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Spiritual Exercises and the Corporal Works of Mercy

The corporal works of mercy – feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned and the sick, and shelter the homeless – seem very straightforward, as do ways to respond tangibly.

Capuchin Father David Songy encourages us to provide practical assistance to others in need, as Jesus called us to do, but suggests we don’t stop there.

He proposes a different way of thinking about these works of mercy, noting Pope Francis’ words to a Jubilee audience in June 2016, “Those who have experienced in their own lives the Father’s mercy cannot remain indifferent before the needs of their brothers.”

Fr. Songy said it is important to “focus on God performing exercises of mercy in your own life versus a deed you do out of your strictly human sense of charity.”

Begin by reflecting upon God’s mercy to you, he says. “Contemplate each of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy with this thought in mind: How have I experienced such mercy in my life?

“Feed the hungry. How have I concretely experienced God feeding me? Instruct the ignorant. How has God taught me?”

As a next step, he recommends meditating on Scripture passages from Jesus’ life, such as John 6.

For “give drink, to the thirsty” contemplate John 19:28 or John 19:34.

Fr. Songy says, “God’s mercy comes first – and from there, we can show mercy to others.”