Pope Francis has declared this to be a Year of Mercy but…so what? What does it mean to be merciful? And what difference does this year make to families?
The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy illustrate that mercy means treating others in a way that allows them to see their worth in God’s eyes.
We Are All Royal
We are all God’s children and baptism enables us to be prophets, priests, and royals. The Works of Mercy remind us of this. We clothe the naked because every child of God deserves to be dressed in a manner the reveals their dignity as a son or daughter of the King! We feed the hungry because every person deserves a place at the King’s table! We forgive willingly and bear wrongs patiently because we recognize it’s hard to become a saint, so we try to be generous with each other’s struggles. And yet, when those we love forget their godly dignity we admonish the sinner–not to condemn or judge them, but to invite them to remember that they were meant to be more.
The Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mommy and Daddy
When our oldest was preparing for his First Communion, we were reviewing the various Works of Mercy. When he heard that they included things like feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty and clothing the naked, he looked up at us and said, “You guys do those things all the time. They should call them the Corporal Works of Mommy–and Daddy too!”
St. Therese of Lisieux promoted the idea that every person could achieve great heights of holiness and sanctity by doing small acts with great love. The Works of Mercy as practiced at home–what we call The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mommy and Daddy–remind us of the incredible spiritual power of everyday family life! Lisa and I discuss the spiritual power of family life in our book, Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids and we unpack the opportunities to practice the Works of Mercy at home in our forthcoming book for Our Sunday Visitor titled The Corporal Works of Mommy and Daddy: Living the “Little Way” of Family Life.
The Corporal Works of Mommy & Daddy.
Feeding the Hungry: When we put real thought into preparing healthy, tasty meals for our families, we create a nurturing space for communion and conversation. Tons of research reveals the benefits of sitting down to meals together. Add “growing in holiness” to the list!
Give Drink to the Thirsty: What parent hasn’t been asked to get a thirsty child a drink in the middle of the night? Serving that child cheerfully with compassion is a work of mercy that reminds the child that he or she will be heard and loved even when it is inconvenient for us to do so.
Clothe the Naked: Finding the grace to be patient while dealing with a toddler who only wants to wear the blue shirt or helping a teen dress attractively, yet modestly, are both exercises in patience, and opportunities to help your children remember their worth in God’s eyes!
Visit the Sick: When you respond to a sick child lovingly, refusing to treat him or her as a burden or an inconvenience even though your schedule has been thrown into chaos, you are growing in compassion and showing your child his or her worth in God’s eyes and yours.
Visit the Imprisoned: It is one thing to give our children a time-out when they have committed some offense, but when we visit them a few minutes later, talk them through their error, teach them what to do instead, and work to rebuild our relationship, we show our children they still have worth and dignity even when they mess up.
Bury the Dead: Helping a child deal with the loss of a pet, or face the death of a beloved relative requires incredible compassion and sensitivity–especially when we are dealing with our own grief. Doing this well enables our children to connect with God’s loving presence even in times of sadness.
The Spiritual Works of Mommy and Daddy
Admonish the Sinner: When we correct our children with compassion, understanding, and love, we do more than stop the offense, we remind our children that good behavior is a blessing not a burden!
Instruct the Ignorant: When we teach our children what to do instead of simply telling them what not to do, or answer their never-ending questions with patience and love, or teach them all the things they need to know to live life as a gift, our families become schools of humanity.
Counsel the Doubtful: Sometimes our kids don’t feel like they are up to the challenges they face. Taking the time to be there for our kids; to support and encourage them, reminds our children that they can accomplish all things when Christ is their strength.
Comfort the Sorrowful: When our children’s hearts are broken, taking the time to really listen–instead of either being dismissive of their pain or hurling platitudes at them in our discomfort–can help connect our kids with God’s consoling embrace.
Bear Wrongs Patiently: Picking our battles, and letting little offenses and mistakes go can be a huge work of mercy that inspires saintly patience in us, builds rapport with our children, and enables necessary corrections to really count.
Forgive Willingly: When our children hurt us, it can be tempting to react in anger. When we check that impulse and forgive our children willingly, we grow in compassion and self-control and teach our kids that they can never lose our love–or God’s love–even when they are less than perfect.
Pray for the Living and the Dead: Teaching our children to have their own vibrant prayer life is the best way we can help our children experience the love of their Heavenly Father.
In this Year of Mercy, our homes can become saint-making machines if we allow The Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mommy and Daddy to reveal the spiritual power of everyday family life! To explore more ways you can create a grace-filled home, check out Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids.