As I stated in a recent post, my days are frequently so full of chaperoned tutoring time and/or so exhausting that I have fewer-than-normal opportunities for my favorite sins and little memory of all of my daily falls. Rather than examine my conscience from just the “have I committed this sin? How about that one?” angle, I am going to try applying the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy to my day.
The Corporal Works of Mercy:
- Have I fed the hungry?
- Have I given drink to the thirsty?
- Have I clothed the naked?
- Have I given shelter to the homeless?
- Have I visited the sick?
- Have I visited the imprisoned?
- Have I buried the dead?
The Spiritual Works of Mercy:
- Have I instructed the ignorant?
- Have I counseled the doubtful?
- I have I admonished sinners?
- Have I borne wrongs patiently?
- Have I forgiven offences willingly?
- Have I comforted the afflicted?
- Have I prayed for the living and the dead?
I’m not totally sure I’m right in doing things this way, but for the most part, I am going to exclude things that happen automatically because I’m a mom. I could theoretically give myself credit for the first four corporal works every day, and the fifth if my son is sick. If he has a particularly long time out, I could count the sixth. Under the spiritual works of mercy, a mother needfully instructs her children and admonishes them for their sins; she probably also comforts them in them in their affliction. We’re always willing to give ourselves credit for bearing wrongs patiently (disregard the fact that every little inconvenience is someone wronging us!).
But I’m not looking for another easy way of letting myself off the hook. Because asking myself, “Have I committed adultery?” lets me feel like, “Huzzah, that one was easy!”, I don’t want this list to become another means of seeing strength where it isn’t. When I think about answering to God for the way I have spent my earthly life, I don’t want to stammer something about how “all the other moms were giving themselves extra credit for washing their hair! I thought that taking care of my children was my highest calling!”
I think it’s worth noting that our highest calling is our highest calling. If the only thing we can muster at a given time in our life is helping our family with love, and anything else is going to result in shortchanging our kids, then that work at home is our highest calling. But if we are in a season where we can both effectively give to our families and see to the needs of the poor, hiding behind a homespun afghan is not going to fool God. We need to constantly discern if we are truly giving our first fruits to God’s children.
Right now I am in a time when I can earn fairly high wages for the hours I work. I can work those hours when my son is in preschool, visiting his grandpa, or at home with my husband or me. Right now, there is no conflict between the work I do and my son’s best interests. Because I am able to increase my income fairly easily, I feel that the best way for me to perform corporal works of mercy is to sacrificially give to organizations who can take one of my hour’s wages and feed three families for a month. Fierce and I are reviewing our finances and trying to simplify our accounting. Part of this process will be making sure that we are giving wisely and generously. I will be looking for an opportunity to directly volunteer, probably by visiting shut-ins at the nursing home or writing letters to prisoners, so that I can keep the poor close to my heart.