ViewpointHow to work the Spiritual Works of Mercy into your Holy Year of Mercy

There are many ways to observe the Holy Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis last December and continuing until December 8 of the current year.

Celebrations at international level (pilgrimages to Rome), diocesan level (visiting the cathedral), parish level (special Masses, liturgies, and retreats) are scheduled world-wide. The individual Catholic is free to select which activities are most feasible and fruitful for him or her.

Not every Catholic, however, is able to participate in organized Holy Year activities. But, there is nobody who is unable to design his or her own personal Holy Year and carry it through effectively. 

I propose that every Catholic set some time aside and draw up a list of commitments to be carried out during the Holy Year based of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. (I will deal with the spiritual works of mercy this week and the corporal works of mercy next week).

The spiritual works of mercy are:

To Counsel the Doubtful. This calls us to talk about our faith with confidence, and to reach out to those who are doubtful about their belief system. It requires that we create opportunities to talk to others about the fact that life is fundamentally trustworthy, that doubts can be a step in the process of maturity, and that God's will triumphs in the end.

To Instruct the Ignorant. The language here can be problematic. Who wants to be thought ignorant? I suggest that we re-name this Counsel as, "To assist those who seek Knowledge." During the Holy Year, we can deepen our own grasp of the faith, as well as involve ourselves in some form of faith formation in the parish school, Sunday School, the RCIA, or one-to-one discussions.

To Admonish Sinners. Again, admonishing others is a tricky business. In the Year of Mercy, we have to speak gently or we won't be heard at all. The first sinners to admonish are ourselves. But we all know people and states of life that we need to challenge gently, perhaps those being inattentive to spouse and family, dishonest at work, or living an excessively luxurious life-style.

To Comfort the Afflicted. People experience afflictions in all kinds of ways-perhaps in the areas of physical or mental health, or in their marriage, or in the lack of material goods. This is a Counsel that requires less talk and more solidarity, being present with, and to, those in need.

To Forgive the Sinner. There is not one of us who has been offended in one way or another. The Evil One latches on to such situations and works hard to makes it enormously difficult to forgive. With the help of the Holy Spirit, there is no offense against us that we cannot forgive. 

To Bear Wrongs Patiently. In situations where the offense is ongoing, forgiveness is difficult. But no matter what the situation, God's grace impels us to let go of grudges, and to pray for understanding of those who are being offensive.  

To Pray for the Living and the Dead.  One of the most effective ways to maintain solidarity with our fellow men and women is through prayer for them. However, prayer for the dead has fallen on hard times. We wonder why it is necessary; after all, doesn't everyone go to heaven? But, in fact, many people go to Purgatory before going to heaven, and we can pour out our love for them as they continue their journey of transformation. 

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