Works of Mercy

Dorothy Day said that the only Rule of the Catholic Worker was the Works of Mercy. In the 25th chapter of St Matthew Our Lord informs us that on the Last Day we will judged according to the law of Love in how we cared for the least. It is clear that what is at stake in living a life of mercy is our eternal Salvation. Catholic Worker communities exist to build up this communion of love and create spaces where everyone can sit as equals at the banquet table. We commit our lives to feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the alien, visiting the sick and the imprisoned and burying the dead. Dorothy Day liked to remind people that the Council of Nicea in 381AD stipulated that every city and town was to have a house of hospitality where the works of mercy where to be done to take care of the poor. The Catholic Worker while founded in the 1930’s in the midst of an economic depression and the beginning of a world war is often referred to as radical christianity, it is not radical because it did anything new. It is only radical is so far as it is faithful to Jesus and the ancient teaching of the fathers of the Church. Catholic Workers have often contrasted the works of mercy to which Mother Church is called to provide to the works of war which the state often provides and is the very antithesis of the Christian life. St John Chrysostom (347-407) reminds us that our charity more than being merciful acts is a repaying of our debts in justice for all that we have been given.“When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”- Saint John ChrysostomLikewise St Basil the Great (329-379) reminds us “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”

Catholic Workers have a special devotion to Our Lady to the Most Holy Theotokos. When Our Lord was young, fragile and vulnerable she fed him, gave him water to drink, provided him with shelter, tended to his every need and as an adult was with him as he died. She as the model disciple shows shows us to the way to Christ in her motherhood.