We continue the 52-week plan to grow in Catholic Manhood by becoming a better Catholic Son and Catholic Father.

Last week, we started reflecting upon Major Habit 6 – Perform Works of Mercy and reviewed Habit 20 – Be an excellent steward of Time, Talent and Treasure.

We turn our attention to Habit 21. 

Habit 21 – Perform the Corporal Works of Mercy

Perform the Corporal Works of Mercy by generous financial giving to the Church and volunteering to serve the many ministries of the Church to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger and homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.

Does Jesus command men to perform Works of Mercy?

Yielding from the Virtue of Charity which calls a man to love God and love his neighbor (CCC 1822) is the fruit of “mercy” (CCC 1829), a type of love which selflessly ignores offenses by others and fills a man with compassion that recognizes and seeks to alleviate the suffering of another. As directed by Jesus Christ, who is Divine Mercy, the Holy Catholic Church urges every Catholic man to regularly perform Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. See here for more on Jesus’ command for men to perform Works of Mercy

What are the Works of Mercy?

The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy (CCC 2447) are charitable actions by which men come to the aid of neighbors in their corporal (Latin corporalis, meaning “body”) and spiritual needs. The Works of Mercy performed by the men of Jesus Christ bear witness to Him and failing to perform the Works of Mercy is a sinful act of omission (CCC 1853) which Jesus warns will result in eternal damnation (Mt 25:46).

What is the source of the Corporal Works of Mercy?

The 7 Corporal Works of Mercy directly trace to the many acts of mercy Jesus performed and by His direct teaching in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats which include the call to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Clothe the Naked, Shelter the Homeless, Visit the Sick, and Visit the Imprisoned (Mt 25:31-46; CCC 2447); the Work of Mercy to Bury the dead was added to respect the body as a temple of God.

Should a man pray for those who need the Corporal Works of Mercy?

As Jesus directs in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Mt 25:31-46), He expects men to take a hands-on approach to serve those who are needy. Jesus also promises to hear a faithful man’s prayers (Mt 7:7-11; Jn 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24) when he prays with persistence (Lk 11:5-13, 18:1-8). It is always possible, commendable and effective to pray for the poor so they receive the Corporal Works of Mercy they desperately need; Jesus hears a man’s prayers and answers them.

Why give money to the Church for Corporal Works of Mercy?

There are several reasons why a Catholic man should generously give money to the Church for Corporal Works of Mercy. First, it is a precept (a binding obligation: CCC 2041) of the Church that “the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church” (CCC 2043), which includes the funding of many Corporal Works of Mercy that the Church performs. Second, the priest in each parish has an “on the ground” view of poverty and the needs of his flock and a man can help his fellow brothers and sisters in his own parish by giving. Third, within dioceses and the broader Church, the Church has long experience in serving the poor and a man’s financial gifts can be effectively used to help the truly needy in their corporal needs.

Sadly, prudence and good stewardship is needed today in giving financial gifts because some “catholic” charities have drifted into partnerships with other organizations that use donations to fund activities which directly oppose Church teachings (e.g. contraception, abortion, and support for other evils).

How can a Catholic man Feed the Hungry?

Many poor souls in the world do not have enough nourishing food to eat, both in modern society as well as in countries with less material riches. Despite the great abundance in modern society and extensive welfare programs, many still go hungry.

Every Catholic man is called to help feed the hungry and can do so by contributing food or money to local food shelves, packing food for shipment to poor people in other countries, volunteering to serve food to the needy and the homeless, or by contributing to charities that provide food or farming assistance to third-world countries.

How can a Catholic man Give drink to the thirsty?

Many in high poverty areas around the world suffer from both thirst and many water-borne illnesses because they lack access to sufficient clean water.

There are many organizations to which a Catholic man can contribute to build water wells, pipelines for distribution, water purification treatment plants, or provide water purification products.

How can a Catholic man Clothe the Naked?

Even in affluent modern societies, many people, including many children, lack sufficient clothing and shoes, particularly warm clothing and boots during the winter.

A Catholic man can lead his family to donate their used clothing and buy and contribute clothing or give money to local or international Catholic charities to provide clothing to those who need it.

How can a Catholic man Shelter the Homeless? – Many in the modern world are homeless, including those who have lost their homes due to a financial crisis, natural disaster, refugees, immigrants, and the mentally ill.

A Catholic man can volunteer to work in homeless shelters to provide food and services, give financially to support Catholic charities which provide shelter for the homeless, or open up his own home to someone who is homeless.

How can a Catholic man Visit the Sick?

One of the great tragedies of modern times is that many of the elderly, sick, and dying experience deep loneliness in their time of crisis because they do not have the blessing of visitors; growing numbers of people die alone in hospitals and hospice facilities.

