the works of Mercy

July - To instruct the ignorant

 “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3: 16-17)

As children, we all receive our first teachings from within our families. This is where our personality is shaped and where we gain the basics for our future moral behavior: the love of freedom and justice, for God and neighbor, for parents and teachers, the ability to grow in our dignity as persons.

When this does not occur – for problems of human, social, cultural and economic nature – men fall victims to sin and sometimes abuse by those taking advantage of their condition of weakness. This was – and is – the case in Sri Lanka, where thousands of young people and children are victims of child prostitution and in particular, of sex tourism. The mission of the Salesians of Don Bosco in the country is to help these youths overcome this form of slavery, teaching them the love of life and accompanying them on a journey to rediscover their personal dignity as human beings. To teach means to give knowledge of the faith and therefore indicates a relationship between a guide and his/her disciple. Teaching is not so much a form of education, as an experience made of words and actions lived together, shared between a teacher and his disciple, as Jesus did with his disciples and continues to do every day with each one of us. It is important to underline this dimension of life made of an exchange between teacher and disciple, and it is especially important to be with the teacher and walk with the teacher. Jesus teaches using simple and understandable language, using stories and examples from everyday life that people can understand. To ignore what the meaning of our existence is; to ignore our destiny and the final fate awaiting us; to ignore if our coming into life is a fulfillment of truth; are all fundamental issues that guide the lives of men and women. What, then, is the truth that the Church teaches? To make known to man his true identity and reveal to him the love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ “who, though he was in the form of God … emptied himself taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness” (Phil 2:6-19). Jesus becomes a friend of those who follow him.

“Anyone at all can find out that no one advances in knowledge so profitably than by sharing what he knows with others” St. Thomas Aquinas

 

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June - To clothe the naked

"You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness." (Psalm 30:12)

Today, man is often found naked. He is naked in front of his own weaknesses and sins; and therefore, he is naked before God. But he also finds himself naked in front of others, the society that judges him. There, naked is he who often has lost his dignity as a person, because of poverty or the lack of work has stripped him of his essence. This is especially evident in the war-affected populations, due to which they have had to leave everything, their homes, their families, their work, to escape from conflicts and persecutions. Today, this nakedness affects thousands of migrants from (and in) the Middle East who run away to find a new hope of life, but who may plan to seek in the future their way back home. In Jordan, there are more than 1.5 million who have been forced by the crisis in Syria and Iraq to leave their homes: the Holy Father wanted to give them a new dignity, “clothing them” with the possibility of starting a new job in order to help themselves and above all, their families. This is the “Garden of Mercy” project, which will be implemented by Caritas Jordan at the Center of Our Lady of Peace in Amman.

Man’s path from birth to death is marked with nakedness. Life begins with nakedness and ends with nakedness. In the Old Testament, nakedness usually refers to the loss of human dignity and therefore, the recognition of man’s own existential limits. But, the Lord, a God merciful and full of grace, takes care of the creature made in His image, provides for man and woman leather garments and clothes them. God helps them to cover their fragility, reminding with this gesture that He is a Father who always takes care of his children. The leather garments are image of promise for a future return to the true dignity of the children of God. Clothed with the tunic of God’s children, we are also called to clothe the naked, not giving to the poor clothes that are left over or out of fashion, but giving them what we hold most beautiful, clothing them with the same love with which Christ has clothed us. Therefore, to clothe the naked is to promote the person in his wholeness.

“How often I have seen Jesus in the poor! We must treat them as our patrons” St. Luigi Orione

 

May - To visit the sick

Blessed is he who considers the poor! The Lord delivers him in the day of trouble" (Psalm  41:1)

The reality of the sick is a reality that involves taking into account his whole person throughout the course of suffering. It’s like this everywhere, in the best hospitals of the West as also in the missions that provide health care around the world especially in the poorer regions. With his mere presence, the sick communicates a message: he asks to be received, understood and heard. Listening is lending an ear to hear. Closely linked to listening is paying attention. The person who pays attention to another becomes hospitable; he is willing to accept a friendship and he is sensitive to the needs of others. Being available allows the other to enter if the person’s space is not too crowded with thoughts. Hence, it is about the practice of removing everything that takes him away from listening and it entails giving up something. Therefore, the characteristics of dealing with the sick that we need to keep in mind when we about to make a visit are listening, maintaining silence within, paying attention, and being available. All this needs to be accompanied by tenderness, as Pope Francis reminded us on the XXII World Day of the Sick: “To grow in tender love, and a respectful and sensitive charity, we have a sure Christian model to contemplate: Mary, the Mother of Jesus and of all of the sick and suffering … at the side of – and indeed within – our suffering, is the suffering of Christ; he bears its burden with us and he reveals its meaning. When the Son of God mounted the cross, he destroyed the solitude of suffering and illuminated its darkness. We thus find ourselves before the mystery of God’s love for us, which gives us hope and courage: hope, because in the plan of God’s love even the night of pain yields to the light of Easter, and courage, which enables us to confront every hardship in his company, in union with him”. Tenderness towards the sick is the tenderness for the suffering Christ on the cross who shares the pain with the sick. The sick needs above all love because his condition makes him especially poor. It is the teaching that comes from the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10).

