What are the Catholic Works of Mercy?

What are the Catholic Works of Mercy?

Learn through this interesting article  what the Catholic Works of Mercy are, what they are and what their meaning is for Catholicism.

What are the Works of Mercy?

Humans always have the constant need to witness the mystery of mercy. This is a source of joy, serenity and peace, both for those who give it and for those who receive it. Mercy is one of the fundamental conditions for our salvation. Mercy is the word that reveals the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

It is the last supreme act through which Two finds us. In addition, mercy is the fundamental law that guards our heart when it looks with sincere eyes at the neighbor it meets on the path of life. This is the way that unites God and man, because it opens the heart, allowing hope to fill us with being loved forever, despite the limit of our sin.

The term mercy refers to the willingness to sympathize with the sufferings and miseries of others. It is manifested through kindness, help to those in need, forgiveness and reconciliation. More than a feeling of empathy, putting yourself in the shoes of others is really a practice of it. In Christianity and Catholicism, works of mercy are the main divine attributes.

Mercy can also be defined as a feeling of compassion or pity for those who suffer, which impels us to help them or alleviate their pain. On some occasions, it is the virtue that drives to be benevolent in judgment or punishment. The term comes from the Latin misere (misery or need), cor, cordis (heart) and ia (towards others), resulting in having a heart of solidarity with those who are in need.

However, many people believe that mercy is the equivalent of pity. And it is a serious mistake, we must not confuse mercy with pity. Pity is a less vehement and more temporary feeling than compassion. The word pity does not originate an adjective applicable to the one who feels it, but to the object that provokes it. And, on the contrary, compassion is derived from the term compassionate.

Misfortunes, illnesses, hunger and persecution are pitiful or pitiful. On the other hand, the people in whom such evils produce pity are compassionate. Pity is more properly applied to the sensation caused in us by the evil that is offered to our senses, while compassion causes effects on the mood and the reflection of evil, wishing to avoid the evil suffered by the other person.

For example, the fate of a murderer sentenced to death does not cause us compassion, but it does cause us pity to see him suffer in execution. It makes us sad to see an irrational person die; but we pity the state of a poor widow. As we can see, compassion implies a true feeling. On the other hand, pity is sometimes used to represent a light and passing feeling, hardly worthy of the name of feeling. For example: “it is a pity that the weather is not good”.

Now  , what are the Works of Mercy? Once we have understood what this term implies, we can proceed to explain what works of mercy are.

These works are charitable actions, through which we help our neighbor in their bodily and spiritual needs. Teaching, consoling, supporting, advising, among others, are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and patiently suffering. There are two types of works of mercy: spiritual and corporal.

Corporal works of mercy specifically consist of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the homeless, visiting the sick and prisoners, as well as burying the dead. Within these works, the alms given to the poor is one of the main testimonies of fraternal charity, and also a practice of justice that is pleasing to God.

contemplate the mystery

It is the keen desire of Jesus that the Christian people reflect during the Jubilee on the works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. This is a way to awaken our conscience, which is often numb or numb before the drama of poverty. Additionally, to enter even more into the heart of the Gospel, where the poor are privileged by divine mercy.

The preaching of the Lord presents the works of mercy so that we have the opportunity to reflect and realize whether or not we live as his disciples. To do this, we must rediscover the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, assisting the sick, traveling to prisoners, and burying the dead. 

On the other hand, the spiritual works of mercy are: giving advice to those who need it, teaching those who do not know, correcting those who make mistakes, consoling those who feel sad, patiently overcoming the defects of others, among others, which we will discuss later in this article.

Mercy is not only within the attitude of compassion. It is also identified with the superabundance of charity, which, at the same time, brings the abundance of justice. Mercy implies keeping the heart open, raw, human and divinely transfixed by a generous, self-sacrificing and strong love. 

In this way Saint Paul explains charity with respect to this virtue. Charity is long-suffering and beneficent. It is not envious, it does not act rashly, it is not ambitious and it does not seek to act in its own interests. He does not think ill of those who help, he does not get irritated, he does not resent injustice and he is pleased with the truth and honesty. Charity adapts to everything, believes in everything, expects and supports everything. 

