Tag Archives: corporal works of mercy

The Gift of My Presence

Loneliness is something every human being has to face, for it is the hunger for perfect union. Even happily married people know this loneliness, for we cannot penetrate another’s innermost being. Loneliness ultimately comes from not knowing that God loves us, for as St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
— Servant of God Catherine Doherty, Dearly Beloved (Volume 1)

In regular life one may feel lonely at times, and appreciate the company of friends. But I have never quite felt the enormity of the gift of human presence until recently, especially on the day I visited both my fiancé in prison and my friend in a psychiatric ward.

When visiting a prisoner, you cannot bring anything with you — no gifts, no cards or letters (mailed and examined, as in a convent or monastery), no food, no books. All you bring is yourself.

For an hour twice a week, family and friends can visit their loved ones in prison. This begins with non-contact visits, through a glass. After background checks have been cleared — usually after a month or more — we can have contact visits. The gift of human touch is never so appreciated as when it has been denied for awhile. My fiancé could barely contain his joy, saying, “I feel like running around the room in excitement!”

One of the first things in facing loneliness, especially that of old age, but any kind of loneliness, is to understand that Christ calls some people to share His loneliness. This calling is redemptive! For if we share in the loneliness of Christ we can also share in His redeeming of the world.
— Servant of God Catherine Doherty, Doubts, Loneliness, Rejection

Each time you visit, there is a chance you may not see the person you have come for. After being identified, you have to check that you have nothing prohibited on your person — no watches, no phones or tissues in your pockets, no bobby pins, no jewellery except wedding or engagement rings. A lady’s first contact visit with her son was almost cancelled when she realized she still had her watch on, under her sleeve.

Then the drug-detecting dog sniffs you; you have your shoes scanned; an officer examines your hair, your heels (not sure why — if someone wanted to hide anything in his socks, it would be between his toes, right?), your pockets, your ears for piercings, and your mouth (recently added to the litany of places to check for contraband). Then you step into a machine which checks your fingerprint (which regularly malfunctions), and on the other side an officer with a wand checks for drugs again. The other day a high school teacher was unable to have a contact visit with her son because the wand picked up something on her clothes.

Finally, you step through a series of doors into the visiting area. Then you have one precious hour to spend with the person who has been anticipating your visit all week. In this corporal or bodily act of mercy, you truly realize how humans are made for communion, especially through the physical presence of another. We can receive phone calls daily and letters weekly, but nothing compares to actually being with someone and being able to comfort them with a simple touch.

Prisoners are often moved from prison to prison, and some visitors sadly miss seeing their beloved. On two occasions I witnessed or heard of a visitor traveling from afar, only to find their loved one gone — and with the booking system, you often have to book visits a week ahead. I found a lady sobbing outside the reception area — she had driven an hour to see her husband, only to find that she had been mistakenly booked in for the prior visit and the bookings system did not allow her to enter for the current one. She also discovered that her husband was being moved to a prison much further away. With children to care for at home, she was overwhelmed at losing this precious hour, and completely brokenhearted.

Indeed, prison is hard on the families of the incarcerated. So is hospitalization. When I visited my friend, the other patients crowded around us, thirsting for human connection. From their manner of speech, I discerned that they had lived rough lives, and they probably didn’t receive many visitors. How many solitary people are out there in institutions, aching for a friendly voice? In prisons and in hospitals, chaplains bring the precious gift of their presence and the Real Presence, a selfless act which in turn acknowledges the inherent worth of each prisoner and patient which cannot be erased by sin, sickness or suffering.

Love is not abstract; it is a fire. It must spend itself in service. What you and I have to be is a flame, a lamp to our neighbor’s feet, a place where he can warm himself, where he can see the face of God.
— Servant of God Catherine Doherty, Restoration

Can you think of someone who may need your presence today? Find in him the Face of Christ, as he will find Christ in yours.

For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.
— Matthew 25:35-36

Image: Saint Paul in Prison

Pier Giorgio Frassati’s Life of Grace

By guest writer Lauren Winter.

This morning I listened to the always enlightening Bishop Barron talk about Frassati. First of all, Bishop Barron is a national treasure and I 10 out of 10 recommend the Word on Fire Show. Secondly, let’s take a minute to talk about our boy, Frassati.

Frassati’s life is an example of how grace and faith can grow in the most surprising places. Frassati wasn’t raised in a faith-filled home like so many of the Saints. His father was a prominent Italian politician and his mother a well-known painter. His father was agnostic, and his mother was *vaguely* Catholic. Frassati wasn’t given a spiritual upbringing but found one for himself instead.

Even from a young age and without any humanly prompting he was captivated by the Eucharist and the liturgy. He would disappear for hours at a time and visit the chapels for Eucharistic adoration causing his parents to frantically search for him. (Now where have I heard that story before? *cough cough* finding at the temple *Cough cough*)

Similar to his surprising devotion to the faith, he also had a devotion to the poor. He gave all his money and all his time to the poor. He was truly a man of the poor. He was both their caretaker and their advocate. His love of the poor was so brilliant that when he died of polio at the age of 24 his funeral was a HUGE event. It wasn’t his prominent parents’ friends who overwhelmed the event, but the poor. His funeral was a massively-attended event because of the massive amount of people he attended to and cared for while he was living.

