As Catholics we believe that we are to perform works of mercy to help others and ourselves along our faith journey. Last week I discussed the Corporal Works of Mercy in the home. Today I want to discuss how mothers and fathers fulfill the Spiritual Works of Mercy in the home. I know first hand how hard it is to perform anything other than a basic prayer with a young child in the home. If you have more than one child, it becomes so much harder. Then if you add in something like a special needs child or homeschooling, the journey becomes even more of a struggle.
As Catholics we believe mercy is a virtue of our personal will that allows us to have compassion for, and hopefully alleviate another person’s misfortune. The corporal works of mercy help with a person’s physical or corporal needs. The spiritual works of mercy help with a person’s soul.
So the spiritual works of mercy are as follows:
•Instruct the ignorant;
•Counsel the doubtful;
•Bear wrongs patiently;
•Forgive offences willingly;
•Comfort the afflicted;
•Pray for the living and the dead.
How are we, as parents, to perform these spiritual works of mercy in our homes? Here are my thoughts.
Instruct the Ignorant –Our primary job as parents are to take the little blobs of humanity that God has entrusted to us and form them into God loving Christians. This means we teach them how to be compassionate towards themselves, their family and others. We teach them how to feed themselves, dress themselves, numbers, and letters. We teach them how to pray for others, the world, and that it is okay to pray for their needs too.
Counsel the Doubtful — We teach our children how to respond to questions that make them doubt themselves and their families. We teach them how to respond to those that question their faith. We teach them where to go to look for answers about their faith when others make them question that faith.
Admonish Sinners — This is an easy one. We are all sinners. Including that precious little child in the middle of a temper tantrum because you, as the parent, said no you cannot go play in three feet of snow in a swimsuit. We correct them for hitting others, we correct them when we catch them telling a lie. We help them to understand that as humans, we are sinners and we need the grace in the sacraments to help us get through this life and get to heaven. As Catholics, we teach them about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This sacrament that allows us to actually hear God’s love and forgiveness expressed to us from one of his representatives here on Earth.
Bear Wrongs Patiently — As a parent this is key. Many times your children will do wrong against you. In the midst of anger they scream “I hate you.” A toddler becomes so angry, she lashes out and hits you or bites you. A teen “borrows” the food money from your purse so he can get a burger with the guys after school As a parent, offer a prayer for them and yourself. Then you get back to the the process of admonishing and instructing. That toddler goes into time out. That teen gets grounded and winds up with peanut butter and jelly for the week for lunch and dinner. The one that screams “I hate you,” gets told “I love you.”
Forgive Offenses Willingly — Again as a parent this will be practiced often. Take the examples above. The one that screams “I hate you” will come up in a calmer moment and say “I am sorry, I didn’t mean it.” You say that is okay, I know it and forgive you. Then the offender gets a hug. The toddler gets to say he was sorry and you say I forgive you and gets a hug too. Even that teen will say I am sorry, and you say I forgive you, put the punish stands.
Comfort the Afflicted — Afflicted means to comfort someone who has physical or mental pain. As a parent we will often comfort our children. There will many illness of the body while a child is growing up. There will even be mental pain too. Especially in those hard middle school years: they are best friends one day and enemies the next. Or there is the first break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Pray for the Living and the Dead — As Catholics we believe in the communion of the saints. That means all people, living and dead, are connected as one in the Body of Christ. We can pray here on Earth for those that are in heaven and we can ask for them to intercede for us with our Lord. We also believe in Purgatory, so we pray for those souls in Purgatory so that their time spent away from the face of God will be shorter. We teach our children about these beliefs so that they can pray for all the saints of the church.
We must first take the time in our home to instruct our children in these things. Then we can expand to the rest of the world.
A married woman must often leave God at the altar in order to find Him in her housework ~~St. Francis of Rome