The call to help our fellow man through specific acts of mercy comes straight from the mouth of Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus says those who are welcomed into heaven will be the ones who helped Him when He was hungry, sick or thirsty; who gave Him clothes, welcomed Him as a stranger and visited Him in prison. Of course His followers want to know when they ever denied their Lord, and Jesus replies, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
That call to help each other out in times of need has not changed or faded, and is especially imperative following a year of tumult from the coronavirus pandemic.
We are all called to be involved in the corporal works of mercy, which can be a simple matter of being aware of different ways to help and taking advantage of daily opportunities. For example:
- Each time you’re at the grocery story, buy some extra items for a food pantry.
- Take a few minutes to go through your closet and pull out extra coats, clothes and shoes for those in need.
- Gather stuffed animals, toys and activities for a children’s hospital.
Below are the seven corporal works of mercy and some ways to implement them during Lent and throughout the year:
Feed the hungry
There are many people in this world who go without food. When so much of our food goes to waste, we can all practice good stewardship of our food habits.
- Donate to a food drive.
- Contribute financially to organizations that serve the hungry, such as Catholic Relief Services.
- When cooking, make a double batch and donate one to your parish food pantry or local soup kitchen.
Contact your church or local Catholic Charities office for ways to help and information about upcoming food and clothing drives.
Give drink to the thirsty
Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ do not have access to clean water and suffer from the lack of this basic necessity.
- Donate to help build wells for those in need.
- Collect reusable water tumblers and give them to an outreach center or shelter.
- Don’t waste water. Turn off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth or washing dishes.
Contact Catholic Relief Services, 888-277-7575 or www.crs.org.
Clothe the naked
Many people don’t have sufficient funds to buy warm clothing each year, or keep their growing children in shoes and clothes.
- Go through drawers and closets to find good-condition clothes and shoes to donate to agencies that provide assistance for those in need.
- Participate in programs that provide towels and linens for hospitals in distressed areas.
- Support the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Contact your local St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Shelter the homeless
There are many circumstances that could lead someone to become a person without a home. Christ encourages us to go out and meet those people to help.
- Volunteer at a local homeless shelter or outreach that serves them.
- Donate time or money to organizations that build homes for those who need shelter.
- Educate yourself and others about the millions of children and families fleeing from war, illness, hunger and impossible living conditions.
Contact Home Works of America, 803-781-4536 or www.homeworksofamerica.org, or volunteer through Catholic Charities to help those who are homeless.
Visit the sick
Those who are sick are often forgotten or avoided. In spite of their illness, these individuals still have much to offer to those who visit them, and as people receive COVID-19 vaccinations and pandemic restrictions are lifted, those visits will be more important than ever. For those who cannot visit in person yet, phone calls or online chats are also welcome and can provide a much-needed spiritual lift.
- Give blood.
- Volunteer at a nursing home when it is safe to do so and use your talents — sing, read, paint, call Bingo, etc.
- Call an elderly neighbor, offer to do yard work, or drop off a meal and a note.
- Offer assistance to caregivers of chronically sick family members.
Contact your church for a prayer list or to help prepare food for sick parishioners.
Outreach to prisoners
People in prison are still people, made in the image and likeness of God, and deserve the opportunity to hear the Word and find the truth of the message of Christ.
- See if your parish, or one nearby, has a prison ministry and if so, become involved.
- Volunteer to help out or donate to charities that give gifts to children whose parents are in prison.
- Support efforts that seek the abolition of the death penalty, such as those made by the South Carolina Catholic Conference.
Contact Deacon John Leininger with the diocesan Office of Prison Ministry at 864-654-1757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bury the dead
Funerals provide an opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times. The requirements of social distancing and pandemic restrictions have made this act of mercy especially difficult for those who have lost loved ones this past year. However, there are ways we can help. Through our prayers and other actions we continue to show our respect for life.
- Send a card to someone who has recently lost a loved one or have children make cards.
- Visit the cemetery and pray for those you have lost.
- Participate in a bereavement ministry, and call to offer an ear to those in mourning.
Contact your parish for suggestions on how to help.