By Laura Kizior
Religion class teaches about various works that we can do to imitate Christ, help other people, and build up His Church. These works are called the Corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy. Where the Corporal Works of Mercy take care of a person’s physical needs, the Spiritual Works of Mercy help a person spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Here are ways we can apply these spiritual works and build a culture of life as a middle schooler, a teenager, or even as an adult:
Instruct the ignorant
Education is a vital part of spreading the gospel of life. How often do we stay silent in public about our belief in the sanctity of human beings just so that we can avoid looking “uncool”? Instructing the ignorant means bringing the light and truth of Christ’s message to others. Ignorant doesn’t necessarily mean those who are pro-abortion. Unfortunately, not every person who’s pro-life has studied basic facts of human development or abortion statistics as they should before engaging in any arguments or discussions about life issues. Remember that we are here to bring Christ’s truth to others, not force our personal opinion on other people. Respect for life is not an opinion; it is a universal truth. Communicating the truth about respect for human dignity can be a daunting task if we have not prepared ourselves.
Putting it into practice: First, we need to focus on educating ourselves. Explore the basic stages of human development, understand the devastating rhetoric behind the euthanasia movement, and learn facts about the abortion procedure and current legislation. Arm yourself with the truth so that you can effectively and compassionately defend life. After we have gained a solid knowledge base on current threats against life, we can start educating others on the beauty and sanctity of all human beings. Keep in mind that ignorant does not mean stupid. A lack of knowledge does not mean lower intelligence. At one point in time, we stood in their shoes. Remember that God alone has the power to change hearts, but He needs you to be the messenger of His truth. That is why we must always speak with compassion, understanding, and love.
Action item: Create a poster about fetal development for your science class, share a fact about fetal development on Facebook or other social media, and share our Miracle of Life Coloring and Activity Book or free coloring pages with your religious education class, family, friends, or next door neighbors. For a better understanding of this work of mercy, read Matthew 16:1.
Counsel the doubtful
It is easy to become discouraged when we do not see the direct fruit of our actions. When you pray outside an abortion clinic, it’s hard to remember that many women don’t even go in for their scheduled abortions because they see that someone is standing outside who cares about them and their babies. Those are the stories that we don’t often hear and it’s easy to become discouraged. And when people become discouraged, they stop acting in defense of life. It’s your job to give encouragement to fellow pro-lifers.
Sometimes you’ll even hear: “I’m personally against abortion, but I can’t force a woman to have a child she doesn’t want.” We know that to be “personally pro-life” and refrain from acting on behalf of the weak and defenseless is the same as being pro-abortion. Because over 55 million babies have been lost through abortion since 1973, every person in the United States has been affected by abortion—either personally or indirectly through the tremendous effect it has had on society, with one-third of the current generation missing as a direct result. There are so many threats against life in our society and so many injustices that it is impossible for any person to sit idle in the face of such suffering around the world.
Putting it into practice: In order to counsel those who need encouragement to speak in defense of all human beings, you should approach them with joy rather than judgment. Try to find out the root cause of their inaction and then give them the compassion they deserve. One way to encourage others to join the pro-life movement is to invite them to a rally, a prayer vigil, or a pro-life club movie night. Always look for opportunities to build your pro-life community and motivate your fellow pro-lifers toward positive action in defense of the weak and helpless of our society—whether that means praying outside an abortion clinic, visiting a nursing home, working in a soup kitchen, or volunteering with disadvantaged kids in the inner city.
Action item: Make cards to take to a nursing home, volunteer with your youth group at a soup kitchen, or take your children to pray outside of an abortion clinic. For a better understanding of this work of mercy, read John 14:27.
Admonish the sinner
A large part of the culture of life is recognizing sin for the evil that it is, forgiving the sinner, and helping those who are suffering to find comfort in God’s mercy. Admonishing the sinner means using compassion to remind the sinner of God’s justice and mercy. God alone casts judgment on the sinner. The word admonish means to caution, remind, or mildly reprove. Sometimes admonishment can come in the form of instruction because the sinner doesn’t understand the gravity of his sin. When done in a Christian way, admonishing the sinner is an opportunity for both people to grow in holiness.
Putting it into practice: Like instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner requires us to examine ourselves and our actions. We cannot be effective messengers of God’s justice and mercy if we are not humble or self-reflective. Nor will our message be accepted if we do not have compassion and concern for the sinner. Always remember: What would Jesus do?
