A World of Books that Matter

Robert Ellsberg


The Works of Mercy—such as feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, visiting the prisoner—are drawn from the message of Jesus, who tied our salvation to the treatment of the least of our brothers and sisters: “I was hungry and you fed me…. Imprisoned and you visited me.” This message offers a stark contrast to the spirit of anti-mercy that animates so much of our national policy, marked by disdain for the stranger, the poor, the sick, the prisoner.

In this light the publication of a new book by Pope Francis, The Works of Mercy, is especially timely. In reflections drawn from his writings and preaching, the pope treats in turn each of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Each topic opens a window on a larger theme. For instance, under “Welcoming the stranger,” Pope Francis reflects on the plight of refugees and immigrants. His reflections on “Visiting the prisoner” are set in the context of his own pastoral visits to prisons, and his self-description of himself as “a man who has experienced forgiveness . . . who has been saved from his many sins.”


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