What is mercy, what are the attributes of mercy

I am still having a difficult time understanding the nature of mercy as distinct from forgiveness and compassion. Has St. Thomas written anything on the attributes of mercy? Any of the Church Fathers write about how to recognize mercy? I still can’t find what I want in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

A little help please.

I would say that forgiveness and compassion are subsets of mercy, and not distinct from it. Like having different species of dogs, forgiveness and compassion are different “species” of mercy. Compassion is defined as “Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”. And to forgive is defined as “Stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake”.

Good question,

I found this:

God’s mercy releases us from severe judgment and condemnation even though we might deserve it, but God gives His mercy only to those who ask for it with humble and contrite hearts.

My own opinion:

God’s forgiveness means reconciliation with him but you still need to make amend for your sin. The priest will tell you what to do.

In term of forgiveness toward a human versus having mercy

Forgiveness toward a human, you letting go any negative feeling toward this person or situation.

Mercy toward someone, it is like pity and it implies compassion and charity, not necessary forgiveness.

Good luck in your research, hope you find your answers!


Justice is giving somebody what is due. Mercy is giving somebody more than what is due. Mercy is a kind of “super-justice”.

Here is St. Thomas Aquinas on Mercy in the Summa Theologica: newadvent.org/summa/3030.htm

Here is an excellent article on God’s mercy: catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0860.htm

this is just theoretically speaking…

mercy is when someone invades you at gunpoint to steal your money, and in doing so you are able to catch him in the act and put a pistol to the back of his head… and instead of firing you allow him to leave unharmed…

given the teaching of christ i would extend this as to preparing a meal for the man, clothing him, give him something to an extent and let him leave in peace…

(only speaking from what I think I understand mercy to be)

‘Chesed’ is the Hebrew word for mercy. “His mercy endures forever” is a constant refrain of the unmerited favor, compassion and forgiveness of God that is extended toward us as expressed in the Psalms so extensively.

‘Chesed’ is from a root word, ‘chawsad’ meaning to bow the head toward someone as considering that person one’s equal.

The NT equivalent word that is translated ‘mercy’ is also very much akin to the word translated as ‘alms’. So one might conclude that merciful acts would include any prayer, gesture, word, kindness, or gift that exhibits compassion, empathy, forgiveness, or charity toward another human being in the attitude of humble equality with that person.

The OT speaks predominantly of the mercy of God.

The NT speaks predominantly of the mercy that we are to give each other and to all. These prayers, words, gestures, gifts and acts of mercy toward others are from the outflowing mercy that we have received from God through our Lord Jesus Christ with
quiet humility and gratitude towards God.

Jesus quotes the prophet, when he says, "learn what is meant by, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’."

Perhaps Lent is the optimal time to show forth mercy toward one another.

God’s peace be with you


Modern Catholic Dictionary:

MERCY. The disposition to be kind and forgiving. Founded on compassion, mercy differs from compassion or the feeling of sympathy in putting this feeling into practice with a readiness to assist. It is therefore the ready willingness to help anyone in need, especially in need of pardon or reconciliation.

Wow, Wow, Wow! Thistle, this is truly close to what I am looking for in a definition of mercy. Thank you. I immediately wrote this definition in my copy of Divine Mercy In My Soul by St. Faustina.:clapping:


You also gave me an idea of mercy in this form, if we want mercy we must first give mercy and learn to forgive the one we seek mercy from if they are not willing to forgive you . We also need to have mercy on ourselves if that other person refuses to give us the mercy we ask for.Let the past be still and know that God knows your heart and if you have asked for forgiveness and never do this sin again to another even if that unforgiving person has or will not forgive you God will and you must do the same, "forgive yourself."Go on and be a better person:thumbsup:

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