Action item: Conduct an examination of conscience every night before bed, write a letter to your congressman to encourage him to vote pro-life (even if he’s not), or write a boycott letter to a company whose products you love but who supports abortion. For a better understanding of this work of mercy, read Luke 15:7.
Bear wrongs patiently and forgive offenses willingly
Proclaiming the truth can be hard to do—especially when other people ridicule you or persecute you for your beliefs. While there are times when retaliation is needed to effectively combat the evil against you, most often among our friends and acquaintances we are called upon to “turn the other cheek” patiently and focus on the wrongs that matter within the larger battle. Even when you stand on the side of truth, you must learn when to turn the other cheek and when to admonish the sinner. Remember that not every battle has to be won and not every injustice against you needs to be broadcast to the entire world.
Putting it into practice: Imagine that you want to start a pro-life club at your school, but the school administration is unwilling to allow you to form the club. As you try to garner support among the student body, a few of your classmates try to make you feel bad for standing up for human dignity by calling you names or tearing down your flyers. Their true intention is to provoke you into a silly fight when your real battle is with the school administration. Forgive, forget, and move on to larger battles.
Action item: Pray for persecuted Christians around the world, wear a pro-life T-shirt in public places without fear of being laughed at, or forgive someone who has hurt you by either meeting them for a reconciliation or writing them a letter. For a better understanding of this work of mercy, read Luke 6:27-28 and Matthew 6:12.
Comfort the afflicted
A single abortion affects all of us, but most especially the mothers, fathers, and family of the aborted child. In an abortion, a human being is destroyed—not a potential life. If the abortion had not interrupted that preborn child’s growth, he would have grown up and impacted hundreds or possibly thousands of other people’s lives throughout his lifetime. Once that child is dead, he can never come back. Deep down inside, the post-abortive mothers and fathers understand this reality, though it might take them five, 10, 20, or 30 years to realize the full reality of what the abortion did to their lives. The pain, despair, and hopelessness can overwhelm post-abortive mothers and fathers, but many are too ashamed to ever speak of what they have done. As people of life, our response to a post-abortive woman’s search for solace and healing after her abortion should not be hate or anger, but love and compassion.
Putting it into practice: Post-abortive women need our support. Project Rachel and other similar programs help these women find healing. You can help bring an awareness about Project Rachel and other post-abortive healing programs to your church or school.
Action item: Pray for women who are considering an abortion, organize a diaper and clothing drive for your local pregnancy care center, or host a pro-life speaker at your church or pro-life group. For a better understanding of this work of mercy, read Matthew 11:28.
Pray for the living and the dead
Prayer is an integral part of winning the fight for life. We must remember the fallen and those who are still living in pain from the consequences of their actions or the actions of others. Praying for post-abortive women is key to healing the culture of violence that our society has suffered because of abortion. Remembering the preborn babies who have died because of abortion is a way to bring awareness about the suffering that occurs.
Putting it into practice: There are several ways that you can pray for those who are persecuted and start to build a culture of life:
Spiritual adoption of a preborn baby is a beautiful way to pray for an end to abortion. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a great advocate for life and host of Life Is Worth Living, composed a simple prayer after the legalization of abortion in the United States to help people recognize the inherent evil of abortion and encourage society to take an active role in the pro-life movement. The prayer only takes 10 seconds to say, but it can be a powerful witness for life. It goes as follows: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you very much. I beg you to spare the life of the unborn child that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion. Amen.
Remember to pray for the innocent babies lost in abortion and for the mothers, fathers, and families who are hurting from the violence of abortion. Prayer is a powerful tool in the culture of life because we work with God’s help to save lives and promote respect for every human being. God knows the depths of every human heart. Prayer goes further than any other work of mercy or any human effort. Without constant prayer and fasting on behalf of the preborn and their hurting families, we cannot hope to end abortion.
Action item: Spiritually adopt a child in danger of abortion and commit to praying for that child every day. Organize a cemetery of the innocents at your parish. Or organize a prayer chain or group to pray for the sick in your parish and community. For a better understanding of this work of mercy, read John 17:24.
Living out the Spiritual Works of Mercy is a great way to build a culture of life. Not only will you learn how to practice valuable virtues, but you will also learn how to treat others with the dignity and respect they deserve.
The Culture of Life Studies Program offers a plethora of educational materials for your entire family. Visit the site at cultureoflifestudies.com.