If I were a dwarf in Snow White, I’d be Bashful—not knowing what to say or when to speak and even forgetting how to utter a sound. In today’s video, Fr. Mike Schmitz claims that he is shy as well, but, as you can see, he doesn’t shy away from evangelizing.
Fr. Schmitz cites Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortaion, Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World): “The person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others.” Are you evangelized or are you easily mistaken as one who is not evangelized because you don’t take your faith out into the world?
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So, maybe sidewalk preaching or apologetics in front of an audience isn’t for you. That’s quite alright. Regardless of our personality, everyone is called to perform the spiritual works of mercy. Do you know what they are?
As Fr. Mike suggests, bringing others to Christ doesn’t mean you need to be something you are not; be yourself and find where God wants you to evangelize others. The corporal works of mercy help others with what their body needs—food, clothes, shelter, social interaction, water, and proper burial—but the spiritual works of mercy help with the soul of persons directly. These two sets of works of mercy are often intertwined, as you may engage in spiritual conversation and prayer during corporal works of mercy and be called to action in the corporal through engaging in the spiritual.
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Look at each spiritual work of mercy below and use the questions and bible references to reflect alone or with your family, friends, class, youth group, or church community on these important spiritual works of mercy:
Admonish the Sinner
This is NOT asking for a “fire and brimstone” spiel to everyone you meet. Remember these are works of mercy. Instead, this is asking you to charitably and confidently lead others back on the path to Heaven, which will look different in every situation.
Do you “love the sinner and hate the sin,” while also humbly remembering that you are a sinner?
Do you courageously decline invitations or temptations to sin from others, even if they’ll make fun of you for not participating?
Do you kindly speak up for the sake of others who are misled?
Are you ashamed of your faith and pretend to be like those around you who sin instead of truly loving them by acting on this spiritual work of mercy?
Are you prepared to help a person who wants to turn from sin by encouraging them, finding them people, resources, or other support to help them overcome temptation?
Are you praying for sinners, especially those in your family, friend’s group, church community, and even yourself?
Do you go to confession regularly and invited others to do so with you?
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
Counsel the Doubtful
This is another spiritual work of mercy for which you may not have all the answers, but you are still able to at least speak with the confidence and clarity that you have in your own faith. Provide insight where you can and be ready to refer them to someone who can answer to their questions.
Do you take the opportunity to invite others to mass or confession or prayer, even if you know the answer is “no”?
Do you encourage others to participate in social events at your church, especially if you know they are struggling?
Do you avoid conversations with those who aren’t strong in their faith or look down upon them?
Do you avoid trying to understand where others are on their path to Christ or assume everyone else is at the same stage you are?
Are you prepared to seek spiritual direction for yourself or a companion who needs it?
Are you ready to research answers to someone’s qualm or attempt to figure out their conundrum, even if it means admitting you need the assistance of someone else to do so?
Are you prepared to admit to a trusted, wiser adult, priest, or friend who can help you if you also begin to doubt?
Refer to the Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:18-23; Mark 4:13-20; Luke 8:11-15).
Bear Wrongs Patiently
It’s one thing to admit when a situation is difficult, but it’s another to burden yourself and those around you with vindictive backlash. Yes, we are called to seek justice, but we are also called to love mercy (Micah 6:8).
Do you strive to be an example for others on how to “take the high road”?
Do you allow complaining to spread into gossip or slander?
Do you kindly let others know when they have wronged you so that they may have a chance to right it or do you simply resent them?
Do you help others right their wrongs with suggestions and prayer?
Do you do wrong to others purposefully (or accidentally) without making amends?
Do you harbor grudges?
Are you in denial that an injustice is taking place so as to avoid bearing it?
Are you patient with not only with yourself but others in unfortunate situations?
Are you praying for help and ready to be the help for others when they need it?
Do you pass by others who are wronged without helping them?
Do you encourage others to seek revenge or complain about their own wrongs?
Do you help others with their burdens to the best of your ability?
