Works of Mercy: No Material Means Necessary

By Marc Massery

Turn to any page of St. Faustina’s Diary, and you find spiritual gems. Like this one: 

[Jesus said,] But write this for the many souls who are often worried because they do not have the material means with which to carry out an act of mercy. Yet spiritual mercy, which requires neither permissions nor storehouses, is much more meritorious and is within the grasp of every soul. If a soul does not exercise mercy somehow or other, it will not obtain My mercy on the day of judgment (1317).

Struggling financially is not a valid excuse to avoid performing works of mercy. Neither is being poor or uneducated, homebound, or in prison. If we want to receive mercy from God, we need to show mercy to others, and this applies to everyone. 

Maybe we tend to think, “When I make it big, then I’ll give back.” But we don’t need to be healthy and wealthy to make a difference in the world. If we were to wait to have all of our problems solved before we went out of our way to do something merciful for someone else, we might never perform a work of mercy. That’s why the Lord calls everyone, whatever the circumstance, whatever our state in life, to exercise mercy. 

Consider Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa, who lived in Portugal in the early 20th century. She proves that we don’t have to have much in the way of “material means” to live a life devoted to mercy. 

First, as a child, she survived a severe infection that would cause her chronic pain for the rest of her life. Then, as a teenager, to escape being raped by intruders, Alexandrina jumped out of a window and fell 13 feet to the ground. The injuries sustained in her fall would eventually confine her to a bed for the final 30 years of her life. For a while, she prayed for healing, but then she discerned that her vocation was to offer her suffering for others, especially for young people. She was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 2004. 

If Blessed Alexandrina could be raised to the honors of the altar after living most of her life with such hardship, shouldn’t it be even easier for us to become holy? Her example teaches us that being merciful has far more to do with our attitude than our abilities. 

Saint Faustina didn’t have much to give as far as material means, either. She spent much of her adult life battling illness. She was poorly educated and worked menial jobs in a convent. Still, the Lord named her the Secretary of Divine Mercy because she took advantage of the most meritorious works of mercy, the spiritual works of mercy. The spiritual works of mercy include: instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, admonishing the sinner, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offenses willingly, comforting the afflicted, and praying for the living and the dead. 

Some of these we can put into practice at any time. For others, we need to pray for opportunities to exercise them. It’s true, even our ability to carry out these spiritual works of mercy will vary. But as long as we have the right attitude, as long as we try to exercise any work of mercy we perform out of love for God and neighbor, the Holy Spirit will make up for our deficiencies. 

If you’re on Instagram, go to @TheDivineMercy to check out Marc Massery’s weekly “Discovering the Diary” videos. 

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Turn to any page of St. Faustina’s Diary, and you’ll find spiritual gems. Like this one:

My daughter, let three virtues adorn you in a particular way: humility, purity of intention, and love. Do nothing beyond what I demand of you, and accept everything that My hand gives you. Strive for a life of recollection so that you can hear My voice, which is so soft that only recollected souls can hear it ... (Diary, 1779).