It’s easy to look at the list of the Corporal Works of Mercy and say that we’ll go ahead and do those during the Year of Mercy (okay, maybe it’s not!), but it’s harder to break those down into things we actually will do.
So I’m doing it now, for us all to benefit from it 🙂 AKA, no excuses for not participating!
😉 Just kidding.
Maybe you can’t do all the things on this list. Maybe that’s just too high of an expectation. Aim for something that you think is do-able for your family. Because this isn’t about checking something off the to-do list, but it’s much more about reflecting on why Pope Francis deemed it necessary for the Church to celebrate Mercy, and how we can participate in this year and put mercy to practice in our own lives.
Living Out The Corporal Works of Mercy
+ Feed the hungry – Do you know of a family in need in your neighborhood? Maybe it’s just the family right next door, or the single parent you run into at PTA meetings, or one of your siblings? Invite them over for dinner. Give them a gift card to a grocery store. Take them casseroles or canned foods when you think of it. If you have leftovers, ask ’em to come over and help you finish them off. Take canned foods, fruits & veggies, to your local food bank, St. Vincent de Paul Society, or church. Volunteer at one of those three, and literally help to put food on someone else’s plate.
+ Give drink to the thirsty — The things I just mentioned above also fit here, but let’s think of another aspect of thirst; those who are lonely, those who seek company & the loving touch of another, and those who have yet to know the loving Hand of God. Speak of God’s goodness to all you come in contact with; you never know whose hearts you may change in those types of conversations. Participate in a 40 Days for Life campaign, pray for the unborn, and provide help for mothers in crisis pregnancies. Consider teaching a faith formation class (when I was a kid, we called it CCD) or RCIA. Help others to understand the Faith and Church teachings more clearly; or, take this opportunity to realize you have a lot more to learn yourself (I know I do!), and crack open that Catechism. When you’re done reading it, pass it along to someone else. Know someone struggling with their faith or going through a hard time? Don’t just tell them you will pray for them, but take a moment to be with them and pray for them right there, with them. This is what Jesus did.
+ Clothe the naked — While the KonMari method and Capsule Wardrobes are all the rage and you find yourself simplifying the things you have a home, take the clothes you’ve outgrown and no longer need, and give them to those who are in need. That might be to a family you know, or to an organization who will give them to a family who could use them. Check out the St. Vincent de Paul Society in your area, or even ask your Church if they’re collecting clothes for families and children. Carry an extra pair of gloves or scarves in your car, and if you run into someone who looks like they could use some, hand ’em over. Ask God to keep your eyes open for who needs them the most. He’ll point you in the right direction.
+ Shelter the homeless — Do you have the space to invite family and friends over into your home, to use your home to bless them, and warm them up? Do it. If you don’t, but you have the time, or money, or energy (or all three), consider how you can give those treasures to a homeless shelter to help them shelter the homeless. Many homeless shelters need sheets, blankets, and toiletries. See what your local shelter might need, and see how you can help provide for the families staying there.
+ Visit the sick — Consider visiting a nursing home. Many of the people living in nursing homes are far away from family, and they’re lonely. Think of how you can cheer them up with a card, a joke, a Christmas carol, or just sitting with them for a few minutes on a Saturday. If that’s a little out of your comfort zone, I don’t blame you… I might feel uncomfortable doing that, too. So how about thinking of the sick family members who might be closer to home for ya? Grandparents? Elderly family members? A sick sibling or niece or nephew? Spend a little extra time with them, and try to bring a smile to their face even in the midst of their suffering. I’ve written before about what we can do for those who are suffering: here’s a list of things to say to someone who is suffering, and here’s how we can help them carry their burdens. Make their load a little lighter, even if just for an afternoon.
+ Visit the imprisoned — I know one priest who regularly goes to a men’s prison to minister to the men there. While we may not all be able to do that, we can think of other ways to reach out to those imprisoned; we can write them a letter or a Christmas card reminding them of their dignity and of God’s love for them — and His forgiveness and mercy for them. Aside from that, think of others who may feel imprisoned; those who are stuck in the hospitals during the holidays, those who suffer with anxiety & depression, and those whose life’s circumstances may feel crippling — like debt, chronic illnesses, marital problems and infertility. Do you know someone suffering with any of those situations? Visit them, sit with them, and listen to their struggle. Try to help them navigate seeing God’s hand even in such difficult and heavy circumstances. Always point them to God while also recognizing the heaviness of their crosses.
+ Bury the dead — I hope and pray you won’t lose a loved one anytime soon, but if you do, attend their funeral and pray for the repose of their soul. Have a Mass celebrated for that intention, and remember to pray for those poor souls in purgatory after the fact. If you don’t know someone who has passed away recently and can’t attend their funeral, you can still find out when funeral Masses are celebrated at your parish. I’ve attended a ton of funeral Masses for people I didn’t know just because I was planning on going to daily Mass and it turned out to be a funeral Mass. I know that might seem weird, but consider it an opportunity — a nudge by God — to pray for that person that you didn’t know, and for the repose of their soul. Another way to bury the dead? Help your loved ones who are grieving the loss of their family or friends cope with their grief. Help your friend who has suffered the loss of a child, who has had a miscarriage, and help them to celebrate the life of their baby or child.
These are just a few ideas. I hope these suggestions help you and your families become more merciful — in the flesh — to those around you.
We are all in desperate need of Mercy, and by focusing more attentively on His mercy, we can become a more effective sign to those around us of His mercy.
This year should be a time for us to be a witness of God’s love, and of the transformation that takes place within our hearts because of His mercy.
Now, I’d love to hear from you! How do you plan on celebrating the Year of Mercy? What do you have lined up? Maybe praying the Divine Mercy Novena? Reading up on the Journals of St. Maria Faustina?