Q. Which are the principal spiritual works of mercy?
A. 1. Admonishing sinners. 2. Advising those in doubt. 3. Consoling the afflicted. 4. Bearing patiently with injustice. 5. Forgiving those who offend us. 6. Instructing the ignorant. 7. Praying for the living and the dead. Do whatever lies in your power in order to prevent your neighbor from committing sin, and to promote within him the growth of virtue and piety.
Q. How may this be done?
A. By instruction, example, direction, reproof, correction, and the exercise of the just authority possessed by parents and superiors, as also by prayer. Whoever is thus zealously attentive to promote his neighbor’s salvation, strives himself after Christian perfection; for the truths of faith, which impel him to labor for the spiritual welfare of his fellow-men, incite him with still greater zeal to strive to secure the great object of his own salvation. If God so richly rewards the works of corporal mercy by graces here and glory hereafter, how much richer and more glorious must be the recompense awarded in eternity to spiritual works of mercy. This is clearly manifested in the lives of the saints.
Q. What does Holy Scripture say of these works of spiritual mercy?
A. “God gave to every one of them a commandment concerning his neighbor.” (Eccle. xii) “He must know that he who causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way shall save his soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins.” (Jam. v. 20) “In this we have known the charity of God, because He hath laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (John, iii. 16) “I have become all to all, in order to gain all for Christ.” (1 Cor. ix. 22)
Q. What motives are best calculated to inflame our zeal in the practice of works of spiritual mercy?
A. 1. Reflection on the great dignity of human nature, man being the image of God.
2. The consideration of man’s priceless value in the sight of the Divinity, as he has been bought, redeemed, and sanctified by the blood of the Messiah.
3. The relation in which our neighbor stands to us as a brother or sister in Adam and in Christ.
4. The reflection of the inestimable value of spiritual works of mercy according to the words of St. Chrysostom: “A spiritual work of mercy surpasses in value all the corporal works of mercy which a person might exercise in one act towards all mankind.”
5. The infinite pleasure with which God regards such works; they may even be said to elevate us to the dignity of co-operators with God when zealously and lovingly performed. Oh, with what unbounded delight do not Jesus and Mary look upon the endeavors of such as strive to prevent Christ’s merits and sufferings from proving fruitless to the souls of the redeemed!
6. The guarantee for salvation thus obtained.
7. The ineffable reward in heaven, and the eternal participation in the joys of those who have been delivered from a sinful condition or sanctified by our efforts. Whoever will meditate on these and similar considerations will, without doubt, feel his heart inflamed with a burning desire to procure the salvation of souls. He will frequently exclaim, with St, Francis Xavier, from the depths of his fervent heart: “O Lord, give me souls.”