Mercy, a way of life

Mercy is not just an aim of our work; it is in fact an attitude towards life. Characteristic for a life based on mercy is the triplet ‘seeing, being moved and getting into action’.

Seeing – being moved – getting into action

It all begins with seeing: seeing who the other is, in his or her dignity and uniqueness. Paying attention to the other and opening us towards that other person. That means that we are moved by the other, that we allow the other to enter into our heart. That is already the second step. The other person truly becomes aware of it when we finally get into action, when we make this other person our neighbour and fellow-human.


Hence, practising mercy is not just a charitable activity, it is the fruit of being deeply moved: moved in a fundamental layer of our life. Mercy is life-giving and stimulates what is good. Mercy is opening and challenging, it makes the relationship between people cordial, loyal, hospitable and respectful.

Mercy also requires cooperation. We have to commit ourselves with all we have and are, in order to make mercy become a reality… And we will discover ultimately that this is not enough. We do need others to practise mercy structurally and to be strengthened in our personal attitude.


Mercy is an attitude towards life which needs practise daily. By silence, reflection, encounters and personal exchange. By caring, by giving and receiving, by simply doing something. An attitude of mercy also implies being merciful towards ourselves.

Merciful brother

We cannot speak about mercy without referring to Jesus, who shows us how we could be merciful and help bring along Gods Kingdom of peace and justice. The Gospel about the Good Samaritan is a well-known illustration of the questions: who is your neighbour? And how far do we have to go in ‘being moved’? The Gospel of Matthew 25 offers a list of merciful deeds, which in an old tradition of the Church has been specified as fourteen works of mercy. Through these acts of mercy we can assist people who have lost their personal and human dignity:


feed the hungry
drink to the thirsty
care for the sick
clothe the naked
shelter the strangers
visit the imprisoned
bury the dead

instruct the ignorant
counsel the doubtful
comfort the afflicted
admonish sinners
bear wrongs patiently
forgive offenses willingly
pray for the living and the dead

The concept of mercy refers back to an ancient biblical and ecclesiastical tradition and has an enormous range. In short: in mercy we do experience what God’s love entails and how we ourselves can give it a face, a heart, hands and feet.

Soft connotation?

Many people may have forgotten what mercy means: it seems just to be one of those ancient biblical words. In our society, mercy has sometimes a soft connotation, as if mercy were solely about being soft and charitable. Nothing is less true. Mercy requires a strong character and much perseverance; it demands organization and keen insight. Sometimes mercy may mean forceful action. The motto of our founder was ‘Mansuete et Fortiter’, ‘gentle and strong’. Being merciful has nothing in it that is condescending, it is all about normal and equal human solidarity.

Movement of mercy

An act of mercy may have great consequences. Whoever did see or feel mercy once, is apt to harbour that experience for a long time. Whoever receives mercy may come to action and pass mercy on to others. Thus a chain of mercy may come about: a series of people who have been touched and thus are able to move others; works of mercy that roll all over the world like snowballs, thus making the world more attentive and human. As brothers, we want to keep initiating and supporting this movement of mercy.