Living the Corporal Works of Mercy
First thing I want to point out that one of our most recent exemplars of living the corporal works of mercy is St. Teresa of Calcutta. She wasn’t a part-timer in this area. She EMBODIED the Corporal works of Mercy. She literally fleshed-out this way of being and living.
However, what I am going to talk about are 4 highly essential tips to live the Corporal Works of Mercy. Just like we know that we CANNOT become the saints God has called us to be unless we have a solid prayer life, we cannot be the Catholic we are called to be unless we live the Corporal Works of Mercy. We need to put in the time.
I’m sure you already know that so I’m going to start with my FIRST TIP -WHEN to find the time. This is for those who need help in this area.
So the first question we need to address is WHEN we are to fulfill a Corporal Work of Mercy. Sometimes we tend to sit back and WAIT for the opportunity to serve. We’ll just think to ourselves, “well it’s my intention to serve others so I’ll keep my eyes open for an opportunity when I see someone in need.” Yes, that’s all find and dandy, but this strategy lacks one thing, DECISION. If you choose this way, then you avoid having to make the time and the decision to help.
When it comes to the spiritual life, it’s both quality AND quantity of your time that matters. Just like any relationship, would you feel content and satisfied for the rest of your life spending only 1 hour a week with your boyfriend, gilfriend, husband, or wife, then to only find their minds were only half way engaged that 1 hour? So do you think we could build a strong relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior spending only a half-hearted hour a week during Mass with Him? When I began to made this comparison in my spiritual life in my early 20’s, I began to realize why I couldn’t break away from my bouts of depression and anxiety. I didn’t have a physiological problem. I had a spiritual problem because of the half-hearted and slothful way I approached everything in my life – especially my Catholic faith. I lacked decision and resolve to build my relationship with Christ. We reap what we sow and, we build this relationship with Christ uniquely through the Love of Neighbor. This is a VERY SPECIAL CALLING. It’s one that can ONLY be done in this physical world. Once we leave this world and move on to our eternal reward, we can no longer serve and love in this way.
So there’s still the question of WHEN. Just like setting aside time to pray, we HAVE TO set aside time live the Corporal Works of Mercy. It’s not just about putting it on your schedule. It’s about building your life AROUND these precious works of love. Otherwise, it’s just a thing to do on your schedule like walking your dog or doing laundry. You know you need to do these things, but your life is not built around them, or at least I hope not. So for example, if you want to feed the homeless twice a week, then make sure every Tuesday and Thursday when you plan to do this, you take care of things you normally would’ve done at those hours ahead of time. Make sure you get enough sleep for the energy you need and maybe earn a little extra income for supplies, etc.
Now this ties into my next tip WHERE SHOULD I SERVE? Now you may say, “well, I just don’t know where I fit in or my heart still hasn’t led to the place where I feel I should serve.” I totally get that. Finding your “place,” especially when there are so many ways to serve, can be a daunting thing. But there is a danger to be aware of here. To serve should not be based on a FEELING. Because FEELING is NOT LOVE. Our Church tells us that LOVE is a DECISION TO WILL THE GOOD OF THE OTHER. The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses the words Love and Charity interchangeably. Look up the index of the Cathechism online and if you look up “LOVE” it also says “see also Charity.” Let’s look at the life of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Once she decided to be obedient to God, she had to make daily choices. I’m sure she was faced with decisions like whether she should stay to feed a hungry child or leave to pick up a dying man on the street. Which would you choose? Which is easier? Which is harder? Here’s a little story…
As a kid, I would have never believed I’d speak in front of an audience in any capacity. I was too shy to speak in front of anyone in school. I’d make sure to listen to everything the teacher said in class because I was terrified to ask a question. If I did have a question, I’d make sure everyone was gone after class before approaching the teacher. And even that took guts. The very first time I had to speak in front of a group was about 25 years ago. My mom was a CCD teacher and I was her assistant. She had to step out of the class for something urgent and I needed to take over. There were about a dozen middle-schoolers staring at me, waiting for me to say something. I had a panic attacked and I couldn’t breathe. When I did have the courage to open my mouth, my voice was quivering and I thought I was to pass out. Luckily my mom walked back in a few minutes later and I was relieved! About 4 years later, God placed the desire in my heart to teach CCD. I signed up and I was placed in a classroom with almost 30 middle-schoolers. But this time was different. In those 4 years, God noticed my desire to do His Will, even with all my failings and imperfections. I learned to rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance and made the process easy for me. Beginning with helping my mom as a CCD assistant, then having the courage to do His Will and teach my own CCD was the training ground for what I do today.
