We Pay Debts of Justice by Performing Works of Mercy

“I am thirsty,” he says to me as I tuck him into bed. “These pants have a hole,” she informs me as she gets dressed. “I need a hug,” another child cries out as she deals with the consequences of her poor behavior.

Addressing these basic necessities of my children has been a part of my life for nearly 12 years, and I realized a few years into parenting how in my service to my family I am fulfilling the call to live out the works of mercy. However, the fact of my own children’s needs being daily met, reminds me that there are many people who do not have these most basic needs met — of food, drink, clothing, health care, and human sympathy and comfort.

In the encyclical Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII wrote about private ownership as the natural right of man. He further discussed how we should use our own possessions, quoting from St. Thomas Aquinas, “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need” (RV 22). He said it was our duty, “not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity, to give what we have to others,” not of what we reasonably need to support ourselves, but of what we are able.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…