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:
Which Work of Mercy is the most appealing to you? Which Work of Mercy are you most prepared to do? Which Work of Mercy do you do the most? If they are the same, does that shed light on your vocation? If they aren’t, what does that say to you?
You created us to be at once both body and spirit so we can love You with our whole heart, soul and mind, and our neighbors as ourselves. And You saw that Your creation was good.
You taught us the Paschal Mystery through Your Son: the truth that suffering and death is part of Your creation. You promised to be with us through the difficult times, and You count on us to bring Your presence to our neighbor.
Give us the strength to be aware of the sick and their needs. Help us make time to visit them and give us an openness to be present with them so that You may be present through us. Make us mindful of the gift of healing that we can bring, the healing that comes with compassion and tenderness and care so that we may do our part to make real your Reign. And help us to keep always in mind the promise of the Resurrection.
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 are acts of compassion, as listed below, by which we help our neighbors with their emotional and spiritual needs.
The Corporal Works of mercy are these kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their material and physical needs.
Step 3 – Explanation: This step will address a specific Work of Mercy.
This Month: Visit the Sick
I. God’s Love made Present
When we are sick, and we all are at some time, we need care. For us in 21st century America, we have trained professionals to care for our bodies. We even have men and women formally prepared as chaplains to attend to our spiritual needs. But we still need the visitor, whether it be a close loved one who will sit quietly and comfortably at our side (or waiting room) or a person who simply cares enough to care.
When we or a loved one is suffering, we pray for comfort. But God never promised a comfortable life. In fact, in Jesus Christ we see the necessity of picking up our own crosses, of suffering. It is part of being human. God did promise to be with us, and God promised a resurrection after the suffering. How beautiful it is, then, when we join in making God’s presence real as we visit those in most need of feeling God’s presence. This is particularly true as we visit the sick.
II. The Miracle of Healing
In the video, Fr. Mark says, “Healing takes place in many, many ways. And if you or I are looking for the physical healing so often mentioned in the Gospels, we will miss the very healing we are called to bring as the Body of Christ.” Helping someone feel wanted, valuable and loved is something the trained medical providers have little time to do. And yet those are truly miracles in themselves, perhaps the most important miracles. Family, friends, and even community members have that unique power to heal which cannot be done by anyone else… at least as well or deeply.
III. Expect Results, not Results
By faith we can expect results, even though we may not be able to see results.
In the early eighties, a youth group formed a clown troop to visit the sick and engage in other creative service projects. They practiced applying clown white, they chose a clown character and name that would symbolize who they thought God created them to be, and they practiced making balloon animals. They practiced and practiced.
They made their way to a local hospital, and visited patients for the first time. One of the first stared at them intently, but without any facial expression. They created a balloon dog for her, and sheepishly exited as quickly as they could. There was no physical feedback from that woman whatsoever, and the young clowns felt embarrassed.
One of the lessons learned at that moment was that visitation was not for them, but for the patient. While they could have asked for permission to stay and pray, or bring water, or maybe even watch a little TV with the patient, they felt shy and uneasy and decided to escape.
In this case, however, their discomfort was short-lived. A woman came after them in the hallway and told them that her daughter was so thankful for their presence and for the balloon. But she could not smile or talk. “She was the one, no doubt, you read about in the paper,” she told them, “that was shot in the side of the face.” The wound was covered with a small bandage from the side and to the back of her face, and her mouth was wired shut. The was no apparent injury to the front of her face, but she couldn’t move her mouth to smile or talk.
Had it not been for the mother’s kind words, the clowns would never have known that their presence and training was worth anything. They learned that day that, if they are going to visit the sick, it is about the patient and not them. And, with faith, good things will result whether not they see any results because God is with us. It is the resurrection after a work of mercy.
Step 4 – Application and Appropriation into Life is the bridge between head knowledge and daily living as a disciple of Christ.
Faith in Action:
Visiting the Sick is a ministry of presence. Think of a time that you were most vulnerable. Who would you want visiting? What would you want that person to say… or do… or not say/do?
What does it mean to be sick? What are other ways someone can be sick besides physically? How can we be present to them?
Suggested Activities (add your suggestions below):
- Visit your grandparents and/or elderly relatives
- Volunteer at the local nursing home
- Create together a card for a sick person, and send it regularly until he/she is well. Family members may lead the planning and the creation of each card in turn.
Parish and School:
- Make prayer blankets for parishioners to bring to the sick. As small group, or even shut in folks, can make small lap blankets or shawls. They can then be put into a clear plastic bag along with a printed prayer for the recipient. One example of such a prayer of blessing after a completed shawl, written by Janet Severi Bristow in 2000, is:
May God’s grace be upon this shawl…
warming, comforting, enfolding and embracing.
May this mantle be a safe haven… a sacred place of security and well-being…
sustaining and embracing in good times as well as difficult ones.
May the one who receives this shawl be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace,
and wrapped in love.
Step 5 – Celebration: Lessons will close with a prayer, silent or communally, that gives glory to God.
You desire for all of us health in spirit, mind and body as You created us to be both spiritual and physical beings. Remind us that, in helping to make Your kingdom present, we must attend to those who are sick and vulnerable 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 visiting the sick.