Corporal Works of Mercy

An Obnoxious Opening

You could commence this learning experience by announcing to the class that you think making up Christmas hampers for SVP is a waste of good money, that they should be spending their money on themselves.

If such an opening doesn't backfire on you, then some students will object to your selfishness. When they do, admit that they are right: If you want to be known as a Christian, then you must look after the poor.

Brainstorm Activity

Brainstorm with your students the essential actions of a genuine follower of Jesus.

You will probably end up with a list that has "Pray" and "Go to Mass". Put those into one group and then bring together those acts that represent the corporal works of mercy. These are:

  • Feed the hungry.
  • Shelter the homeless.
  • Clothe the naked.
  • Visit the sick and those in prison.
  • Give alms to the poor.
  • Bury the dead.

The Catechism identifies the corporal works of mercy in the following paragraph (2447)

"The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbour in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God."

Work with the list that the students have created through the brainstorm and add to it so that the corporal works of mercy are outlined in a form similar to the list above.

Finish the activity by asking students to identify groups, organisations and programmes that are meant to be a response to the command by Jesus to carry out the corporal works of mercy. They should be able to name the SVP, Good Samaritan Industries, the Salvation Army and KolbeCare.

Then use the statement found on page 40 in the student book for this unit:

"These teachings apply where people have what exceeds their own life needs and what they need to provide for their families. People are not exempt from giving to the poor because of their financial or material ambitions. Responsibilities to the needy should be factored into plans for funding extra luxuries."

Allow your students time to react or respond to the statement. Then continue with the lesson.


Explain to students that Jesus taught by word and example about the corporal works of mercy. Our focus here are his stories, in particular the parable of the banquet and the parable of the last judgment.

Hand out copies of the reading God Cares and read with the class the two parables.

After each parable, discuss with your students why Jesus told the parable. Look at the major theme of each parable and summarise the parables and discussion on the white board.

Reflection Activity

Hopefully, your students will be finding this challenging. Hand out copies of the worksheet Loving Justly. Direct your students to read the scripture passages and then answer the questions in writing.

When work time is up (this could take you into the next period), invite students to share their answers.


The following journal activity needs to be read to students in sections and time given for them to carry out the small tasks, such as remembering and writing and/or drawing.

  • Recall a time when you were like the Good Samaritan and you went out of your way to help someone in need. It doesn't have to be anything huge, just a time when you helped someone along the way. ...
    Now that you have remembered it, describe the situation in your journal. You might like to write or draw this event from your life story. ...
    What did it feel like when you were helping your "neighbour"? Try to remember the feelings you experienced in that situation. ...
    Take some time to describe what you felt when that event happened in your life. ...
    Finally, decide how this event will help to change your future. Set yourself a goal to be achieved over the next week, month, year, or the rest of your life. Write it down in your journal and promise yourself to check up on how you are going with your goal on a regular basis. ...