Writing checks for charities is necessary and important. But it can’t compare with corporal works of mercy, which are infinitely greater. ~ William E. Simon
We often try to buy our way out of things. Sometimes, giving money, with the proper intention, can be a good thing. However, there are many other ways that we can help others.
We have heard, throughout our lives, of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. They are very important for our holiness. In performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, we find ourselves becoming closer to our God as we become closer to those we aid.
The philanthropist, William E. Simon, encouraged us to give to charities but, even more, to perform the corporal works of mercy. We reflect upon them now.
FEED THE HUNGRY Many people go without food. Here are some ways you can feed the hungry:
- Research, identify and contribute financially to organizations that serve the hungry.
- The next time you make a recipe that can be easily frozen, make a double batch and donate one to your local food pantry or soup kitchen.
- Try not to purchase more food than you are able to eat. If you notice that you end up throwing groceries away each week, purchasing less groceries would eliminate waste and allow you to donate the savings to those in need.
GIVE DRINK TO THE THIRSTY While we take water for granted, there are myriads of people in the world who have no access to clean water. Some practical applications that will help you give drink to the thirsty include:
- Donating to an organization that helps to build wells for water for those in need.
- Organizing a group of children involved on a sports team to collect bottled water to distribute at a shelter for families.
- Make an effort not to waste water. Remembering to turn off the water faucet when you are brushing your teeth or washing dishes can help, especially in regions suffering from drought.
SHELTER THE HOMELESS The homeless are often made faceless and nameless in our country. Even when we “see” someone who is homeless, we often do not really see that person. We glance away. Sometimes, it is because we judge that person and blame that person for being homeless. Other times, it is because we fear that we might be in that position some day. How can we shelter the homeless?
- Help your fellow parishioners when they get involved with local homeless shelters and volunteer some time.
- Donate time or money to organizations that build homes for those who need shelter.
- Many homeless shelters need warm blankets for their beds. If you can knit or sew that would be an extra loving gift.
- There are millions of children and families who are on the move, fleeing from war, illness, hunger and impossible living conditions, and searching for peace and safety. Engage parish groups of children, youth, young adults, and families in doing some research on the causes and challenges that these families face to survive. Contact Catholic Social Services, or diocesan offices of peace and justice for help with your research. Seek ways to provide shelter for the homeless locally, regionally, nationally or internationally.
VISIT THE SICK Many people do not visit the sick either because they do not want to think about their own frailty or they are fearful of becoming ill themselves. However, when we do not reach out, the sick have no help. You can help to “visit the sick” in the following manners:
- Giving blood
- Spending time volunteering at a nursing home — Get creative and make use of your talents (e.g. sing, read, paint, call Bingo, et cetera).
- Taking time on a Saturday to stop and visit with an elderly neighbor.
- Offering to assist caregivers of chronically sick family members on a one-time or periodic basis. Give caregivers time off from their responsibilities so they can rest, complete personal chores, or enjoy a relaxing break.
VISIT THE PRISONERS There are many people who believe that those in prison deserve whatever comes their way. They do not realize that those in prison are brothers and sisters in the Lord as well. You can visit the prisoners in a number of ways.
- Contact volunteer services at the prisons or local jails and ask what you can do.
- Volunteer to help out or donate to charities that give Christmas presents to children whose parents are in prison.
BURY THE DEAD Those who grieve need the consolation that comes from fellow believers. We have all been the position, more than likely, when family or friends drift away quickly after a death and we were still in need. You can console the grieving as a way of burying the dead.
- Become a member of the funeral choir.
- Send a card to someone who has recently lost a loved one. Make your own card and use some of these prayers.
- Visit the cemetery and pray for those you have lost.
- Spend time planning your own funeral mass, read through the Order of Christian Funerals and find our hope in the Resurrection.
GIVE ALMS TO THE POOR The psalmists said that giving alms covers a multitude of sins. I think that pretty much says it all!
- Skip the morning latte and put that money in the collection basket at church.
- Find a charity that is meaningful to you and volunteer your time or donate.
- This Lent, give up eating out at restaurants. Donate that extra money to charities.
Participate in Operation Rice Bowl.
As you can see, the applications of the Corporal Works of Mercy leave us many opportunities. What we need to do is embrace the opportunity, perform the corporal works of mercy, and become more like the people God is calling each and every one of us to be.
FAITH ACTION: Reflect upon the corporal works of mercy and decide which one (or more) you might want to perform this week.