We must not think or perceive others as if they were numbers and steps for us to climb. It is necessary to think of others, especially those who are by our side, supporting us; as what they are: children of God, with all the dignity of that amazing title.

We must behave as children of God with the children of God. Our love has to be sacrificed, daily, made of various details of understanding, of silent sacrifice and of notorious dedication. This is the bonus odor Christi, the one that made those who lived among our brothers in the faith express “Look how they love each other!”.

What are the Works of Mercy?

Works of mercy are those actions we perform for others selflessly, with kindness and through love. For example, helping a sick person, advising someone in need, and even comforting someone who is suffering from incredible sadness.

Every act we do out of love, to help our brothers, our neighbor, just because we want to do it and because love drives us, is a work of mercy. Because, as we mentioned earlier in this article, mercy is about compassion and kindness, not pity. Feeling sorry for another person does not impel us to do something for him or her. Instead, having compassion impels us to help, without expecting anything in return.

However, there is a list of actions that are considered merciful. Now,  how many are the works of mercy?

There are fourteen Works of Mercy, of which seven are corporeal and the remaining seven are spiritual. Within the corporal works, we can find:

  • Visit the sick.
  • Feed the hungry.
  • Give drink to the thirsty.
  • Giving shelter to pilgrims.
  • Dress the nude.
  • Visit prisoners.
  • Bury the deceased.

On the other hand, the spiritual works of mercy are:

  • Teach someone who doesn’t know.
  • Give advice to those who need it.
  • Correct the one who is wrong.
  • Forgive those who offend us.
  • Comfort someone who is sad.
  • Patiently suffer the defects of our loved ones.
  • Pray to God for the living and the dead.

The works of mercy that are corporal, come mostly from a list made by God within his description of the Final Judgment. On the other hand, the list of spiritual works of mercy was taken by the church, taking fragments from other texts found throughout the Bible, as well as from attitudes and teachings of Christ; such as forgiveness, consolation, suffering, fraternal correction, among others.

Knowing what the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are , it is important to understand the teaching that each of them provides us. These works are fundamental for our path towards God, demonstrating our good deeds and unconditional love towards others.

All of us, at some stage of our lives, find ourselves trapped in states of vulnerability, and God shows us that there will always be a charitable soul, willing to show us mercy, helping us in whatever we need and showing us his deep love. And so we must act, because other human beings also fall, they also get sad, they can also find themselves in need. And that’s what we’re here for, to show mercy, through love and kindness to one another.

In this way, the union that the positive actions we commit will give us will keep us on the path to the light, where God awaits us.

Teach the works of mercy to children

Children should learn what the works of mercy are when they start catechism, which is from the age of nine. However, this may vary depending on each community or country. When starting catechism classes, children must also fulfill the obligation to attend mass every Sunday and learn the corresponding prayers to connect with the Lord, showing him our unconditional love and devotion.

It is of great importance to teach human beings from an early age to know where we come from, who our creator is and how we can thank them for their sacrifices. Likewise, they should be taught that God fully wants us to love one another, therefore works of mercy are necessary, because through them we can provide support to those who need it.

Through these types of works, we show God that we are worthy of his religion, his love and his light. We can teach through dynamic activities, so that each child feels interested in what he is learning. In turn, from home it is important to talk to them about the Lord, about his sacrifices, everything he did for us and how we can be worthy of him.

From an early age, it is vitally important to know how to love others despite their shortcomings, that when a colleague feels sad it is important to support them. Through these teachings, children will be able to understand that with love and faith we can achieve so many things, that with our nobility and positive acts we can improve our world little by little. And our creator will be proud of all of us if we do so.

Each child must pray for the sick, help those most in need and comfort those who need it. And it is our duty as adults to guide them on the path of God, the path of good and light. It is important to show them that by praying and showing devotion we connect with our Lord in the purest way that exists.

Praying brings us relief, and works of mercy do the same. Well, compassion, even in children, is a positive emotion that drives us to give nothing but love. Selfless, honest and pure love.

Children represent purity in this world. One of the works of mercy with which adults must comply is to teach those who do not know, which in this case are children. They need someone noble and honest to teach them the way of God, with patience and love. That is the best way to show ourselves worthy of the love of our Lord.

