Pope Francis is pretty much everyone’s favorite Pope at the moment. It’s not difficult to see why. No disrespect to Pope Benedict (Emeritus), but Pope Francis inspires us every day with his simplicity, his dislike for ceremony and his willingness to demonstrate God’s mercy and compassion to the poor and sinners. He takes it all back to the basics. Love. Mercy. Compassion. Forgiveness. Understanding. Like Jesus told us to do.
Last week, I read his message for Next Year’s World Youth Day in Poland. It’s not very long, and it’s absolutely worth the read.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7)
That’s the verse on which the WYD theme is based. There’s a fair bit of history and theology at the beginning of the message and then he gets to the really practical bit: how can we as young Christians live the virtue of mercy?
James 2: 14 – 26 talks about the relationship between faith and works. Sometimes, I forget what works exactly I’m supposed to be doing. Every day, I live my life and try to be open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit but it can be hard to keep track, can’t it? I know I want to be an instrument of God’s mercy but I’m not sure how. Ever felt that way?
Pope Francis suggests that we live one corporal and one spiritual work of mercy every month starting from January 2016. I figured we could tweak it a bit. Instead of living two of them for seven months next year, we could live one each month starting November 2015. So we’d have lived all of them by December 2016. It’s one of those things that seems daunting but here’s praying God will bless our efforts, if we try. In the end, He’s the one who does good, not us. We merely cooperate. Another thing to note is that “focusing” on living one work of mercy doesn’t mean ignoring the others. It just means paying particular attention to one of the works. So are you game? 🙂
For non-Catholics, I’ve listed the works below.
Corporal Works of Mercy:
- To feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Clothe the naked
- Welcome the stranger
- Assist the sick
- Visit the imprisoned
- Bury the dead
Spiritual Works of Mercy:
- To counsel the doubtful
- Teach the ignorant
- Admonish sinners
- Comfort the sorrowful
- Forgive offences
- Patiently bear with troublesome people
- Pray to God for the living and the dead.
Every first/last Sunday of the month, I’ll do a post on practical ways we can live a particular work. I haven’t yet thought of the order to take them but it seems proper to take “Bury the Dead” and/or “Pray to God for the living and the dead” in November (2015 and 2016). This is because November is the month the Church traditionally dedicates to celebrating saints (All Saints’ Day: November 1) and praying for the dead (All Souls’ Day: November 2).
Here are some practical ways to live “Bury the dead” and “Pray to God for the living and the dead”. I understand non-Catholics might not be familiar/comfortable with the practice of praying for the dead but there are many others you could try.
- Be faithful about attending wake-keeps and funerals of people you knew.
- Support or volunteer at a hospice. A hospice is different from a hospital in that hospices only offer care for the sick and terminally ill. They don’t cure illnesses. There’s a listing of some of them in Nigeria here. Also try a Google search for hospices in your state of residence.
- Participate in a bereavement ministry in your church. Is there a group in your place of worship that visits families that have lost loved ones?
- Spend time with widows and widowers, children who have lost a parent or both, and people who have lost siblings and would like to talk. Write them a letter, send them a card, send them an email or invest in a long phone call.
- Help a widow or widower who needs help with an errand.
- Take friends and relatives to visit and pray at the cemetery;
- Support ministries that offer free Christian burials to those unable to afford one;
- Offer daily prayers for those with terminal illnesses and for those who have died;
- Pray specially for innocent victims, especially those in conflict regions, victims of violent crime and aborted babies.
If you’d like to take part in a group initiative, contact me and I’ll try my best to link you with other people in your area. If you’re organizing a group initiative as well, please let me know.
So will you be participating? What other ideas can you think of for living these works of mercy?