The spiritual works of mercy are inspired by the life of Jesus and the spiritual instructions he gave his disciples.
The Catholic Church will often speak about practicing the “spiritual works of mercy.”
What are the spiritual works of mercy?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities” (CCC 2447).
They are categorized in two groups: spiritual and corporal.
What are the corporal works of mercy?
In particular, the “spiritual” works of mercy are based on the life of Jesus and his instructions he gave to his disciples. The beatitudes are a great example of this type of teaching.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10)
These works of mercy are directed toward our spiritual well-being that we may recognize the eternal goal we are called to attain.
The Church lists the spiritual works of mercy as follows:
- To instruct the ignorant
- To counsel the doubtful
- To admonish sinners
- To bear wrongs patiently
- To forgive offenses willingly
- To comfort the afflicted
- To pray for the living and the dead
Examples of each of these spiritual works of mercy can be found on the website of the United States bishops’ conference.
Pope Francis proposed the addition of an eighth spiritual work of mercy in his message for the celebration of the World Day of Care for Creation.
As a spiritual work of mercy, care for our common home calls for a “grateful contemplation of God’s world” (Laudato Si’, 214) which “allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us” (ibid., 85).