When we hear about mountain-climbing Frassati’s “Verso L’alto” we are reminded of his acceptance of grace and his determination to climb closer to Christ. Frassati was a man of action. First, he accepted grace into his life and then boldly ACTED. May he be an example to us all. To the heights!!! Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us.


Originally posted on Instagram.

Lauren Winter is a mother of three and owner of the apparel brand Brick House in the City, designing inspirational clothing for Catholic women as her contribution to the New Evangelization.

Grief into Joy

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
On that day you will not question me about anything.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”
—John 16:20–23

Often we have a tendency to assume—even, sometimes, when we know better—that if we follow Jesus perfectly, we will live a charmed life free of suffering. Thus, when we experience suffering that seems “undeserved,” we become frustrated with God and think that there’s no way we can handle what He’s asking of us.


But Jesus doesn’t negate the suffering of the Christian life. He acknowledges it fully, saying that if they persecuted Him they will surely persecute us. He tells us we will weep and mourn and grieve while the world rejoices. Yet our pain and suffering are not wasted in His plan of salvation. When we meet Jesus in Heaven, when we see the destination to which He has led us on such a long, winding journey, our hearts will rejoice. We will receive a lasting joy, greater than anything of this world.

We will experience suffering in this life, but through Christ, this suffering becomes a holy calling. We don’t need to put on a happy face and pretend everything is fine—no, this trial is a gift, meant to break and re-form our hearts, making them more like His own. We can embrace our suffering and lean in to it. And we don’t need to spiral into despair, either, for this trial is not the end. A greater joy awaits us, a joy that will eclipse any memory of pain.

piergiorgioOur patron, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, was a joyful, exuberant young man who radiated hope. He loved to have a good time with his friends, sharing inside jokes and enjoying outdoor activities. But at the same time, he did not shy away from suffering. Although he easily could have stayed within the comfortable bubble of wealth provided by his family, he ventured into the poorest parts of his city, undeterred by the noise and smells, to seek those who needed company and support. He saw the beauty in each person he encountered and considered them friends. His passion for the Lord propelled him to serve, and even when he contracted a fatal disease through this service, he embraced this, too, as a gift. His love for Christ emboldened him to face every trial without fear.

Fear not. As Christians, we always have reason for hope. Inspired by the example of Pier Giorgio, may we face our sufferings with boldness and joy, knowing that all our earthly pain will pass away and that the joy to come is worth it all.

We are an Easter people, and hallelujah is our song.
—Pope Saint John Paul II

1. Heinrich Hofmann, Christ in Gethsemane / PD-US
2. Photograph of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati and friends

Originally posted at Frassati Reflections.

Finishing Out the Year of Mercy

misericordia23The Year of Mercy will come to a close with the end of the liturgical year on November 20. How can we make the most of the final month of this Jubilee Year? Here are some ways to finish out with a bang:

1) If you haven’t yet made a Holy Door Pilgrimage, now is the time!

There are many Holy Doors throughout the United States (and the whole world, for that matter!), and there is a plenary indulgence* available for those who enter through a Holy Door during the Jubilee Year. If you live near a city, you most likely have multiple Holy Doors to choose from, so go visit!

2) Practice the Corporal Works of Mercy

Volunteer at a homeless shelter, donate food and clothing, help out at a soup kitchen—do something to reach out to our brothers and sisters in need. By caring for their physical needs, you will show them the love of God and help them find hope amid their suffering. If you’re looking for practical ways to carry out the Corporal Works of Mercy, Kerry Weber’s book Mercy in the City is a quick read that will give you plenty of inspiration. Anyone who performs a Corporal Work of Mercy during the Year of Mercy can receive a plenary indulgence.*

9780829438925_p0_v1_s192x3003) Practice the Spiritual Works of Mercy

Lend a listening ear to someone who is going through a tough time, be patient with someone who is wearing on your nerves, or say an extra prayer for someone in your life. There is also a plenary indulgence* available for anyone who performs a Spiritual Work of Mercy during the Jubilee Year.

4) Pray for souls in purgatory

As we are approaching All Souls’ Day, this is a great time to give special attention to praying for souls in purgatory. The Prayer of St. Gertrude is a quick but powerful prayer for these souls. Also, there is a plenary indulgence* available for those who pray at a graveyard within the first week of November.

5) Start a Consecration to Divine Mercy

Fr. Michael Gaitley’s latest book, 33 Days to Merciful Love, guides you through a consecration to Divine Mercy through the teachings of St. Therésè of Lisieux. This is a beautiful yet little-known devotion that will help you to grow in love and mercy, and it brings powerful graces! The book makes the devotion easy to follow, with short daily readings over the course of 33 days.

9781596143456_p0_v2_s192x3006) Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy

Even better, try praying it at 3:00pm – the Hour of Mercy – when Jesus died on the Cross. You can find instructions for praying the Chaplet, which began with St. Faustina, on the Divine Mercy website.