Effect of the Works of Mercy on those who practice them

The activity of the works of mercy provides graces for those who exercise them. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says “give, and it will be given to you. Therefore, by exercising works of mercy, we fulfill the will of our Lord. We give something to our neighbor, we support him, we console him, among others; and God promises that he will also give us what we need, for having had good will with our brothers in an honest and disinterested way.

On the other hand, the works of mercy also cause a relieving effect on those who practice them, since they are a great way to erase our sorrows, the one that lodges in our soul due to our sins, which are forgiven thanks to our good works. The good deeds are, of course, the merciful ones. The merciful will also receive mercy at the time they need it.

Additionally, the works of mercy, as we mentioned earlier in this article, help us move forward and stay on the path to Heaven, because by being merciful, we become more like Jesus. He taught us how we should treat others, how our attitude towards others should be. 

In Matthew, the following words expressed by Christ are collected: “Do not lay up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; lay up treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not corrupt and thieves do not mine or steal. Because where your treasure is, there your hearts will be too.” Following this wonderful teaching of the Lord, we exchange material and temporal goods for eternal treasures, those that have real value on our way to birth.

By fulfilling God’s will, exercising merciful deeds, we also prove ourselves worthy of his love and a place in heaven. Well, it is important to spread love and not hate. It is our responsibility to fulfill his will in this world in order to change it, helping those who need it and filling each other with love.

Within the mysteries of mercy, thinking of others first is contemplated. In this way, we will pass through the land, leaving a trail of good.

We must remember that our time on earth will be full of mistakes, but these are inevitable. So we must, despite our mistakes, leave a path of good. When the hour of our death arrives, which will come inexorably, we will welcome it with joy, just as Christ did, because like Him, we will also rise to receive the reward of His love. (Saint Josemaría, Via Crucis, 14).

That is why knowing Jesus is realizing and taking responsibility for the fact that our life cannot be lived with a meaning that is not that of giving ourselves to the service of others. A Christian or a Catholic cannot stop and worry only about his personal problems in an egotistical way, because he must live facing the universal church. 

We all have problems, and that’s okay, it’s healthy to take care of ourselves and seek relief, which we can find by going to church, praying and doing the different works of mercy established by Jesus.

In the mystery of mercy, giving one’s life for others is also contemplated. Only in this way is the life of Jesus Christ lived and we become one with Him. Only in this way will we find our true connection to Jesus, feeling him within ourselves as a light and peace filling our interior more every day, prompting us to be compassionate, loving , kind and honest.

When Christ is within us, our lives will be much more full of light and we will be able to solve our personal problems and the adversities that come our way with great courage and responsibility, without hurting anyone and always thinking about the well-being of others. not in our own interests or only in our comfort and well-being.

He who acts with honesty and mercy, has a life full of peace, both internally and externally. Those who know what the works of mercy are, which ones they can execute, among others, are surrounded by love and good. In turn, little by little, fine-tuning their connection with Jesus Christ, they will lead a life full of wisdom, which they will pass on to your children, grandchildren, nephews, brothers, spouses.

Offering ourselves to fulfill the will of God will bring us very positive things, as long as we forget our selfishness, our interests and ambitions, because many times we tend to act simply for our interest or benefit, thinking of earthly treasures that are worth nothing when we get to heaven. , such as money and other material goods. Many individuals seek to trample on others rather than help them, or perform a “good” deed expecting something in return, expecting payment to get richer at the expense of others’ suffering.

When we are tempted to turn our steps towards the path of evil, let us remember the benefits that following the Will of God will bring us: peace, love, honesty, grace, light and connection with Jesus, becoming one with Him. God is within us. each one of us, always, but sometimes we don’t notice it. Our connection becomes more perceptible and beneficial for us when we act according to his will, following what has been explained throughout this article.

You will not only receive gratitude from the people you have selflessly helped. You will also feel relief. And you will notice how, little by little, you yourself can change the world together with your brothers, who carry out merciful works day by day, just like you. All of us, together, can make a world full of light and peace, a world that becomes one with God.