“In the sick or suffering, we must see Jesus nailed to the cross and not a parasite or an unproductive member” Saint Faustina Kowalska

The film is about the activities of Dr. Carlo Spagnolli in favor of the Ugandan population at Lacor Hospital in the Diocese of Gulu, founded by Piero and Lucille Corti, and in Kalongo at the hospital founded by Giuseppe Ambrosoli, a Comboni missionary who Pope Francis in December 2015 declared Venerable. The images tell us of Uganda, a country wounded by dictatorship, wars and epidemics; but above all, the film shows us the path towards the discovery of the “Heroes without Capes”: those missionaries and physicians who have been assisting the suffering for decades, providing them with medical care, but also with treatments tailored for the soul, for an integral development of the human person.

The film represents the work of mercy "To visit the sick."

 

April - To Admonish the Sinner

“If I say to someone wicked, "Evil- doer, you are to die," and you do not speak to warn the wicked person to renounce such ways, the wicked person will die for this guilt, but I shall hold you responsible for the death”(Ez 33: 8).

It is not just the evil and wicked who end up sinning: sin is something that happens to everyone. This life experience is told in the film “Il Grido” (The Scream) by Paul Zanni- a long-time drug addict and dealer who also spent some years in prison. Paul was saved by the mercy of God and the work of Chiara Amirante and the The Community “Nuovi Orizzonti”. As the Holy Father Francis said in the General Audience of 10 September, 2014: “All of us have the capacity to sin and to do the same, to make mistakes in life”, but “mercy overcomes every wall, every barrier, and leads you to always seek the face of the man, of the person. And it is mercy which changes the heart and the life, which can regenerate a person and allow him or her to integrate into society in a new way”. In the New Testament Jesus establishes a specific practice of fraternal correction within a community of believers: "If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: whatever the misdemeanour, the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain the charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a gentile or a tax collector" (Mt 18: 15-17).

The foundation of fraternal correction is love. We learn love from God who personally reaches out to man. For it is God himself, in the book of Genesis, who goes to see for Himself what is happening in Sodom and Gomorrah. Just like God, Christians reach out to their neighbors, not with presumption or superiority, but with the desire to accompany them in their encounter with the person of Christ, who creates a new humanity.

“Grant that so often as the sin of anyone who has fallen is made known to me I may suffer with him, and not chide him proudly, but mourn and weep, so that weeping over another I may mourn for myself” Saint Ambrose

The film "Il Grido" (“The Scream”) - sponsored by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and produced by the Aurora Vision Company with the collaboration of the Archdiocese of Trent and the Consorzio Melinda – through the images and words of the protagonists tells the true story of the conversion of Paolo Zanni, a long-time drug addict and dealer who also spent some years in prison, who was then healed by the mercy of God and recovered to a new life thanks to the work of Chiara Amirante and The Community New Horizons. “Il Grido” represents the spiritual work of mercy “admonish the sinner", but always keeping in mind that it is not just the evil who end up sinning: sin is something that can happen to everyone. As the Holy Father Francis said in the General Audience of 10 September, 2014: “All of us have the capacity to sin and to do the same, to make mistakes in life”, but “mercy overcomes every wall, every barrier, and leads you to always seek the face of the man, of the person. And it is mercy which changes the heart and the life, which can regenerate a person and allow him or her to integrate into society in a new way”.

 

March - To Comfort the Afflicted

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt 5:4)

Iraq is a land that has no peace. Political unrest, religious persecution and the Islamic terrorism of Daesh “plague” men and women and drain its population in body and soul. In particular, the Christian communities that are affected have found refuge in the autonomous region of Kurdistan and in its capital of Erbil.

However, the hope of consolation that comes from God helps these men and women to remain firm in their faith and to be reborn in love.

