Posted by: liturgicalyear | May 4, 2010

Spiritual works of Mercy: Instructing & counseling – the mercy continues

“Charity demands,” I tell my children – usually when I ask them to do something that they don’t want to do.   Oftentimes the most difficult thing for adults to do is exercise two spiritual works of mercy that go hand in hand:  instructing the ignorant & counseling the doubtful.

If we really believe what we believe, it is the loving thing to do.  Our destiny is heaven, and we know that God does not want to lose one of us.  Therefore charity demands that we help people to understand the Truth so that we will all be with God our Father in eternity.

But this one, can be really awkward, especially if we are instructing and counseling adults.  We open ourselves to hostility, ridicule, and rejection.  And, really, who wants that?

The kicker is that oftentimes the instruction or counsel is not a sound bite, and we live in a sound bite culture.  How can the teachings of the Church on the true presence, or the perpetual virginity of Mary, or marriage be taught in 30 second sound spot?

We must properly form our conscience:  “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”  (Rom 12:2)

“A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings. “  (CCC 1783)

How do we do that?  By listening to the voice of Christ, which is the Church.

Let’s assume we have a child in your CCD class who doesn’t believe in the true presence.  How might we approach him or her?

First, we must pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and to change our hearts, if we ourselves struggle with a particular teaching.

Second, we must educate ourselves and know what the Church teaches and why the Church teaches it.

Third, we must articulate it clearly.  I have found the times when I really learn something is when I have to teach it.  So I would suggest practicing it out loud or with a friend.

Fourth, we pray for the grace in the moment of opportunity to “speak the truth in love.”  (Eph 4:15)  The last thing we want to be is “noisy gong or a clanging symbol.”  (1Cor 13:1)

Fifth, in the moment, we explain the Church’s teaching as clearly as we can, with confidence, and great patience, even if it’s met with hostility.  Assume a position of humility.  Acknowledge their understanding of the teaching and their struggle with it, and correct them lovingly.  This can be a toughie!

Sixth, we share our own experience of growing in understanding or acceptance of the Church’s teaching.  Let’s face it, not all teachings are easily embraced.   Sometimes exposing our own struggles helps to lower barriers to acceptance.

Finally, we continue to pray for that person and for additional opportunities to witness to the Truth.  Like the clay in the potter’s hand, proper molding takes many attempts.

What about the hard stuff?  Teaching a child about the true presence is a fairly straightforward example, but instructing a family member about why they ought to go to Mass weekly or friend about birth control, or counseling young adults about living together or talking to a neighbor about abortion….well those can be a lot trickier, but the process is the same.

Obedience is sometimes the truly last step in forming our conscience.

If we really believe in the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is Truth, and that the Spirit speaks through the Church, and the Church has the authority of Christ, then we must obey.  We are obliged to do so.

It is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit which leads us to the “yes” of consent.  It is a position of humility and submission.  And, this is our proper posture before God.

So today, ask the Holy Spirit to show you one teaching you need to be able to articulate & resolve to learn it so that you can instruct the ignorant and counsel the doubtful on that topic.  Don’t worry! God will provide the opportunity!

In closing, I ask you to pray for Barbara who as I type is in the car on the way to see her oldest daughter who is in the hospital.  Please pray for the whole family.  Thanks.

The heavens are telling the glory of God today in New England today.  Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful earth and for the beauty of creation.  I know that it is a mere reflection of your glory.  Help me never to lose sight of Your hand in all things.  Give me the grace this day to love as You love and to see You see in all You put before me.  Mary, my mother, in this month May  be my constant companion and help me, like you, to say “yes” to the will of God, that new life will be born in me through that “yes.”  In Jesus name, I pray.  Amen.

May God bless you & keep you,




  1. hi. just found you. here from Pat’s site. I love what I’m reading. and will be back.

    • Welcome! So happy you enjoy our “conversation”. I took a peek at your blog, too. Your picture for the day brought a big smile to my face. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had little feet with frilly socks on them scampering around my home! I love JPII’s quote on adoption. I, too, am an adoptive mom. He’s so right, adoption is an exchange of gifts – a truly miraculous one! Enjoy this beautiful day! Anne

  2. […] counsel the doubtful; […]

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