A modern examination of conscience. (But not too modern… we’re loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church here!)
Have you ever felt overcome with compassion for someone who is suffering?
The man with a cardboard sign on the side of the road. The family who lost everything in a home fire. The child who broke a glass and weeps tears of remorse.
Compassion moves our heart to break for them, to cry for them. Mercy puts compassion in motion. It’s the virtue that acts on our sympathy, extending kindness and forgiveness to our neighbor in need.
The virtue of mercy is neatly summarized in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The seven corporal works of mercy are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, shelter the homeless, and bury the dead.
The seven spiritual works of mercy are: instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently, counsel the doubtful, comfort the afflicted, and pray for the living and the dead.
Let’s seek to give and receive mercy this month.
Receive the Gift of Mercy
- God is infinitely merciful.
His justice is perfect and His mercy is infinite. He gives His children all that they need to obtain salvation, and He bestows His gifts on top of that with boundless generosity. Open your heart to God’s mercy this month. Make a visit to the sacrament of confession, where God is waiting to wipe away all your sins. And strive to be extra aware of God’s blessings, turning to Him with gratitude and thanksgiving.
- God consoles and comforts us.
During times of sorrow, we so often are tempted to close in on ourselves. We turn our eyes inward, and become blind to the world around us, to the people who love us, and even to God’s presence. Grief, suffering, and sorrow are amazing opportunities to reconnect with the God of Consolations. Let Him heal the wounds of your heart.
- God convicts us of our sins.
I often hear people talk about “Catholic guilt” that keeps us living in fear, the type of guilt that we can’t let go of. The kind of guilt that always hounds us. But true, healthy guilt isn’t oppressive. Guilt is freeing. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins, He also promises us hope and life. He inspires us to change and move forward on the path of holiness. Reject the temptations of the devil that tell you you’re not enough. Develop a healthy sense of guilt that helps you become who God wants you to be.
- God’s mercy can come through human channels.
Sometimes a friend is there at just the right time to offer prayers, to say the right words, to heal our hearts. Thanks be to God for this blessing! And sometimes, a friend is there to tell us the hard truth. To inform us of our wrongdoing. Don’t let your pride take over. Thanks be to God for friends who look out for our spiritual well being too!
Practice Spiritual Mercy
- Be forgiving.
Compared to our sins against God, offenses against us are like nothing. God forgives us for all our sins – from the tiniest wrong, to the most serious mortal sin. We, in turn, can practice forgiveness towards our neighbor. Be quick to forgive and forget. Be patient when someone hurts you because they didn’t think before they spoke. Look for opportunities to share the infinite mercy God has given you. But also be just, and set boundaries as needed.
- Correct and instruct with charity.
Instruct the ignorant and admonish the sinner: perfect opportunities to put others in their place, right? But we must remember that mercy springs from the virtue of charity. Mercy is done in love. If we must confront someone who’s done wrong, we must do it humbly. We must genuinely care for their good and the good of others. Don’t let your pride run away with these works of mercy.
- Console and comfort.
These works of mercy are an opportunity to practice emotional awareness. Get in tune with those you love. When your friend, spouse, or kids have a bad day, go the extra mile to help restore them to peace. Be extra kind and compassionate in your conversation. Offer prayers for them. There are many in need of a healing touch, you can be God’s presence to them through the works of consolation, and through intercessory prayer.
Practice Corporal Mercy
- Care for your immediate family.
Our greatest obligation is to those who are closest to us in life. Joyfully do all that you can to assist those in your house and home in meeting their needs. Work at your job gratefully to provide for housing and living expenses. Complete your chores with a spirit of love and giving. Preparing meals, doing laundry, pouring a cold drink, are all acts of mercy. Don’t neglect the needs of those God gave you for your sanctification.
- Relieve the needs of your community.
Once we meet the needs of those at home, we can look a little wider. We can administer to the needs of our extended family, our friends, our church community, and our neighborhood. Is there an elderly or sick person who could use a visit? Is there a friend in need of a meal? A family in need of hand-me-downs? Use your time and resources to help those in your community.
- Minister to the world.
Finally, if your means allow, attend to national and global needs. There are countless charities and causes doing great things in the world. It seems like every time we turn around, another natural disaster has destroyed the lives of thousands. Another mission has run out of funds. How is God leading you? Reach out to the universal Body of Christ in whatever way He’s leading you.
Take the Challenge:
Are you ready to grow in mercy? Let’s get started! Here’s what you need to do:
- Prepare. If you haven’t already, read the mercy post carefully and reflect on what it means in your life. Print out your materials and place them in convenient places in your home. Join the Virtue Challenge Team on Facebook.
- Every morning, start the day with prayer (find it on your Nightstand Guide).
- Throughout the day, use your Fridge Guide to help integrate mercy into your life. Your Fridge guide has brief reminders, and some bonus extras (like an indulgenced prayer – woot!).
- Every evening, pray the nightly Examen (find it on your Nightstand Guide). This is a step-by-step review of your day, including praying for forgiveness, and resolving to do better tomorrow.
- Before confession (or weekly at least), prayerfully re-read the Virtue Challenge post. Reflect, not only on your sins and failings, but also on how God has blessed you with growth in virtue!
This Virtue Challenge is going to change your life! I pray God gives each of you (and me too, I need this) the grace you need to grow in mercy and to become the saint He’s calling you to be.
Take the Mercy Virtue Challenge now! Grab some cardstock, print your printables, and get ready for a grace-filled, growth-filled month.
Created in conjunction with Momsters Raising Monsters.