Practicing the Works of Mercy

“For we reckon seven corporal almsdeeds [Corporal Works of Mercy], namely, to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to harbor the harborless, to visit the sick, to ransom the captive, to bury the dead; all of which are expressed in the following verse: ‘To visit, to quench, to feed, to ransom, clothe, harbor or bury.’
“Again we reckon seven spiritual alms [Spiritual Works of Mercy], namely, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to reprove the sinner, to forgive injuries, to bear with those who trouble and annoy us, and to pray for all, which are all contained in the following verse: ‘To counsel, reprove, console, to pardon, forbear, and to pray,’ yet so that counsel includes both advice and instruction.”
— Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II.2.32

 Works of Mercy Holiday Project 

Help evangelize the culture by sharing with others the history of the Lenten prayer pretzel.

Since ancient times, faithful Catholics kept a very strict fast all through Lent: no milk, no butter, no cheese, no eggs, no cream and no meat. They made small breads of water, flour and salt, to remind themselves that Lent was a time of prayer. They shaped these breads in the form of crossed arms for in those days they crossed their arms over the breast while praying. Therefore they called the breads “little arms” (bracellae). From this Latin word, the Germanic people later coined the term “pretzel.”

The earliest picture and description of a pretzel (from the fifth century) may be found in the manuscript-codex No. 3867, Vatican Library.

If you’d like to purchase freshly baked gourmet pretzels, packaged with the Origins of the Pretzel card below, please contact:


The Origins of the Pretzel

Pretzels were first created in the 4th Century as a call to prayer; as a reminder of God’s constant love for us.

In ancient days, people often prayed with their arms crossed over their shoulders, which is how the pretzel got it’s shape.

Although prayer doesn’t necessarily involve words, since ancient times the Our Father prayer, has been a favored universal prayer for all, regardless of faith denomination.

Pray then like this:

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
    On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread;[a]
12 And forgive us our debts,
    As we also have forgiven our debtors;
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    But deliver us from evil.[b]

[Matthew 6:9-13Revised Standard Version (RSV)]


  1. Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for the morrow
  2. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one. Other authorities, some ancient, add, in some form, For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever. Amen.