It was a Freudian slip. I meant to say, “corporal works of mercy.” But “corporate works of mercy” is what came out instead.

I was with several women in my Cursillo group, and we had just decided that we wanted to read a book together over the summer, and discuss it at our weekly meetings. We chose “Beautiful Mercy—Experiencing God’s Unconditional Love So We Can Share It With Others.” The book is a series of essays by different writers, each on the subject of one of the Corporal or Spiritual Works of Mercy.

For those who aren’t familiar with them, the works of mercy are based on the teachings of Christ, and divided into two groups. The Corporal Works of Mercy are those that attend to people’s physical needs, such as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and visiting the sick. The Spiritual Works of Mercy relate to spiritual and emotional needs, such as comforting the afflicted, counseling the doubtful, and praying for the living and the dead.

There are many ways to perform each of the acts of mercy. Feeding the hungry, for instance, can be accomplished by volunteering to serve a meal at a homeless shelter, donating to a food shelf, or packaging food that will go to malnourished children in impoverished countries. We also perform this work of mercy whenever we prepare a meal for a friend or neighbor who’s sick or recovering from surgery.

At our meeting last week, we discussed how we might put what we read into action. We plan to read about each work of mercy, talk about different ways we can fulfill it, then spend the week looking for opportunities to do so. The next week, we’ll talk about our experience, then do the same thing for the next work of mercy.

I’m guessing that as we work through each work of mercy, we’ll all start recognizing places and ways we can incorporate them into our lives. We’ll also likely realize that we’re already engaging in works of mercy without even thinking about them as such.

I hope so. Not so we can pat ourselves on the back about the “good deeds” we’re doing, but in order to remind ourselves that we don’t need to be saints and martyrs to take care of those in need, and we don’t need to make huge sacrifices of time and effort in order to make a difference in the lives of others.

When I slipped up and said “corporate works of mercy,” instead of “corporal works of mercy,” it got me thinking of ways that corporations – companies both large and small – practice works of mercy. Many have specific charities that they support, and others encourage their employees to volunteer or take part in activities and organizations that help the needy. So there are lots of people engaging in works of mercy, even if they don’t call them that.

Works of mercy that we do, whether corporal or spiritual, corporate or personal, lessen the burden and ease the suffering of more people than we’ll ever know. I think that’s going to be a great way to spend the summer.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on June 2, 2016.
©Betty Liedtke, 2016

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