How Saint Marianne Cope Perfectly Lived out the Corporeal Works of Mercy

Saint Marianne Cope

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2447, The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.”

All of the saints performed great works of caring for the poor. “The corporal works of mercy consist especially of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God,” the Catechism states.

I knew little about Saint Marianne Cope. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI describes her best. In his 2005 Beatification Address for her, he declared, “The generosity of Mother Marianne was, humanly speaking, exemplary…All that she achieved was inspired by her personal love of the Lord, which she in turn expressed through her love of those abandoned and rejected by society in a most wretched way.”

During Cope’s canonization on October 21st, 2012, Benedict XVI said, “She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved Saint Francis.”

Learning about Marianne Cope has renewed my passion for serving others and for performing corporeal works of mercy with Jesus at the heart of my intentions.

Heart of a Healer

Born in 1838 in Germany, Cope’s family immigrated to the United States early in her childhood. Living in industrial city of Utica, New York the saint’s family held factory jobs for a living.

Even Marianne worked to help support her family. When she was in 8th grade her father, Peter, became seriously ill. As the oldest child, Marianne left school to work in a textile mill to help provide for her family. This early experience proved a foreshadowing pattern of serving others for this saint.

Corporeal works of mercy

In 1862, Peter Cope passed away. Since her younger siblings were then able to take care of themselves, it was at this point Marianne pursued her vocation to the religious life.

From Average Administrator to Extraordinary

Cope became a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, New York. Here Marianne served as teacher and principal. In 1870, Marianne was selected to be a governing council of her religious order.

From 1870 to 1877,  Marianne Cope acted as hospital administrator. Critics often condemned the saint for bringing in  alcoholics and other “outcast patients.”  Her kind and loving approach to such patients earned Marianne love and admiration by the citizens of New York.

Saint Marianne Cope’s Love Amid Leprosy

Mother Cope’s contribution to the medical field would have landed her in the hospital hall of fame. But, God had other plans for her. More extraordinary plans!

In 1883, Cope received a petition from King  Kalākaua of Hawaii to minister to people suffering from leprosy. Yes, you read right. Leprosy. The same disease that plagued the world in biblical times.

Saint Marianne Cope

Over 50 religious congregations rejected Kalākaua’s plead for aid. Highly contagious, leprosy incited fear and judgment into people’s hearts. Not Saint Marianne Cope. Confidently and joyfully she wrote back to the king, “I am not afraid of any disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers.”

It took a special person to build and sustain healthcare facilities for the lepers. Combining her hospital administration experience with her loving demeanor, Cope cared for both the physical and spiritual side of the lepers’ experience.

In 1887 the saint moved to the Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai. Initially she planned to remain in Hawaii for a few years. God had different plans. A year later Mother Marianne met and cared for the legendary future saint, Fr. Damian. Although she only knew him for a couple years before his death in 1889, it was a providential meeting.

Imagine the incredible grace it was for both Fr. Damian and Mother Marianne. The saints cared for others and let God care for them. Remember Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:40, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least  brothers of mine, you did for me.

Be Merciful Too

Let us too live out the Gospel mission like St. Marianne Cope. You may not be a called to help minister to people with contagious diseases, but we are called to love and take care of the sick, poor, the weary, and the disenfranchised. Reach out to a friend who is feeling isolated this winter. Offer to bring warm soup to a sick neighbor.

Saint Marianne Cope


“My heart bled for the children and I was anxious and hungry to help put a little more sunshine into their dreary lives.”

“We bring no gift to Your Majesty except our service in behalf of your suffering people, whose infirmity we bear in our hearts.”  

“We were not only willing but anxious to go and care for the poor outcasts.”  

Related Links

Saint Marianne Cope- Franciscan Media

Saint Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum

St. Marianne Cope: A saint for outcasts and lepers

 

 

 

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How the Coronavirus Pandemic is an Opportunity for Catholics to Serve the Poor

This post was sponsored by a generous lay member of the Diocese of Barbados. COVID19 has hit this Catholic diocese particularly strong and many parishioners are in need of assistance.

Consider helping out by visiting God Squad T-Shirts to purchase a Catholic t-shirt. 100% of all proceeds will be used to buy food for the poor.


Over the centuries, humans have endured unimaginable trials. Volcanoes, hurricanes, droughts, famines, floods, and World Wars. The author of Ecclesiastes  was right in saying, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.” 

Our current situation with the COVID19 pandemic may seem unique. While the majority of people living haven’t experienced an event of this magnitude in their lifetime, largescale illnesses have spread the globe before. The virus has not only affected individual’s physical health but also spiritual, emotional, mental, and economic health.

Catholic and Coronavirus

The Catholic Church has been a bastion of hope during these times in the past. Now is the time for the Church to provide aid again. More than a building or group of bishops, the Church is primarily a community founded on love and obedience to God. According to 1 Peter 2:7-8, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone.”

The primary commandment is to love God with your whole heart, mind, and soul and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. How precisely do you love your neighbor in 2020?

Corporeal Works of Mercy

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2447,

The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.

Jesus specifically detailed these works of mercy in Matthew 25: 35-46. Preceding the passage about the Judgment of Nations are the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Talents. The first parable teaches about the importance of being prepared spiritually because we don’t know the time when our death arrives. In the second parable, Jesus talks about how our natural talents should be used for the common good. If we share our talents (time and treasure) to help others in need we will receive countless graces.

Corporeal works of mercy

Dioceses throughout the world face economic hardship due to the lockdowns. Our brothers and sisters in faith suffer hunger and financial strain. It can be difficult to help others in need especially if you and your family are currently going through similar pressures. Below I will examine a couple examples of saintly witnesses who cared for the poor despite suffering their own crosses.