People who are gravely ill or facing death can be greatly blessed to hear about Jesus and to know they have someone praying for them. Visit and comfort those, especially family and friends, who live alone, in nursing homes, in hospitals or are dying in hospice. 

How can a Catholic man Visit the Imprisoned?

There are millions of people, overwhelmingly men, who are justly imprisoned for their crimes, but who have experienced great violence and deprivation as children or have been seduced by the evil culture in which they have been raised; those in prison often suffer from isolation, hopelessness, desperation, intimidation and violence.

Many of these men have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. Consider volunteering in a Catholic prison ministry to visit of correspond with those in prison; pray for the many tortured souls who are now imprisoned. 

How should a Catholic man Bury the Dead?

In modern society, many Catholics do not believe in the truth about the importance of receiving a proper Catholic funeral mass; sadly, growing numbers choose to be cremated and have their ashes spread in unholy pagan rituals.

Where possible, seek to encourage and influence those who are dying or planning a service for a deceased loved one to have a Catholic funeral in a parish (CCC 1680-1690); a Catholic burial shows reverence for the dead who have been a temple of the Holy Spirit (CCC 2300) and is an act of faith of the resurrection of the body. Every Catholic man should also do his duty to give the dead a proper burial, to attend funerals and pray for the dead.

How can a Catholic man build a habit of performing the Corporal Works of Mercy?

Jesus Christ demonstrates not only the teaching of the Works of Mercy but the zealous and vigorous performance of the Works of Mercy as the central part of a man’s life.

Here are some ideas to help a man build a habit of performing the Corporal Works of Mercy:

Keep the Corporal Works of Mercy top of mind – Regularly meditate upon the Works of Mercy and ask God to help you recognize and take action to help the poor and needy; seek to see the world through the “lens” of the Works of Mercy.  Hold yourself accountable by regularly examining your conscience on how well  you are performing Corporal Works of Mercy, including in preparation for reception of the Sacrament of Penance.

Perform the Corporal Works of Mercy for Family and Neighbors – As a Catholic Son and Catholic Father, every Catholic man must naturally perform many Corporal Works of Mercy for his parents, siblings, extended family and his wife and children (feeding, clothing, caring for the sick, providing shelter).

Through God’s mysterious and incomprehensible Divine Dominion and Providence, every Catholic man is purposefully led to live in a specific time, in a specific place with specific people; there are no accidents with God, and every person a man comes into contact with are a blessing on his pilgrimage towards Heaven. Every Catholic man must be continually on the lookout for ways to perform the Corporal Works of Mercy for those whom God has blessed him to meet, particularly his neighbors.

Perform Works of Mercy in the Parish – Every Catholic man’s parish is his extended family, for every member of a parish is one of a man’s brothers or sisters in Jesus Christ. While it is often tempting to build many social networks and get involved in community charities, every Catholic man should strongly consider focusing most of his available time and effort into serving his local Catholic parish through Corporal Works of Mercy. Consider becoming more active in many good works of the Knights of Columbus as an active member.

Perform Works of Mercy in the Church – Every Catholic man is a member of the Catholic Church Militant, the Catholic Church on earth. Based on a man’s God-given skills and calling, he may be moved to serve in roles in his diocese or the broader Church to perform the Corporal Works of Mercy.

Perform Works of Mercy in Society – Every Catholic man’s priority must be to build the Kingdom of Christ; this necessitates that the major focus of men’s Works of Mercy outside of the family, neighbors and parish, should be to support Catholic institutions. Under no circumstances should a Catholic man ever support or become involved in any institution that engages in, or promotes activities that draw people into sin or directly contradict or attack the Church in any way.

Depending on his gifts and calling, a Catholic man may perform Corporal Works of Mercy through his worldly work, in government or in support of special charities (e.g. cancer research/treatment, international aid, war relief, etc.).

This week’s questions

Here are some questions to meditate upon:

Do I have a good understanding of my obligation to perform the Corporal Works of Mercy?

Which of the Corporal Works of Mercy move my soul at the present time?

This week’s commitments

Making a habit a reality requires commitment to concrete action. Here are this week’s challenges:

Make a commitment to review the Corporal Works of Mercy on a regular basis, including in preparation to receive the Sacrament of Penance.

Pick one Corporal Work of Mercy and commit to take some concrete actions to serve the poor and needy in the next 90 days.

Don’t forget to pray with the ECM Daily Gospel Devotional each day.

Consider listening to the EveryCatholicMan.com Gospel Devotional Podcast to be better prepared for Sunday Mass.

Daily Prayer

During the week, pray this short prayer, or one like it, to more generously perform the Corporal Works of Mercy:

Jesus, Divine Mercy, help me to hear Your commandment to perform Corporal Works of Mercy and guide me to see with eyes of mercy and to take concrete action when I see others who need my personal help. Amen.