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The Pregnant Works of Mercy


There were often times during my pregnancies when I would feel incredibly guilty for not being able to do all the things I wanted to do for other people. Opportunities for bringing dinners or volunteering for that extra activity at church or taking on babysitting for a friend were things I really wanted to do but it seemed to be beyond my. current capacity physically, mentally, emotionally. There are amazing super women for whom pregnancy seems to put no damper on their activity level or social life, charitable works or mental attitude. Then there's the rest of us. Most of us, I would say. Pregnancy changes everything. For those in a community where pregnancy is blessedly common, the fact that it truly is a very big deal in all those ways - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - can often go overlooked. There are so many opportunities to help people and give and perform the works of mercy in the community. But when I was pregnant, trying to snag every opportunity for giving that was presented was a recipe for burnout, resentment, and hurting both myself and baby. That would then leave me with a feeling of guilt like I'm not doing enough, like I should just buck up, suck it up, and if I can't then I'm just not being strong enough or holy enough or selfless enough.


Saint Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians of the purpose and importance of our bodies, that it is in them we can glorify God. It was during that reading at Mass one Sunday years ago that I realized I was living the works of mercy at that very moment.


That feeling of being useless because of being pregnant?

It is a complete lie.


Our preborn children are just as worthy of our efforts and charity as any other person out there, and for the pregnant mother, it is her first priority. Wouldn't the evil one love for us to forget that? Wouldn't he just love if we considered the raising of our tiniest and most vulnerable people to be a hindrance to "true" charity? The truth, though I would struggle to believe it, is that during pregnancy, my body, a temple of the Holy Spirit, was performing the works of mercy to one of the most vulnerable members of society, at every moment. In fact, when I reflected on it further, I figured out ways that the pregnant mother performs every act of mercy in her very body, even when she doesn't even realize it.



{Feed the Hungry/Give Drink to the Thirsty}

The obvious one. There are no feeding times or nursing sessions for the preborn child. The mother is feeding them from her own body without stop. Her calorie intake must be higher in order to accommodate both her basic needs and the needs of her baby and so she obliges. Without her even needing to be conscious of it, her body creates a completely new organ, the placenta, that will be the baby's constant source of food and oxygen and which she must constantly herself nourish. In choosing a healthy, nourishing, real food diet for her baby and drinking enough water to fend off dehydration and ensure that the amniotic fluid remains at a good level, she feeds and gives drink to the least among us, whether she is awake or asleep, without stop.


{Shelter the Homeless}

The woman's body in pregnancy becomes a home, THE home, for her child. Even if she were to have no roof over her head, her baby does, all because of her. She is the shelter. She is the home. In her womb the baby knows his or her first home and she can do her best to make that home welcoming, warm, comforting, accepting that baby for who he or she is, ingraining within that baby the understanding of what home is meant to be.


{Care for the Sick}

A pregnant mother has the choice with the knowledge she has to take care of that baby so that he or she has the best chance of being healthy. While most babies are not 'sick,' they are vulnerable. A mother should want to do what she is able to help their baby grow and thrive, preventing complications as best she can for both their sakes. Sometimes that involves being sure to take certain supplements, special diets, and checking on baby through prenatal care. She takes birth classes or learns about all the choices she may have for birth to determine the healthiest way for her baby to enter the world. She researches the providers in the area offering the best care and looks into the statistics of different birth places, doctors, and midwives to see who will truly offer the best outcomes for her and her baby. She makes difficult decisions if she sees that she or her baby are not being treated well. She steps out in faith when God and her own reason make it clear she needs to make a change even when others may not approve. She goes to the chiropractor and exercises and when there is an indication or intuition that something could be wrong, she takes the steps possible to fix it if she can.


{Visit the Imprisoned}

Calling it a prison is a bit off, but certainly the babe in the womb is secured there, kept fastened for hopefully the near ten months until it is time for birth. But how beautiful that the baby is never truly alone! The mother's very heart beats close by to soothe the baby. She speaks and sings to her baby. She encourages the other children to talk to the baby and places her husband's hand on her swollen belly to feel the baby kick. She treats that unseen baby as a full and irreplaceable member of the family. She invites the Presence of God in through prayer and worship and welcomes their guardian angels to watch over them. And most beautiful of all, when she receives Holy Communion, she grants that precious baby a true visit from the best Visitor of all.


{Clothe the Naked}

The mother's very body clothes her baby's body, giving her son or daughter the proper environment for growth. Her body maintains the perfect temperature for the baby to grow and shields that baby's body from the harshness of the outside world, for which it is not yet ready. Her skin stretches and pulls, tugging tightly over the body of her little one to keep him or her safe. Her body clothes and hides her baby's until the time is right.


{Bury the Dead}

If tragedy happens and a baby dies within the womb, a mother is able to do her best to treat her baby's remains with respect, to help ensure that her baby has a proper burial, as she would give to any of her loved ones. In some cases, when the baby is extremely young and small, the woman's body even absorbs the baby's and she herself becomes the burial place for that little one. Whether or not a normal burial of the remains is possible, that mother never ever forgets that little one and we now know that her very body literally carries within it the memory of that baby.


These little ones, these precious and most vulnerable babies, are just as worthy of our care, if not more so, than any other cause out there. They are, in fact, our priority above the others. And while, of course, we should stretch ourselves and challenge ourselves to give to those outside us even when pregnant, how beautiful it is to realize that the woman's body, by the design of the Creator Himself, has the potential and is fashioned in its very self to be those works of mercy.


Mother, don't forget that. You are doing a worthy and important work, the most important of all, and your very body is a testament to that.


"Therefore, glorify God in your body."

I Cor. 6:20


1 Kommentar


Thank you for this. I'm nine weeks pregnant with our fifth baby, and the first trimester has been so different this time. To be sure, I'm always sick as can be, but this time, whether because I'm actually more aware of my limits, or just because I truly have less energy, I seem capable of so much less. Just going to Sunday Mass wipes me out completely for the rest of the day. By God's grace, I've been able to accept it and marvel in a way I never have before about the invisible work being done deep within me; my mental capacity and energy levels are depleted such that I cannot willingly DO things I would like to, but…

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