Line items

On the off chance gentle reader has forgotten, the corporal works of mercy are: 1. To feed the hungry. 2. To give drink to the thirsty. 3. To clothe the naked. 4. To harbour the harbourless. 5. To visit the sick. 6. To ransom the captive. 7. To bury the dead.

Better yet, there are also seven spiritual works of mercy: 1. To instruct the ignorant. 2. To counsel the doubtful. 3. To admonish sinners. 4. To bear wrongs patiently. 5. To forgive offences willingly. 6. To comfort the afflicted. 7. To pray for the living and the dead.

If I am not mistaken (and how could that be?) even Methodists, and Presbyterians, and Lutherans, and Anglikaaners, and Greekies and Ruskies and Syriacs and Copts, and the whole Christian rest, buy into all this. They may not do their lists in sevens, but I don’t think there is one item on either list that is controversial, or ever has been. Note, should one be of the literate inclination, that each item is exquisitely Biblical. (Which means one may always look it up.)

Prudential considerations sometimes arise. A work of mercy could cease to be so if the foreseeable consequence were evil. But think such situations through, in a direct and personal, not abstract or “social” way, and the result will be a sharper understanding.

Let it be further added that each item on each list is a general heading, for mnemonic purposes. Not one is limited to a single act; each covers instead a range of related acts, and some may fall into more than one category. Cuteness and cleverness are not required.

The word “mercy” is much abused these days, by two groups at least. One is non-Christians, who may have their own ideas about mercy, that may or may not look coherent, and if apparently so, may or may not rest upon reasonable premisses. (“I feel” has never been an argument.) And the other is poorly catechized Christians, including quite a few priests and bishops I think, who have only the vaguest idea of what Christ taught; or what anyone else ever taught, for that matter.

To most, these days in North (and probably also South) America, and Europe too, God help us, “mercy” is now presented as some syrupy, faux-empathetic, smileyface posture of approval towards a short list of visible ethnic and “gender” minorities, “the underclass,” miscellaneous fornicators, other commissioners of mortal sins, and suspected or convicted criminals (with the exception of Catholic clergy). The spiritual works of mercy are unknown; the corporal ones are a checklist for the Welfare State. Everything is for someone else to take care of, as charity never begins at home.

A woman like, for instance, the late Dorothy Day (mentioned in passing by the pope recently), in addition to being somewhat left of centre, was in the habit of performing these works of mercy, herself. That, and her extreme “social conservatism” — on which she could be verbally aggressive — is what marks her as a genuine Catholic, and I think possibly a saint.

There was a time, O Gentle Reader, when Catholics alike of left and right were agreed on basic Church teachings, and attended together, in the same parishes, the same Tridentine Latin Mass. Among whom, on the average Sunday, only a minority felt justified to approach the rail for Communion.

Perhaps it is hard to believe today: but there was a time when even liberal Catholics were, more or less, Catholic.

There is no point to this post. Or rather, I made fourteen unoriginal points in my first two ’grafs. Please go back not only to read them, but to memorize them, if you haven’t already. And yes, there will be a test!

Nota bene: these are not lists of things the government should be doing. Someone who says they are, is lying. (Be careful with such people, they may be animated by demons.) These are lists of things that all Christians should do — voluntarily! And we really need to earn a pass, because the weather is so much better in Heaven.