A sincere act of merciful love

By Brenda Hopf


“Fraternal correction is not the outcome of irritation at another’s faults, or of offended pride or wounded vanity. Love is the only possible motive for fraternally correcting our neighbor” (Saint Jose Maria Escriva).

As Lent began, I came across the quote above from Saint Jose Maria Escriva. I recalled a reflection I had written some years ago comparing the message conveyed in this quote to a safety program in the factory I was working in at the time. I found similarities between Saint Jose Maria’s thought and the basic concept of the safety program—that we were all to look out for one another’s well-being without prejudice or judgment.

We were encouraged to participate in the safety program by filling out a safety audit sheet on a regular basis. The employee filling out the audit sheet was to observe a co-worker as the person performed his/her job task.  The observer was to fill in answers to specific criteria on the audit sheet. When the audit was complete the observer was to share with his/her co-worker what had been documented. The conversation was to include any concerns observed and at least two positive points as outlined on the audit sheet. After the conversation, the audit sheet was to be submitted to the employee team running the program so that they might determine if further action was needed to correct any safety concerns.

The program was successful in addressing and correcting many safety issues.  One key rule that stood out for me was that no matter what was observed, an employee would not receive disciplinary action from the company for performing an unsafe act observed during one of these safety audits. The reason for the audit was not about passing judgment, but rather, for fellow employees to show sincere concern for the safety of all. I believe this amiable, non-threatening approach was key to the success the program garnered.

While Saint Jose Maria Escriva’s thought has a similar theme, he does not give a specific outline as to how we might fraternally correct someone when it comes to our concern for the “safety” of their soul. The motive of love alludes to an approach of gentleness that radiates with mercy.

Fraternal correction is a very important virtue that we, as Christians, have an obligation to act upon. Unfortunately, this spiritual work of mercy is often avoided because society shames us into believing that what others do is none of our business – even if we feel another person’s spiritual well-being is in danger. If we approach someone about the danger of sin, we are looked at as if we are being judgmental and/or self-righteous.

The fear of being viewed as judgmental and/or self-righteous made me a little uneasy when I watched a fellow co-worker doing his/her job and then had to communicate to them if I saw something that was not safe. I tend to turn my back when it comes to fraternal correction for this same reason. However, this does not excuse my Christian obligation to lovingly help others reach their eternal reward in heaven.

I hope you will find Saint Jose Maria Escriva’s quote challenging, especially during this Lenten Season when we are called to reflect on those areas of our life that need some work.

What if each one of us took this spiritual work of mercy to heart and approached it with sincere love and concern for one another?  Would we meet with some resistance? Likely. Would we feel uncomfortable? No doubt. Is the effort worth saving even one soul? You bet.

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us remember Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection three days later – the greatest acts of merciful love the world will ever see. Let us pray for the strength to overcome our fears and approach fraternal correction for what it really is – a sincere act of merciful love.

Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Dubois County and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message