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On The Road To Perfection
Episode 93: Spiritual Works Of Mercy

The first one, instruct the ignorant, seems at first glance to be an easy one. As Dad says, “who wouldn’t want to tell everyone how smart you are?” But it’s much harder than just little trivia facts. It’s teaching about the Lord, the Faith, and the Church – all we know to those who are ignorant. This takes courage to stand up to a solo scripturaist spouting scripture verses left and right, or the non-Catholic who claims to have extensively looked onto Catholicism. But we have to remember, that we have the Truth on our side, many resources, and likely have friends who know more about the faith than we do.

The next Spiritual Work of Mercy, counsel the doubtful, is also an “easy one” at first glance. “Should I choose a chocolate cake or salad?” Your friend asks, and you are left to list the pros and cons of cake and salad for your friend. But this example is an easy one to answer. Questions get harder as we get older. “What college should we go to?” “Who should I marry?” “How should I raise my kids?” “Should we move away from family and friends to a job offer a substantially more than I’m making?” We, as parents, friends, trusted counselors, and more, are called to this work of mercy on a daily basis. Some questions are easy, some hard, and some doubts are beyond our ability to counsel. Sometimes, as Dad did in the example he gives about his friend Barry, we have to tell people straight up what they need to do, but often we just need to be there for our friends and family to have a shoulder to lean on and mercifully provide our advice.

Admonish the sinner is the third Spiritual Work of Mercy. It is easy to tell people off for doing something wrong, but how we do it is the actual Work itself. Webster defines admonish as “to indicate duties or obligations to or to express warning or disapproval to especially in a gentle, earnest, or solicitous manner.” We can’t just straight up look at people in the eye and bellow “Burn in Hell!” Or tell people to go to confession. We can suggest, or gently remind people about something. We are meant to look out for our fellow man, and we must do this gently and earnestly if we will ever get the point across.

The fourth, and one of the hardest Spiritual Works of Mercy for Mom and Dad, is bear patiently those who wrong us. Everyone has difficulty with this one. Patience is a virtue. As much as that may be an overused axiom, patience is a very important part of our faith. We are called to patience. God has patiently helped humanity through countless years of wrong and sin. Why can’t we return the small by not trying to make the driver that cut us off earlier crash? Patience is difficult, and we encourage you to listen to our patience podcast for a refresher on one of the hardest virtues of all.

The fifth Spiritual work of Mercy is forgive offenses. This one plays a bit into the one before, but we are called to a more obvious action. To say, “I forgive you” to people who don’t apologize, to people who don’t realize they’ve wronged you, or to people who do honestly mean they’re sorry. Perhaps we are not in a position to do more than forgive the first two internally, but the the third deserves an honest “I forgive you.” Otherwise both of you leave feeling terrible and unhealed. We need to be willing to put the past behind us and move forward anew.

Sixth is comfort the sorrowful. It is perhaps the most draining Spiritual Work of Mercy, the most time consuming of them all, or even the most frustrating. Some people bounce back quickly, some take longer, and others are sorrowful beyond our endurance to comfort them. We need to be that shoulder to lean on, that spiritual nurse. When others need us as a brother or sister in Christ, we are duty-bound to help them through tough times.

The seventh and last Spiritual Work of Mercy is pray for the living and the dead. Some of us do this really well, the rest of us drop the ball on this work a lot. Sometimes we forget completely. If you struggle with keeping track of people you’ve promise to pray for, write it down in a notebook. Set a time to pray for each of them. Pray for the dead with this short prayer

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

So, to wrap it all up, Mom leaves us with three simple words like Dad did last week, only three different ones.