We are beings of light, only sometimes we don’t realize it. One of the greatest effects of merciful works on those who perform them is that their inner light will shine more than ever, giving only peace and love to those around them.

Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy

As we have already mentioned, there are different works of mercy, which are classified between corporal and spiritual. In this section of the article we will explain in greater detail and depth what each of these works consists of, both the physical and the spiritual.


Saint Matthew collects the narration of the Final Judgment: at that time, Christ told his disciples that when the Son of man comes, surrounded by his glory and accompanied by all the angels, he will sit on his throne of glory. Then all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. In this way, he will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then, he will say to those on the right: come, blessed by my Father; take possession of the Kingdom that has been prepared for you since the creation of the earth, because I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you gave me shelter, I was naked and you gave me clothes, being sick I they visited, when I was imprisoned, they came to see me.

The just and honest will wonder, when did we give him food and drink? when did we give you a roof, or did we see you naked and dress you? When did we see you imprisoned and went to visit you? And the king will tell them “I assure you that, when you did it with the most insignificant of those around you, you did it with me too.” On the other hand, he will also say to those on the left “get away from me, you cursed; they will go to the eternal fire, prepared by the devil and his angels, because I was hungry and they did not give me food, thirsty and they did not give me drink, I was homeless and they did not give me shelter, I was naked and they did not clothe me, they saw me sick and imprisoned and they did not visit me.”

They, like those on the right, will wonder what the king says. When did we see him thirsty and did not give him a drink? Hungry and we didn’t feed him? When did we see him naked and we didn’t give him clothes, or sick, imprisoned and we didn’t visit him? And the king will clarify: I assure you that, when they didn’t do it with the most insignificant, they didn’t do it with me either. Therefore, they will go to eternal punishment, and the righteous to eternal life.

Feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty

These first two works of mercy complement each other. They mean that we should try to help people who do not have enough food resources, giving them food and drink. It is our duty to help those who are disabled, those most in need and those who do not have the essential resources to live day to day, because some people are not as fortunate as we are.

Jesus, according to the Gospel of Saint Luke, recommends: whoever has two tunics, to share them with the one who does not have; whoever has to eat, let him do the same. (Lk 3, 11)

Give lodging to the pilgrim

During ancient times, giving travelers an inn or a place to stay was a matter of life or death, because the journeys were very risky and complicated, but people had to fulfill their duties. Nowadays, things don’t happen like that. However, the opportunity could arise to welcome someone into our home, not because of hospitality, education, friendship or family, but because of real needs.

Although the situations of need regarding this type of work of mercy are not the same today, in the same way, one day someone may find themselves in great need of a roof, and we could be their only hope.

dress naked

This work of mercy is aimed at covering one of the most important and basic needs: clothing. On many occasions, this work is facilitated thanks to the church, because through parishes and other centers they collect donations of clothing, which they give to the most needy.

When we are going to deliver clothes, it is good that we think that we can give what is left over or that no longer serves us, however, we can also think about what is useful, especially for other people. Because even if it no longer works for us, for someone in need, it can be their salvation.

In the letter from Santiago, we are encouraged to be generous: “if a brother or sister is naked and has no daily sustenance, and one of you says to them ‘go in peace, warm yourselves or be fed’, but you do not give them what they need for your body to stay alive, what is the use? Words are not enough, we must act too.

Visit the sick

Visiting the sick is about true attention to them and to the elderly, not only in the physical aspect, but also in the psychological aspect, keeping them company. It is not trying to make them feel good only physically, but also trying to get a smile out of their face and away from bitterness and pain, even for a moment and selflessly.

The best example of the Holy Scripture on the works of mercy is that of the parable of the good Samaritan, who healed the wounded man and, unable to continue caring for him and treating him directly, entrusted the care he needed to another, to whom he decided to pay , all to keep his original patient safe and sound.

visiting prisoners

This work of mercy consists of visiting prisoners, offering them both material help and spiritual assistance, so that they can improve their status as people, amend themselves, learn to do a job that may be useful to them by the time their prison time is over. his sentence, among others.

