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Motto of the Confraternity of Penitents

"You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind, (and) you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Jesus's words as recorded in Matthew 22:37-38)


Penitents engage in the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy in fulfillment of this commandment of Jesus. Each penitent selects the work of mercy most suitable to them. In the photo, four penitent life pledged members visit in one of the members' nursing home rooms.


The Spiritual Works of Mercy are:

  • Instruct the ignorant

  • Advise the doubtful

  • Correct sinners

  • Be patient with those in error or who do wrong

  • Forgive offenses

  • Comfort the afflicted

  • Pray for the living and the dead.


The Corporal Works of Mercy are:

  • Feed the hungry

  • Give drink to the thirsty

  • Clothe the naked

  • Shelter the homeless

  • Visit the sick and imprisoned

  • Ransom the captive

  • Bury the dead.

The Shema, the great Israelite confession of faith, was recited by devout Jews every morning and evening.


When asked by the scribe “what is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus responded by quoting the Shema (found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5) “Hear (Shema), O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” But after saying this, Jesus also added the commandment of love for neighbor found in the Book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Our Lord united into a single precept the commandments of love for God and for neighbor. His implication is that they are inseparable: our love for God is expressed and made concrete in our love for our fellow human beings. Saint John made this crystal clear in his first letter: “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4 20). So love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God. This is an important point for us to ponder: essential for our lives of faith, for conversion, and for growth in holiness.


Also, Pope Benedict emphasized that it is important to recognize that love of God and love of neighbor both live from (or flow from) the love of God who has loved us first. That’s why the great two-fold commandment is not something imposed from the outside, something really impossible in practice. It involves an experience of love within, “a love which by its nature must then be shared with others.” It comes from God and unites us to God.” In God and with God, we can love even people we dislike or do not even know. We look at others not simply with our own feelings but from the perspective of Christ. We see in them the image of God.


--Bishop Kevin Rhoades

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