Instructing the Ignorant

A few months back, our chaplain gave a homily during Sunday Mass which included a quote based on Pope Saint John XXIII’s Coat of Arms.  The quote was, “See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little.”

Before his homily, I had decided to put my nose to the grindstone, and focus completely on myself, my individual faith journey, and forming my children’s relationship with God.  That quote gave me confidence that it is okay to not engage in discussions where religion is concerned.

Quite frankly, I am not comfortable instructing anyone outside my own children.  When contemplating the aforementioned quote, I was given the green light to observe everything, but to also not correct others when it comes to teaching what or why the Catholic Church teaches what she does.  Instead, I can remain safe – avoiding conflict with others.

And then, I was introduced to the Spiritual Works of Mercy, specifically Instruct the Ignorant.

The more time I have spent contemplating and reading about this specific Spiritual Work of Mercy, the more I realize the quote the chaplain mentioned doesn’t let me off the hook from spreading the joy of the Gospel and evangelizing to others.

Instead, it is a reminder that I must be just and charitable when I do find something upon which to instruct.

Instead of pointing out what others are doing wrong or telling others what to do, I need to show and live my life the way that would inspire others to continue to grow their faith life and move along their own path toward finding a relationship with God.

In the past, I have not been charitable or gracious when discussing the Catholic faith and her teachings.  At times, I could probably be likened to a rabid animal when discussing “how you should live like a Catholic.”  While I prefer the term passionate, Auntie M recently described the way I discuss Catholicism and her teachings as “intense.”

I don’t want to come across as harsh, condemning, rabid, or intense.  Yet, I still want to make sure I am performing the work of mercy when the moment calls for instruction.

Perhaps when I am at a loss for if, or how, to instruct, I should take a moment to remember the third way to exercise mercy toward my neighbor, recalling the words Jesus is reported to have spoken to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, recorded in paragraph 742 of her Diary:

I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first – by deed, the second – by word, the third – by prayer.  In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me.  By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy …

Is there a Spiritual Work of Mercy with which you struggle?  How have you addressed the struggle?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


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