Have you ever looked at the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy – 14 in all – and for a fleeting moment thought, “I truly want to be merciful and pleasing to the Lord, but how in the world can I accomplish all of these acts of mercy?”
Or, have you contemplated Christ’s commands in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition to offer food/drink to the hungry/thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and give alms, and felt rather daunted with the enormity of the needs of those around us?
Are you unsure if how you are serving is meeting the intent of what He intended, or if your efforts to “Be Mercy” are truly merciful?
Fret no more – help is on the way! In his unique conversational, get-real-and-yet-merciful pastoral style, Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, sheds a bright light on these and other concerns and questions with his newest work, You Did It To Me: A Practical Guide to Mercy In Action. And it is just that – a very practical, down-to-earth, easy-to-read and simple-to-implement method for becoming “Mercy in Action.”
In his usual articulation of writing as if he is speaking personally in a one-on-one conversation over coffee, he explains just what Mercy is, what the call to Mercy is for each human person, and catechizes how to be “Mercy in Action.” Readers will recognize the very familiar way in which he masterfully utilizes the essence of Theresian simplicity in reducing what may some view as the oh-so-lovely-but-lofty-ideals of Divine Mercy that may seem out of reach for some, to very concrete, organized and easily actionable tasks that everyone can grasp. Following the structure that Fr. Gaitley has outlined will assist greatly in “Being Mercy” in a way that is sure to be pleasing to the Lord if offered with the proper intention of heart.
At the outset, Father Gaitley answers the question “What are the works of mercy?” by summarizing briefly the “Three Degrees of Mercy” that Christ taught St. Faustina as found in her Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul, and which he writes about at length in his first book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus. From there, Father Gaitley outlines the “Traditional Approach” and the “Spiritual Approach” to the works of mercy, with which many Catholics may be familiar. What is unique about Fr. Gaitley’s approach to “Mercy in Action” is how he very neatly tucks the more complex Traditional fourteen Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy into the five category Spiritual Approach to the Works of Mercy found in Matthew 25:31-46. It’s truly so simple and yet so profound – and you may wonder….“Now, why didn’t I think of that?”
Categorizing the works of mercy in this way makes the whole concept of “Being Mercy” very achievable for all. Implicitly, Fr. Gaitley seems to especially target those who love order, as well as very busy souls (that’s actually ALL of us in this day and time!) who long to take mercy from thought and contemplation into action. One of the ways in which this book is set apart from other books about Divine Mercy are the end-of-chapter “Action Items” (checklists) that transform the concepts of mercy into actionable tasks that facilitate our call to be the eyes, ears, hands and heart of Christ in a world so desperately in need of His Love and Mercy. And who doesn’t love an awesome checklist, right?
Each “Action Items” checklist beautifully summarizes each broad area of mercy. As an additional, very simply-fashioned aid later in the book, Father Gaitley uses his well-known gift for mnemonics to help us maintain simplicity and focus, and to prevent us from getting overwhelmed with all of the opportunities to offer works of mercy. Readers will be amused, but mostly appreciative of learning how to “Hunt (for P.I.G.$.), Gather and Go” to summarize the content of personal mercy checklists/”Action Items”. This useable and rather fun method of formulating a personal Divine Mercy in Action plan are sure to be a favorite feature of this book.
You Did It To Me is truly a treasure, a companion to the diary of St. Faustina, and a practical guide that speaks to the heart as it moves “Mercy into Action”. In fact, the content of the book itself may be understood as an act of love and mercy directly from Fr. Gaitley to each reader, for he gently paves the way for living out our personal call to “Be Mercy” to our brothers and sisters in ways that we can easily comprehend and carry out. From the beautiful cover art through the wonderful easy-to-read and well-organized content, to the jam-packed appendices and endnotes full of explanations, prayers, meditations, and resources for further study, this work is truly a well-spring for daily living.
Though intended for personal/individual use, You Did It To Me additionally offers possibilities (with some prayerful pondering) for Catholic/Christian mental health providers to integrate Divine Mercy into professional practice. It may also stimulate inspiration for other types of professional/ occupational relationships – and even more importantly, for family relationships. Think for a moment of the beautiful radiation of Christ’s Love and Mercy that would result if each reader prayerfully integrated Divine Mercy into spousal and parenting relationships, as well as in the world of business, education, law, policy-making, politics, construction/ engineering, finance, health care, non-profit, the media, etc.? Wow! To quote an old song, “What a wonderful world it would be!”
No matter how You Did It To Me will be implemented by souls thirsting for Divine Mercy, gratitude should be extended to Fr. Gaitley for a providing a simple but efficacious means for all to meet the intent of what Christ asks when He commands us to be loving, charitable, merciful united to His Divine Will. Thanks Father Gaitley!
Staci Gulino, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
YOU DID IT TO ME: A Practical Guide to Mercy in Action
Written by: Father Michael Gaitley, MIC
Published by Marian Press; Stockbridge, MA 01263 200 Pages