How are you practicing mercy?

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | September 28, 2016

Respect Life Month and works of mercy

The theme for Respect Life Month 2016 is “Moved by Mercy,” taking its lead from in the current Year of Mercy. Both our annual Respect Life section and the regular issue of The Compass highlight some ways in which people are showing respect for life through the corporal works of mercy.

The works of mercy made news when, on World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Sept. 1), Pope Francis proposed new corporal and spiritual works of mercy: care for creation.

At one Appleton parish, St. Thomas More, members of its Service and Justice Commission’s “Green Team” have been studying Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’ (“On Care For Our Common Home”). When Pope Francis made his Sept. 1 announcement, they were ready with plenty of ideas on how to care for creation.

A first step was asking each parish member to commit to one act to “be better stewards of creation.” Everyone was also asked to take the St. Francis Pledge ( “I pledge to pray, act and advocate to solve climate change.” Then they wrote what they were doing or would commit to doing to help creation on slips of blue and green paper. These are still being collected and adorn the parish gathering area. Additionally, the commission purchased nylon bags for parish members to use instead of disposable, plastic shopping bags.

How are you practicing the corporal works of mercy? What could you commit to doing this year?

Below are the traditional seven corporal works of mercy. (There are also seven spiritual works of mercy.) Listed are some suggestions of ways to practice one or all of the works.

Read the suggestions. Pick one or two. Make up your own list. Your acts can be as small as sending a prayer card to someone in prison or dropping a meal (or gift card) at a home with a sick family member. Or they could be as large as helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity. All that matters is, first, that you “Move,” and, second, that you do so with “Mercy.”

Feed the Hungry: Donate to a food pantry or a bake sale raising funds for groups like Bread for the World. This can also mean not buying more food than you need or fasting from one meal a week in order to give the money to the poor.

Give Drink to the Thirsty: There are many clean water projects seeking donations. The Diocesan Council of Catholic Women regularly collects money for clean water projects in Third World countries. Contact World Mission Service at for information. Also, don’t use more water than you need, whether for showers, washing the car or watering your lawn.

Shelter the Homeless (Welcoming the Stranger): Volunteer at a homeless shelter or make a treat to welcome a new neighbor.

Clothe the Naked: (The U.S. bishops substitute “Give Alms” for this work on their website at Donate to places like the Community Clothes Closet in the Fox Valley, collect socks for overnight shelters or give to winter coat collections.

Visit the Sick: We all know people who are homebound, elderly or in assisted living or nursing homes. Dropping by for a visit, making a call or joining a holiday carolers’ visit are small things that mean so much.

Visit Prisoners: Join a jail ministry project through a local parish. You can also donate cards and calendars for inmates in jails and prisons. For more information, contact Mary Armbrust, diocesan Pastoral Care and Ministry coordinator: [email protected]

Bury the Dead: Attending a visitation or funeral, sending a “thinking of you” card a month after a death or helping with a funeral dinner are ways to help bury the dead — and comfort the sorrowful (which is a spiritual work of mercy).

Finally, here are some suggestions from St. Thomas More parish members on Caring for Creation: “replace old light bulbs with LED lights”; “plant more trees”; and “use cloth napkins.”

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