Saint Gemma Galgani

Gemma Galgani is the patron saint of the poor and unemployed. She was only 8 years old when her mother died. Gemma’s father encountered financial strain shortly after. He was always a good steward with his wealth, but sickness and the death of his wife led to creditors seizing his property. Succumbing to cancer of the throat, Gemma’s father passed away when she was 19 year old.

Saint Gemma Galgani

Gemma orphaned lived in destitution and the churches had to take up collections for her and her siblings to eat. The saint wrote, “I am happy in every way that Jesus wills, and if Jesus wants the sacrifice of my life, I give it to Him at once. If He wants anything else, I am ready. One thing alone is enough for me; to be his victim, in order to atone for my innumerable sins, and if possible, for those of the whole world” How incredible is her faith? Certainly her story resonates with us during this year of endless trials.

Saint Charles Borromeo

Another saint who lived through an impoverished time was Charles Borromeo. As bishop of Milan, he is most famous for organizing the last session of the Council of Trent. The patron saint of catechists also promoted reform in the Catholic Church. At first his life may seem completely different from Gemma— a bishop versus an orphan.

Saint Charles Borromeo

Charles exhibited the same care for the poor as Gemma. He lived through the Bubonic plague (yes the 16th century was crazy!). Milan endured famine and eventually outbreak of the plague. Despite the secular leaders fleeing the city in fear, Charles remained to care for the people. He sought to feed 60,000 to 70,000 people daily and used all his funds feeding the hungry that he eventually went into debt.

The Italian bishop lived out the corporeal works of mercy. He sought to comfort the afflicted and care for the poor and sick. Saint Charles is an outstanding model for our current situation.

Be Christ to Others

Saints Gemma and Charles listened to the God’s will in the face of their own suffering. Loving our neighbors is not always easy. But carrying our crosses never is easy. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” 

Sadly, I have seen people remain apathetic to others’ suffering. “I doesn’t affect me. I don’t know them so why should I care.” God created humans to live communally. We are to care for the less fortunate. Our life can turn around quickly. Those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic know truth well.

Live out the corporeal works of mercy. Become Christ to everyone you meet. Donate to the poor individually or to charities. You may not be able to help out financially at this time. Share your time or talents with your neighbors. Pray for the conversion of souls and end of the pandemic.


Help our Catholic brothers and sisters in the Caribbean by visiting God Squad T-Shirts to purchase a Catholic t-shirt. 100% of all proceeds will be used to buy food for the poor.

If you are not able to donate at this time please share this post with your Catholic family and friends.

May God bless you and your generosity!

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Death is not the End

Benjamin Franklin once declared, “The only guarantee in this life is taxes and death.” References to our mortality is oftentimes an uncomfortable topic for humanity in modern Western civilization. We do not want to hear, nor discuss, that all things eventually die. Decay of our bodies and deterioration of our minds is a sinister notion. Because of the fall, death [and sin] entered the world. God’s original plan for His greatest creation—mankind— did not involve dying and eventually being buried six feet under.

this is not the end

 Bleakness, death, and despair hounded me over the few months. My wife and I suffered another miscarriage in December and my grandfather suffered a heart attack at the end of 2017—he passed on from this life on January 15th. Along with my personal encounters with suffering, I attended a funeral Mass for a stranger—my first such event! Our parish priest during the close of the Sunday liturgy told the congregation of a tragic story about a young military mother who died of brain cancer. He notified us of the funeral time to see if anyone wanted to attend to support her family.

casket

Such macabre normally causes me pause—and even fright—however, the school of suffering taught me that death is not the greatest fear in this world. Grounded in my faith combined with the teacher of experience, I learned that death is not the end! While moments of despair linger daily, hope persists. Earlier in 2017, I read Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book ‘You Did it to Me’: Divine Mercy in Action. In hindsight, picking up his work at the Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk in my church’s atrium was a turning point in my spiritual life. For those that have not heard of this title, the premise of the book involves providing practical ways to infuse divine mercy into our daily living.

Chapter Two of Divine Mercy in Action focused on the corporeal works of mercy of paying our respects to the deceased and welcoming strangers. Fr. Gaitley provided pages at the end of each chapter for practical tips to grow in holiness. Attending a stranger’s funeral—one of the suggestions— piqued my interest. I thought I would have to wait until my children were grown-up in order to actualize the corporeal work of “burying the dead” in my own life.

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The Holy Spirit works a mysterious and curious manner. Heeding my priest’s words, I scarified my time, something of myself. In a sense, I died—died to my fear—fear of showing up to an event where I knew no one aside from the presiding priests at the funeral. One caveat on this point, I actually did not stay for the entire Mass and I never was able to enter the church! Instead, I roamed the church vestibules as I brought my two young children with me. Frequently chasing my runaway two-year old eventually got the better of me. Mother Teresa once said, “God doesn’t require you to succeed, he only requires that you try.”

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The saint of Calcutta’s wisdom provides us hope. Hope in a better tomorrow. Hope that death is not the end.  The sainted nun stated, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” Hearing those words always helps to re-orient my gaze toward hope and aids me in trusting the Lord. Jesus urged his apostles [and us today] in Matthew 16:24-26 to plunge headlong into the suffering of the Cross in order to fully follow Him. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ provides all believers the hope that death is not the end! My grandfather was a humble man of steadfast faith. I confidently hope and pray for the repose of his soul that he is able to experience the joy of the Beatific Vision. I prayer for the souls of my unborn daughter and the young military mother whose funeral I attended as well.

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“Eternal rest grant unto them [these three beautiful souls], O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.” 

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