Admonish Sinners

Online Lesson:

These online lessons may be used:
• by individuals anytime, anywhere.
• in group settings — families, faith sharing groups, faith formation programs, and schools.
• in “flipped” classroom situations for people to view before meeting face to face.
You may just want to use a suggested video, story, or question — in anyway that helps us recognize that God’s mercy is anytime, anywhere, and we are called to be merciful as well.

The structure of the lesson is based on Msgr. Francis Kelly’s Ecclesial Method.

Step 1 – Preparation: Each lesson will begin with a video and prayer to help us focus on the Works of Mercy in General.

Works of Mercy Reflection:

Works of Mercy always include listening. How do you take time to listen? To your friends, to your children, to you parents, to your spouse… to God?


Loving God,

Our lives are filled with the magnificence of Your works!

Still, we often forget to recognize Your activity in the wonders of Your creation. Through our own sinfulness, we fail to make present Your Reign.

Help us ‘to encourage one another and build one another up‘ so that we may all grow in our love for You and our neighbor.

Give us the wisdom to listen to each other, and admonish with gentleness and only out of love.

Help us to be open to the words of others who love us enough to challenge us to be the persons You created us to be.

We pray this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Step 2 – Proclamation: Each lesson will repeat the Works of Mercy to help us remember them.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy:

The Spiritual Works of mercy are acts of compassion, as listed below, by which we help our neighbors with their emotional and spiritual needs.

Counsel the doubtful
Instruct the ignorant
Admonish sinners
Comfort the afflicted
Forgive all offenses/injury
Bear wrongs patiently
Pray for the living and the dead

The Corporal Works of Mercy:

The Corporal Works of mercy are these kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their material and physical needs.

Shelter the homeless/Welcome the stranger
Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
Bury the dead

Step 3 – Explanation: This step will address a specific Work of Mercy.

This Month: Admonish Sinners

I. Earning the right to admonish

“You have a piece of spinach in your teeth!”

This may seem like a silly example, but perhaps it contains an insight into the Spiritual Work of Admonishing Sinners. If the big boss of your company, or principal, or perhaps a famous speaker beginning a parish talk started talking with a piece of spinach stuck in his/her teeth, would you say anything? Some folks would not if other people were present. Some would be too embarrassed to say anything even if alone with the VIP. If s/he were a close friend however…

Three sisters were always looking forward to their mother’s poppy-seed coffee cake. Even as adults, they would wake up on holiday mornings, enjoy the poppy-seed laden pastry, and then bare their teeth to each other, asking to be “checked out”. They had earned the right to scrutinize each other, and they were close enough to each other to be open to a loving, “You have a seed between your two front teeth.”

This poppy-seed coffee cake ritual has the same dynamic of admonishing sinners insofar as:

  • There is a desire to be clean
  • There is a real chance of being imperfect
  • There is a give and take in the relationship, listening and speaking
  • The participants had earned the right to admonish, having loved, and feeling loved by, each other for years
  • There is a need for and openness to correction
  • There is no fear of a crippling defensiveness

Most would agree that telling someone there is spinach (or poppy-seeds) in his/her teeth is a loving act. How much more would it be a loving act to admonish each other as we journey with each other in our common walk with God?

II. Stop judging, that you may not be judged

Jesus said, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.

Admonishing is less about judging and more about calling each other to holiness. The word admonish comes from the Latin admonēre: to remind, give advice to, … warn. It is a merciful thing to do, not a judgemental thing to do. This is especially true if we have earned the right to admonish by loving each other, listening to and knowing each other (so we truly know when and how to admonish), and being open to heeding our own words.

It can also mean giving words of encouragement, calling each other to ‘keep the faith’ in the face of many challenges to us as Catholic Christians. As Fr. Ken Omernick said about Jesus, “He ate with them, he forgave them, he helped them see what was best in them, inviting them to do things they never thought they were capable of doing. He inspired them.”

Although person to person admonishing is usually done with discretion and in the privacy of a comfortable space, from a broad view, admonishing is a communal activity building up the entire Body of Christ.

Step 4 – Application and Appropriation into Life is the bridge between head knowledge and daily living as a disciple of Christ.

Reflection Questions:

Share a time when someone warned you about something you needed to correct, and it really hurt. Why? Did you later appreciate the interaction? Why?

Share a time when someone admonished you, and it didn’t hurt as much. How were you admonished, and what was the outcome?

Who would you feel close enough to admonish? How did your relationship with that person prepare you to feel comfortable in talking to him/her? How did your relationship with that person help him/her accept your encouraging or cautionary words?

After watching Fr. Ken Omernick’s video above, who inspires you to be the best you can be? Who do you inspire? How does that build up the Body of Christ?

Suggested Activities (add your suggestions below):


  • If we accept the fact that we are all sinners, and accept the definition of “admonish” to mean to remind, give advice, warn or inspire:
    • what would you want to ask your family to avoid doing to grow closer to God?
    • what would you want to inspire your family to do to be the best family you can be?

Parish and School:

  • Discuss ways in which your class/group can become more comfortable with each other, to the point of earning the right to admonish.
  • Using technology (computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.) create a poster or video commercial “selling” something you would admonish your class/group to do… or stop doing… to grow closer to God.

Step 5 – Celebration: Lessons will close with a prayer, silent or communally, that gives glory to God.

Closing Prayer:

Tender God,

You call us all to holiness, to be the People you have created us to be. Give us a spirit of charity and gentleness to be open to the words of others, and to be able to offer words to others, so that we can do our part to make your Reign present on earth. We ask you this as we pray the words Your Son gave to us:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.


In the “Leave a Reply” area below, please suggest another activity that addresses this Work of Mercy, or share a story about it.


Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

1 comment

The entire series of the Works of Mercy are very informative and helpful. Thanks for all the time and effort put into the planning. I have used some with our parish and appreciate the everyday connections to living out our faith in action.

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