Do you speak up for those who are wronged and can’t speak for themselves (i.e. unborn children, the handicapped, or the vulnerable elderly)?
“For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace.” (1 Peter 2:19)
Pray for the Living and the Dead
Here’s your challenge: Actively ask others for their prayer intentions. Try asking one person a week, and then one person a day, and then you will build up enough confidence to ask regularly, when you see fit, or when you are called to do so by the Holy Spirit.
Do you remember to pray for the living you have interacted with in other spiritual or corporeal works?
Do you remember those who have passed and pray that they be received in Heaven?
Do you remember to pray for others privately—not just when the intentions are said at mass?
Are you actively seeking prayer intentions in a balanced manner—not too pushy, not too timid?
Are you following through with your intent to pray for others?
Do you dedicate any burdens you bear by offering them up for those living and dead?
Do you seek new novenas or other prayers to pray for others?
Do you invite others to pray with you for others?
Do you remember the traditional prayer after meals—“May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace”?
Do you incorporate prayer for the dead in the corporeal works of mercy to bury the dead?
“Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.” (2 Maccabees 12:46)
Instruct the Uninformed / Ignorant
No, this is not permission to beat the Bible over someone’s head. Whether you know the answer to every question, know part of the answer, or can admit that you don’t know the answer and seek the answer through resources and trusted companions, you have the ability to lead others to Christ.
Do you inform yourself of correct answers when you discover an unfamiliar part of your faith?
Do you understand the relationship between faith and science, especially the places commonly thought to be contradictory?
Do you listen or read history of the church, such as saints’ lives or explanations of the creed or mass?
Do your form and inform yourself on Catholic Social Teaching, especially as relevant to your community or vocation?
Do you admit that you do not know everything but offer answers when you do know them?
Are you practicing your faith so as to better be able to inform yourself and others how it feels to be in adoration, to pray, or to receive the Body and Blood of Christ?
Are you prepared to give testimony how and when you should in situations where answers are beyond the logic and turn more towards personal experience?
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Comfort the Sorrowful
There has been a time in every person’s life where he or she has needed comfort. Think of how others have comforted you and how you have comforted others.
Where you there for someone when they person needed you?
Do your friends and family know you are a shoulder to cry on?
Are you willing to engage in a conversation with someone who needs just one person to listen to their woe, whether you know them or not?
Are you willing to tell someone that you are praying for them?
Are you bitter from a time when you needed someone and were not helped?
Do you think your sorrows can console someone you know who is struggling?
Do you hide your pain when you feel the Holy Spirit calling you to share it and receive help?
Do you turn people avoid the company of sorrowful people?
Are you aware of support groups (i.e. grieving, addiction recovery, divorce care, medical illness support groups) where you or a person you know can go to share and grow with others?
Do you visit the sick without an open heart to heart their story?
Do you give up easily when someone who is in need of comfort or a kind word bitterly turns you away?
Do you pray for those needing consolation?
Do you ask the Holy Spirit for guidance or do you assume you are helpful and always have the solution?
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, the old order had passed away.” (Rev 21:4)
Forgive Offenses Willingly
All of these are impossible without prayer, but this one is especially difficult. Whether it’s the depth of our pain or the pride in our hearts, we are called to the merciful love that is forgiveness.
What are your grudges?
What wrong-doings keep you up at night?
Who do you need to ask forgiveness from?
Who do you need to forgive?
Do you take offense too easily?
Are you helping your friends and family forgive offenses or enabling them to harboring bad feelings towards another?
Do you feel forced to forgive others or can you do so openly, no matter the wrong?
What is the hardest thing in your life for you to forgive?
Can you forgive or ask forgiveness regardless of whether the sentiment is received well?
Do you make others forgive you or others without allowing them to choose to or not?
Do you lead others to forgiveness?
Do you pray for those you resent?
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others alone with you so that every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matt 18:15-18)
Looking for more ideas? Check out Genevieve’s series on the Corporal Works of Mercy!