Living the corporal works of mercy: Let’s be our brother’s and sister’s keepers Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

Respect for all human life certainly begins with the unborn baby, but it should continue by respecting human life at all its stages.

The first and core principle of Catholic social teaching is our belief in human dignity. The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the person is at the core of a moral vision for society. Our belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.

Prerequisite for salvation

So what does that mean? In practical terms, Christ himself told his followers that love of others — put into action — was not just something nice to do; it is a prerequisite for eternal salvation.

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that this divine command is set forth in the most stringent terms by Christ, and the failure to comply with it is visited with the supreme penalty of eternal damnation (Matthew 25:41):

“Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, in everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in; naked, and you covered me not; sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.”

The corporal works of mercy

Christ is teaching his disciples about what we call the corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit and ransom the captive, and bury the dead.

As followers of Christ, we should try to live out the corporal works of mercy in our lives today. We can start by showing mercy within our own families. Some of us may be very busy just taking care of our own families, especially those who have disabled, sick, or elderly family members who need our care.

But where we have the time and opportunity, we should reach out to those in need in our neighborhoods, communities, and parishes. There are many ways to help, from assisting our neighbors with yard work to donating food to community pantries to giving disabled or older persons rides to church.

Catholic Charities serves those in need

We can extend our corporate works of mercy by working with organizations that help those in need locally and around the nation and world. One that comes to mind first is Catholic Charities, which is celebrating 65 years of service to those in need in the Diocese of Madison.

This Sunday, Oct. 16, is being observed as Catholic Charities Sunday in the diocese. As Bishop Robert C. Morlino reminds us in his letter,  it is a time to recognize and pray for Catholic Charities. “Let us be ‘our brother’s and sister’s keepers’ through the good works of Catholic Charities,” urges Bishop Morlino.

Last year, Catholic Charities in our diocese served more than 60,000 people through over 35 programs and services to aging persons, children, persons with developmental disabilities, persons with drug and alcohol addiction, individuals, and families.

What better way is there to show our respect for all human life and live out the corporal works of mercy than by supporting the work of Catholic Charities. Donations are always welcome. For more information call 608-821-3100 or go to the Web site at You can also follow Catholic Charities on Facebook and Twitter.