7) Share moments of mercy with others

Keep your eyes open to the goodness of others around you. When you see an example of mercy being lived out, don’t keep it to yourself—share the story! It can encourage other people, ignite hope, and inspire more acts of mercy. If you use social media, you can share with the hashtag #mercyinmotion.

*In order to receive a plenary indulgence, one must fulfill the usual conditions of having the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, receiving sacramental Confession and the Holy Eucharist, and praying for the intentions of the Holy Father. To learn more about the Catholic practice of indulgences, click here.

Lessons From a Roof

A few months ago, my husband and I agreed to re-do the roof on the outreach and hospitality house we run for the Parish in town.

We are not inexperienced construction workers. We’ve worked on dozens of houses, tackled problems of every type and ability level, and know this house inside and out. Despite the fact that the roof on this house is quite technical, we weren’t intimidated and decided to take it on.

The entire week spent working on this roof was an overwhelming experience of joy, mercy, love, and the tangible feeling of the Lord’s presence. The fruits of my contemplation on the roof I now present to you in…

Lessons from a Roof

Lesson Number One: Destruction is Easy, Building Up is Not

The first day was spent tearing off the old roof. Fairly low on the skill-level spectrum, we were able to get some volunteers up the scaffolding and ladders and get the old roof in a dumpster. It’s not exactly the easiest job on the planet, but it’s hard to mess up. No one cares how the shingles come off, so long as they do. No one cares if you destroy them. If they are off and the sheeting is ok, you’ve done your job.

Building, on the other hand, is a different entity entirely. The care, precision, diligence, tact, and skill required to make something out of a bunch of pieces cannot be over emphroofingasized. It took 1 day to destroy the roof. It took 14 to put it together.

Likewise, it is incredibly easy for us to tear each other apart. How much easier is it to gossip or snap at another person when we are frustrated? How easy is it for 1 small word or act of injustice to ruin a good day? When we experience evil in our lives, it is easy to allow it to negatively impact or change us for the worse.

Additionally, we know how hard people fight for wellness. We know that establishing health in mind, body, and spirit takes people years – even lifetimes – to accomplish, and how in one instant everything can be destroyed.

So too the same is true of our Lord and the devil. We often wonder why God doesn’t make things right right away when something goes awry. Yet, isn’t it more fitting that it would take time for things to be put right?

The Lord isn’t just putting a roof on a house, He is making goodness out of nothing. He is taking our brokenness and knitting it into His ongoing act of creation; sewing it into His divine plan and making everything right by re-creating joy out of sorrow. Yet this takes time and finesse. We must trust the Lord in His actions: just as rebuilding the roof took two weeks longer than removing it, the finished product was far more glorious than the original roof.

Evil destroys quickly because evil is rash and loud. But the Lord is total peace and tranquility. When something in our lives is destroyed by rash evil, we must return to the peace of creation that will make everything right again.

How much more like God are we, then, when we choose to build up those around us. One kind word is like adding a shingle to a progressing roof. It is a slow process, but the end result brings glory, while tearing each other down is like tearing a roof off. Easy to do, but it leaves the other with nothing but their bear bones, and moreover, it takes years to remedy.

As scripture says:

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” – Romans 14:19

“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up” -1 Thessalonians 5:11

Lesson Number Two: The Communion of Saints Begins on Earth

The guys who helped on our roof are really good guys who work really hard. Since they work really hard and long hours, they don’t have a lifestyle conducive to time spent with our Lord.

I do.

This is where an Earthly Communion of Saints comes in. As Paul says in his letter to the Romans: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

I was incapable of truly thanking the men for the work they did for us, at least corporally and physically. I could thank them by showering them with prayers of thanksgiving and intercession. I could pray in their stead, ask the Lord to count my prayers as their prayers, just as their work counted for my work.

Lesson Number Three: There Are Things You Can do Alone and There Are Things You Can’t

Even though my husband and I had tackled similar problems in the past, this roof required reinforcements. So too the same applies to the spiritual life.

Confession, adoration, Mass, the sacraments, are not signals that we have somehow failed. They are in place to aid us in our attempt at holiness. Having recourse to them is a sign that we know ourselves and our limitations, not that we have somehow failed at being holy. Calling in extra roofers wasn’t a sign that we were somehow bad at what we do, but a recognition that everyone needs a hand sometime.

Let Jesus be your Simon!!

Finally: We are Corporal Beings

The incredibly physical activity on the roof led us into deep reflection and contemplation, just as any physical experience in the world is meant to do.

Christ made us as corporeal beings. Therefore, it is good, right, and proper that we come to know Him better through our experience of the physical world around us. Do not see the physical world as a threat to holiness, but rather as an opportunity to experience God’s creative genius, artistry, and beauty. The heat, soreness, sweat, (and yes, blood), that came from the roof, served to illustrate God’s mighty power: We slave to create, yet Christ creates in 1 word. We work because of Adam’s curse, yet we have the divine assistance with us in our work. We are tired at the end of the day, and so we rest when we “see that it is good.” All of these things lend us to a deep communion with God. Do not shy away from the corporeal world simply because it is physical. “For God saw that it was good.”

Maybe, He saw that it was good, because it has the very real potential to help us get to know Him better.