To console is the predisposition of the soul to relieve pain, restoring the joy of hope in God, who has the power to rescue, to rebuild the human person and to save him. To console means to “breathe” near and together with another person, and in doing so, expressing to him understanding, compassion and closeness, and restoring to him life. When God creates man, he breathes on him and gives him the vital spirit. In a similar way, when Jesus is on the cross, he bows his head and emits his spirit on his mother, on John and on all those who were around him.  In this way, he sends forth his spirit of consolation on the suffering Church.

Many evils on earth cause affliction:  violence, injustice and oppression similar to the slavery of Israel in Egypt. The people of Israel, by then discouraged in face of a situation that was apparently without human solution, cried out for a divine response of consolation and comfort. And the “God of all consolation” listens to his people and saves them. God’s consolation, therefore, is comparable to the principle of a new creation.

By consoling, God recreates because he transforms a situation of death to life and a situation of slavery to one of freedom.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1:3-4).

The video portrays a project in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, coordinated by Catholic charitable organisations. It was placed in the Holy See Pavillion at Expo Milano.

 

FEBRUARY - TO GIVE DRINK TO THE THIRSTY

For I was thisty and you gave me drink” (Mt 25: 35)

In 2030, it seems that over 3 billion people will suffer from lack of water. Water is now an increasingly precious commodity; sometimes it is even the center of wars for the possession or control of the sources from where it springs. Therefore, the thirsty has often bodily thirst as in the Sahel, the poorest regions of the earth, but there is also the spiritual thirst. Water is a symbol of divine grace, and it is a sign of gratuitousness. It descends like a gift from heaven upon all men and women because the Lord "sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Mt 5:45), as opposed to all human expectation. In the meeting at Jacob’s well, Jesus reveals to the Samaritan woman that He Himself is the water of life and promises a water that "wells up to eternal life" (Jn 4:14). Whoever drinks of this water becomes His wellspring for others.

To give drink to the thirsty is a work of mercy commanded by Jesus to His disciples (Cfr. Mk 9:41) that must be accomplished not only physically, but also spiritually to all those who need to quench bodily thirst, and all those who are “thirsty” for love, in the hospitals, homes for the elderly, families with disabled children or tried by special experiences of illness and suffering. Christ teaches us to be bread and water to feed and quench the thirst of every human being. According to the image used by Pope John XXIII, the Church was born in this way: "the Church is like an old fountain of the village, which quenches the thirst of different generations. We change, the fountain remains”. It quenches the thirst of all.

“O Fountain of life, Source of living waters, when shall I pass from this desert, this pathless barren land, to the waters of your sweetness, […] , and to slake my soul’s thirst at the gushing streams of your mercy?”  Saint Augustine

The video portrays a project in Burkina Faso, funded by the John Paul II Foundation for Sahel, entrusted to Cor Unum. It was placed in the Holy See Pavillion at Expo Milano.

 

JANUARY - TO FEED THE HUNGRY

For I was hungry and you gave me food” (Mt 25: 35)

Today in the world there are about 975 million hungry people, that is, those who do not eat or do not have enough to eat. They are in every corner of the planet, often close to those who have too much to eat. The world continues to be hungry. In addition to material bread, people often lack spiritual bread: they may may have solved their economic problems in life, but not their relational, emotional, psychological problems, nor those of the meaning of life, of loneliness, of neglect, of separation, of inferiority. For all, Christ says of himself: "I am the bread of life."

«Hunger today is a matter of truly “scandalous” dimensions, which threatens the life and dignity of many people — men, women, children and the elderly. Every day we must address this injustice, — I would go even further — this sin, in a world rich in food resources, thanks also to enormous technological progress, there are too many who lack the basic necessities for survival; and this is true not only in poor countries, but is increasingly so in rich and developed societies… It is Jesus himself who invites us to make room in our hearts for the urgency to “feed the hungry”, and the Church has made it one of the corporal works of mercy. To share what we have with those who lack the means to satisfy such a primary need, educates us in that charity that is an overflowing gift of passion for the life of the poor that the Lord makes us meet». Pope Francis, to Participants in the Meeting Sponsored By the "Fondazione Banco Alimentare" (Food Bank Foundation), 3 October, 2015.

“If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one” Blessed Theresa of Calcutta

The video portrays a project of the Banco de Alimentos Diakonia, in Ecuador funded by the Populorum Progressio Foundation, entrusted to Cor Unum. It was placed in the Holy See Pavillion at Expo Milano.