and addiction. … Yes, it is painful to be at Calvary, yet because there I meet Jesus, the one who is the life and Resurrection, even when I’m there to bury the dead or walk with those who are spiritually dead, I stand there with hope, to carry hope, and to pass on hope. – Mother Olga Yaqob
  • You matter. When everything boils down, that is what this work of mercy—burying the dead—is all about. Looking closely, we see that this work of mercy actually hits home in the most intimate place of our hearts: our deep thirst to know that even our greatest vulnerability—death—doesn’t take away the meaning and purpose of our bodies. Rather, in death, our bodies separated from our souls in the ultimate poverty and powerlessness, await Someone who will come and bring this body back to life. In burying someone we are saying: “You are worth reverencing. You are sacred. And you belong to Christ.” With this act, we surrender to the earthshaking reality of the truth of ourselves, body and soul, and the mad love God has for us. – Sr. Marie Veritas, SV

I’ll close with this quote from Fr. Larry Richards: “Now you might be thinking, ‘OK, OK, I should start to do something.’ But thoughts and good intentions are not enough—you need to turn these thoughts into reality. So what are you going to do? [..]. Let God use you and start to change the world!”


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