Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Manifold Works of Mercy

The following comes from Fr. C. John McCloskey:

On December 8, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the second Vatican Council as well as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis inaugurated a special Year of Mercy.

There are many ways in which we can celebrate this holy moment in the history of the Church. In particular, we can undertake more fervent practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In our time, much attention is paid to the corporal works of mercy, such as feeding the hungry and visiting the sick and imprisoned. These hold a special place in the Holy Father’s heart, and it is always a good idea to extend your practice of these works.

But the spiritual works of mercy are relatively neglected these days, even though they also offer very fruitful ground for celebrating this Year of Mercy. These are: to admonish the sinner; to instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to comfort the sorrowful; to bear wrongs patiently; to forgive all injuries; and to pray for the living and the dead.

Let’s put this bluntly: Many Catholics have been lost to the Church in the United States and Europe because of ignorance – as well as the scandal of Catholics not living up to the demands of the faith and the lure of the secular culture, to be sure. But despite the fallout from the priest scandals, the greatest part of those who have left the Church did so through a combination of poor catechesis and unwillingness to live according to the teachings of the Church on such issues as marriage, homosexuality, abortion, and contraception.

The best thing we can do as part of this year of Mercy is to work and pray, in an individualized way, for the return to the Church of those who have strayed. Generally, most fallen-away Catholics are only a good confession away from returning to the Church in which they were baptized. After all, the Lord tells us Himself that the Son of Man came to save what was lost. And that also is the work we are called to do. Yes, that includes prayer – but also action.

What form should such action take? It could be our willingness to talk to a fallen-away Catholic about the faith. And here I am not speaking only of relatives but also, for example, of people with whom you work who have fallen away from the Church. There are people in your extended family – perhaps nephews and nieces – who have stopped practicing their faith, in many cases due to bad spiritual formation and lack of sound knowledge about what the Church teaches and why.

Read the rest here.

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