The Spiritual Works of Mercy move beyond the needs of the body to the needs of the soul. They nurture others at a profound level, bringing them into deeper union with others and with God. We are sometimes presented with the opportunity to carry out these works of mercy when we least expect it. The practical suggestions below will help even small children feel prepared for those unexpected moments. Pray the Holy Spirit prayer that accompanies each work of mercy so that you will “not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say.” Trust that, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, “you will be given at that moment what you are to say.” (Matt 10:19)
1. Admonish the sinner
- Don’t be afraid to tell your children (who have reached the age of reason) that immoral behavior is an objective sin. (“Playing my smartphone when I told you not to was disobedience. That was wrong and a sin.”)
- Encourage your children to charitably remind their siblings or friends of the right thing to do when they see a bad choice being made. Role play some example scenarios.
Holy Spirit, please give me the fortitude I need to speak up for what is right and encourage others to follow God’s commandments.
2. Instruct the uninformed
- Have older siblings teach a Bible story or a principle of our Catholic faith to younger siblings. Get creative with a puppet show, play, or craft!
- Ask one of your children to invite a non-Catholic friend to a fun parish event.
Holy Spirit, please fill me with Your gift of understanding, so that I can teach others the Truth about my Catholic faith.
3. Counsel the doubtful
- Encourage your children to look for reasons to praise each other. Use the power of positive reinforcement to confirm good choices.
- To give good counsel, we have to be good listeners. Ask your children to tell you something interesting (not gossip) that they heard as they went about their day.
Holy Spirit, please give me the gift of counsel so I will know what to do and say when someone is feeling scared or unsure.
4. Comfort the sorrowful
- Come together as a family when someone is sad or sick. Have each family member think of something nice they can do or say.
- Explain grief to your children at an age appropriate level. Have them help you make a card for someone who is suffering — just to let them know you’re thinking about them.
Holy Spirit, please give me the gift of knowledge, that I might see my life the way God sees it. Help me to share with others that everything that happens to us works for a greater good.
5. Be patient with those in error
- Teach your children calming techniques (deep breathing, taking a “time out” from a heated situation, getting a soothing hug from Mom or Dad). Tell them to use these techniques when they start to feel angry with someone so they can use a gentle tone of voice to work things out.
- Remind your children that your family loves people more than things. Even if a sibling breaks a treasured possession or interrupts a fun activity, teach your children to show respect and kindness toward him or her.
Holy Spirit, please give me the gift of wisdom so that I can love You, and those made in Your image, above all else–even when I feel sad or mad.
6. Forgive offenses
- Give your children the words they need when they claim they “hate” someone who did something they didn’t like. (“Instead of ‘I hate him’, try ‘I didn’t like it when he smashed my Lego truck.’”)
- Help two children who were upset with each other find something fun to do together once they’ve cooled off. Assist them in repairing their relationship.
Holy Spirit, please gift me with a healthy fear of the Lord so that I will be filled with a desire to please Him and forgive others as He forgives me.
7. Pray for the living and the dead
- Make a “spiritual bouquet” for someone who needs your prayers. Send them a card filled with paper flowers — one for each prayer you will say for them.
- Write down the names of deceased relatives and friends in a prayer journal, and light a candle while you pray a decade of the Rosary for them.
Holy Spirit, please give me the gift of piety, so that I will remain obedient to the prayer life you have chosen for me.
Image credit: “mercy” by Andrew Parvenov (dreamstime.com)