It also refers to rescuing the innocent and kidnapped. Formerly, Christians paid for the liberation of slaves, or exchanged for innocent prisoners. This perfectly demonstrates what a work of mercy is like: thinking about others, about our own interests. The fact that a Christian exchanges himself for an innocent prisoner just so that he can see freedom, is a heroic act and worthy of God’s way.

bury the deceased

Christ, after his death, had no place on which to rest. One of his friends, Joseph of Arimathea, gave him his tomb. And not only that. This man also had the courage to go before Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus. Nicodemus also participated, who helped Joseph of Arimathea to bury his body, which previously had nowhere to rest forever.

Burying the dead may seem like a somewhat unnecessary mandate, because in fact, all the dead are buried. However, previously, in times of war, for example, it could be quite a demanding mandate. In those times, people whose deaths were violent and whose bodies were lost on the battlefield could not be buried. 

In the same way, it is important to give a dignified burial to the human body, since our body has been the lodging of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we are all temples of the Holy Spirit.


The spiritual works of mercy, on the other hand, are not about helping others with physical ills, but with spiritual or psychological discomforts, as well as lack of knowledge, such as sadness, ignorance, among others. These are works of mercy that nourish and grow the spirit of both those who receive them and those who carry them out.

Teach the one who doesn’t know

This is the first of the spiritual works of mercy. It is about teaching the ignorant in any subject, not only in religious subjects. Teaching can be through writing or speech. Any means of communication can be used, or it can be given directly, face to face.

According to the book of Daniel, those who teach justice to the crowd will shine like the stars for all eternity. Whoever teaches is noble, because he has the ability to transmit his knowledge to those who need it most, with patience and love, according to God’s will.

Give good advice to those who need it

One of the gifts of the holy spirit is the gift of counsel. Therefore, whoever wishes to give good advice, it is important that she is in tune with God, since it does not consist in giving personal opinions, but in advising and teaching the correct path to those who need guidance.

Giving good advice to someone who is lost can be difficult, that is why we must find ourselves connected to God. It is not appropriate to give personal opinions to the needy, indicating what we believe would be best for him or her. We just have to support and provide tools, guiding him to find the right path.

Correct the one who makes mistakes

This work of mercy refers mainly to sin. In fact, it is also known as “correcting the sinner.” Fraternal correction is explained by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, in the following way: “If your brother sins, talk to him alone to reproach him. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.”

It is important to correct our neighbor with humility and kindness. Sometimes it can be difficult to do it, because as human beings, we let ourselves be carried away by our emotions. However, in those moments, we can remember what the apostle James says at the end of his letter: “Whoever straightens a sinner in his evil way, will save his soul from death and will, in turn, obtain the forgiveness of many sins.” It is complicated that when wanting to correct a sinner he is willing to listen to us. For that reason, we should present ourselves with sweetness, patience and humility towards him.

forgive the insults

During the Our Father, we ask the Lord to forgive our offenses, just as we forgive those who offend us. In turn, our Lord clarifies that, if we forgive the offenses of men, the Heavenly Father will also grant us his forgiveness. Otherwise, if we do not forgive the offenses of men, the Father will not forgive us either.

Forgiving offenses involves overcoming feelings of revenge and resentment. It takes great courage to deal kindly and honestly with someone who has offended us before. The best example of forgiveness in the old testament is that of Joseph, who forgave his brothers, who tried to kill him and then sell him.

console the sad

This work of mercy consists of consolation for the sad, for those who suffer from some difficulty. In some cases, giving good advice to help the person overcome their pain or sadness will be considered. In other cases, we can accompany our brothers during their pain.

Suffer patiently the shortcomings of others

We must accept others as they are, understanding that none of us is perfect. Patience in the face of another person’s shortcomings is a virtue, as well as a work of great mercy. However, if bearing the shortcomings of others causes more pain and harm than good, it should be warned with charity and gentleness.

Pray for the living and the dead

This is the last of the spiritual works of mercy. It implies praying for the souls of the deceased who are in purgatory, since the liberation of their souls depends on our prayers to God. It is a good deed to pray for them to be freed from their sins.

On the other hand, Saint Paul recommends praying for everyone, without exception, including rulers and responsible people, since God wants us all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

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