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The Works of Mercy

In The Works of Mercy The Heart of Catholicism, Father James Keenan, S.J., reveals mercy as Gods principle way of loving us and our way of loving one another. In the first two of three parts, Father Keenan explores modern applications of the corporal works of mercy--visiting the prisoner, sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the sick, clothing the naked, burying the dead--and the spiritual works of mercy--reconciling, being vigilant for the spiritual needs of ones neighbor, and praying. Because we are called by Gods mercy into the church, the third part of the book looks at the effective work of mercy in the prayer of the church, particularly in the Eucharist. Complete with meditations on September 11 and the priesthood in light of the scandals in the church, The Works of Mercy provides a bridge between the past and the present and is must reading for students, parish groups, and individual readers seeking to live their faith in the everyday world.
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Table of Contents

Part 1 Introduction Chapter 2 Mercy distinguishes Catholic morality Part 3 The Corporal Works of Mercy Chapter 4 The Corporal Works of Mercy Chapter 5 Visit the Prisoner Chapter 6 Shelter the Homeless Chapter 7 Feed the Hungry Chapter 8 Give Drink to the Thirsty Chapter 9 Bury the Dead Chapter 10 Visit the Sick Chapter 11 Clothe the Naked Part 12 Meditation on Mercy in the Light of September 11, 2001 Chapter 13 Burying the Dead Part 14 The Spiritual Works of Mercy Chapter 15 The Spiritual Works of Mercy Chapter 16 A Reconciling Spirit Chapter 17 Being Vigilant Chapter 18 Prayer Part 19 Meditation on Priesthood in Light of the Church's Scandals Chapter 20 Being a Minister of Mercy Part 21 Mercy and the Eucharistic Liturgy Chapter 22 The Entrance Rite Chapter 23 The Liturgy of the Word Chapter 24 The Liturgy of the Eucharist Chapter 25 Communion

About the Author

James F. Keenan, S.J., presently holds the Gasson Chair in the Theology Department at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. His recent books with Sheed & Ward include Practice What You Preach, Virtues for Ordinary Christians, and Moral Wisdom.


In a world starved for compassion and kindness, Father Keenan's book, The Works of Mercy, brings a sense of expectation and hope for a better future. By describing how the Catholic tradition has honored the command of the Gospel to practice the works of mercy, and also how contemporary Christians continue to fulfill Christ's command to love one another, Father Keenan invites the reader to go and do likewise. Written in a style that is both profound and practical, the book, rich in its use of Scripture, is ideal for theological reflection on both the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. In a world filled with suffering, the whole Church can benefit from focusing on these words, whether an RCIA group, an adult education class, a small faith sharing group, or a class preparing for confirmation. -- Katarina Schuth, O.S.F., Endowed Chair for the Social Scientific Study of Religion, St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, University of St. Thomas At a time when loud voices seek to make out that the center of Catholic identity is partisan adherence to religious ideology, here we have the voice of Jim Keenan, gentle and lucid, who brings us back to the real heart of the Catholic faith: mercy received and mercy acted out. Hooray for Fr. Jim's unequivocal but vulnerable unfolding of the truth that authentic Catholic identity is given us as we dare to let go of our identity by daring to enter as equals into the pain and confusion of others just as Our Lord entered into ours. -- James Alison, Catholic theologian, priest, and author of Faith Beyond Resentment and On Being Liked Legions of students have heard Father Keenan speak of mercy as our willing entry into the chaos of another person. Now, in this most personal and deeply spiritual of his works, this distinguished moral theologian and priest tells us what mercy means to him. In clear and lyrical style, Keenan explores mercy in its biblical roots, the history of the Church, and the contemporary world. The meditations on mercy in light of September 11th and of the Church's sex abuse scandal shine as gems of spiritual autobiography. This is pastorally grounded and compelling spiritual reading that speaks to all of us. -- Paul Crowley, associate professor of religious studies, Santa Clara University [Keenan's books] read like very good sermons or college lectures by a priest both learned and engaged in the world. By making the Catholic tradition come alive, the books invite moral reflection and struggle. * Theological Journal * This well-written and passionately argued book hits exactly the target for which it is intended: anyone interested in the pastoral life of the church. * Commonweal Magazine * This small and compassionate book is an exploration of ways in which the Catholic tradition has encouraged its adherents to enter the chaos of others joyously and courageously as a way of imitating God's entrance into their own chaos. * Bridges * There is energy in these pages, the kind of energy that's contagious. I challenge you to read this book and not be affected by it. I predict that you will wind up not only valuing mercy as a virtue and identifying it gratefully in others, but you will also desire a greater share of it as part of your own spiritual DNA. Be prepared for a stunning read and a real gift of light. -- Doris Donnelly, PhD,, Director, The Cardinal Suenens Center, John Carroll University

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