You may say, “well Alexandra, I’m not out to change the world and do something great.” I want to say you are very much mistaken. You ARE meant to change the world and make a big impact. No matter what occupation you choose, whether be a stay-at-home mom or a brain surgeon, your interaction with just 1 person can change THEIR world. You are impacting the world every single day. I heard someone say once that, “somebody in need is waiting on the other side of your obedience.” So please, listen to the simple little callings you get daily. It’s not just about the big stuff. Jesus wants to see if He can trust you with the simple things before he places more graces on your soul to serve in a different capacity.
So I have a short answer to the question of where. Start with those closest to you. If your mother-in-law or someone close to you is ill, don’t say, “well she or he’s given me hell for 30 years, they deserve to be suffering the way they are, it’s out of my hands.” Or, “they were alcoholics and wife beaters, it’s their own fault so I don’t want to help there.” I say… that’s a perfect place to start, LOVE THE UNLOVEABLE, AND BE CHARITABLE EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT. CHARITY BEGINS IN THE HEART. We need to be OBSESSED with wanting to fulfill our purpose for the love of God.
My next tip is to commit for a SPECIFIC PERIOD OF TIME. Once you’ve decided on where you want to begin serving, my next tip is to decide for how long you want serve in that way. Let’s say you want to visit the sick in hospitals. Check with your parish to see if they have a hospital ministry to coordinate with them. Commit for a certain period of time, let’s say 30-60 days. That way, you have freedom to stop and reflect on your experience and decide whether you want to continue or change direction. Maybe the Holy Spirit will call you to serve somewhere else. He will open the doors and guide your steps if you leave yourself open to God’s will, not your own. Committing to a specific period of time will give you the freedom to choose and give God the freedom to direct you where He needs you to be.
My final and, most important tip, is to discern WHY. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? Why are you here? Is it because it makes you feel good? Is it because so want others to see how good of a person you are? Because you know that the Bible tells us that we will reap what we sow, do you expect God to grant your wishes, answer your prayers, or give you consolations in exchange for your service? When you serve, do you expect to see the fruits of your labor immediately and be showered with gratitude?
If it’s for any of those reasons then your service will be short-lived. Once the feel-good and glamour wears off will you abandon the CALL? Or are you in this for the love of God?
In the midst of St. Teresa’s dark and lonely moments, while serving the poorest of the poor. Do you not think she was tempted to abandon the life-long task Jesus asked of her? You will be challenged and you WILL be tempted to abandon your calling as well. I can guarantee that. What do you think kept St. Teresa going?
It was the quality and quantity of time she had spent building a relationship with our Lord Jesus. It was her fervent prayer life. Abandoning her call meant abandoning Jesus. She built her relationship with Him through her service for others. Every action she took, from feeding the hungry to comforting the dying was a prayer to Jesus. They were not just actions for the sake of helping, but movements of the heart for the love of Jesus. Just imagine what will your relationship with God look like if you spent 1 hour a week serving through the Corporal Works of Mercy. Imagine what it would look like if you did this for 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years? That is not including the lives you will touch through your generous compassion and charity.
Imagine what your life will look like in 1, 3, or 5 years from now if you didn’t fulfill your calling? Like I said earlier, there is somebody waiting on the other side of your obedience.
I will conclude this talk with Matthew 6:1-4
“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
Thank you for allowing me to share in the Mercy that flows through your precious heart through the Corporal Works of Mercy. Lord, you know many times I fail to be a light to those in need. Send me the grace to serve people with greater needs than my own – both the lovable and unlovable. Please help me to see that I am enough, even in my brokenness, to be your instrument of Mercy. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus… Have Mercy on Us.
Our Lady of Sorrows… Pray for us.
Saint Joseph… Pray for us.
Saint Therese of Lisieux… Pray for us.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta… Pray for us.
Our guardian angels… Watch over us
In the name of the Father…
My dearest Catholic Servants, please don’t hesitate to let me know your special intentions so we can pray for you during our next family Rosary. My email address is Alexandra@thecatholicservant.com.