By Bill Dodds
Good news, Mom and Dad! Take comfort in this Year of Mercy, because you’ve been living and teaching the corporal and spiritual works of mercy for years.
When it comes to the corporal, day after day you’ve been: feeding the hungry (“What’s for dinner, Mom?”), giving drink to the thirsty (more so when the little ones couldn’t reach the faucet), clothing the naked (and clothing them again as your kids outgrow pants, shirts, coats and shoes overnight), sheltering the homeless (when they’re young but these days, that sheltering includes 20- and 30-somethings) and visiting the sick (providing chicken soup, placing a cool hand on a warm forehead and dashing to the pediatrician or pharmacy).
What about visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead? More often, but not always, this can involve extended family and friends. It’s helping those whose loved one is in trouble with the law, and offering your support to those who are grieving.
Spiritual Works as a Parent
The same is true for the spiritual works. Just look at that list and consider what you do as a parent: counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently and pray for the living and the dead.
Counseling, instructing, admonishing, forgiving – that’s parenting. That’s marriage. Sometimes words are needed. Often it’s the example you set. It’s the way you choose to live your life, to live your Catholicism.
But, of course, both sets of works extend beyond family and friends. Throughout the world, and in your community, there are those who are literally hungry, homeless and all the rest. There are those who are doubtful, ignorant, sinners and who offend in many ways.
You probably know that Divine Mercy Sunday – celebrated on the Sunday after Easter which will be April 3 this year – traces its origin back to St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish religious sister and visionary. In her diary, she writes of Jesus saying to her:
“My daughter … you are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.
“I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first by deed, the second by word, the third by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to my mercy.”
By these, you and your family do that, too: Deed. Word. Prayer.
These three keys will help you in unlocking the Year of Mercy and filling your home with merciful love that mirrors God’s love and mercy for you.
Bill Dodds is a syndicated columnist for Catholic News Service. He and his late wife, Monica, were the founders of the Friends of St. John the Caregiver (www.FSJC.org).