Throughout the Gospels, Jesus instructs us to care for one another out of love for Him. The Golden Rule, the second greatest commandment, and the example of Christ Himself drive this very point home: we are meant to serve one another. Catholic tradition gives us a beautiful roadmap of how to do this in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
In the context of the family, a major part of our duty as parents in handing on the Truth of the Gospel is to hand on the practice of serving others. We do this by teaching our children about the Works of Mercy, encouraging them to practice them, and perhaps most importantly, living them ourselves.
As Mothers, We Live the Works of Mercy Each Day in Our Homes
It’s easy to sometimes feel like motherhood isn’t compatible with true Christian Works of Mercy. After all, not many of us are able to manage the kind of charitable activities that our sisters called to single life or religious vocations might be able to do.
I have never once visited a prison. I’ve never brought the Gospel to naked savages or pagan Irishmen. I’ve never handed out sandwiches to the homeless from the back entrance of my house.
It Looks Different…
Because of our station in life, mothers who aren’t really able to perform these acts of mercy ourselves could support those who do both:
- financially, and
- with our prayers.
That’s important. We should totally do this.
But also, we live these Works of Mercy in our homes…as part of our vocation and job. In fact, I hardly do anything but that stuff.
So, moms, we do live the Works of Mercy in our daily lives, even if they don’t seem as heroic as we envision.
Being Merciful More Intentionally as a Family
But if you’re looking for ways to stretch your soul and the charity of your family members, there are certainly ways you can live the Works of Mercy as a family.
Practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy is a good spiritual lesson for our children and is a worthy task for us to undertake together.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure where or how to start serving with your family; I have some ideas.
These can be done as a family, or by individual members of the family according to age and ability.
Some will be pretty easy to check off once, but hopefully kids and grownups will be inspired to practice mercy again and again.
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How to Live the Corporal Works of Mercy as a Family
Feed the hungry
- volunteer at a soup kitchen
- make sandwiches and hand them out to homeless people
- bring a meal to a family with a new baby
- bring a meal to a family having a difficult time
- share food with a friend or sibling
- make dinner for your family
- throw a dinner party for friends you don’t think could afford a nice dinner
- don’t throw a dinner party and donate the money you would have spent
- eat beans and rice for a week and donate your grocery money
Give drink to the thirsty
- give water to someone working in your neighborhood
- set up a lemonade stand and donate the money you make
- give out water bottles at an event on a hot day
Clothe the naked
- clean out your closets and donate your unneeded clothing
- organize a charity clothing drive
- offer to help sort clothing at your local pregnancy resource center
- do the laundry for your family
- help a younger sibling get dressed
Visit the imprisoned (people can often feel imprisoned in ways other than being in jail)
- visit an imprisoned friend or family member
- write a letter to an imprisoned friend or family member
- visit a nursing home, or a lonely member of your parish
- offer to babysit for a mother of all young children
- offer to babysit a younger sibling for your mom
Shelter the homeless
- donate food or blankets to a homeless shelter
- donate to disaster relief services
- take in a foster child
- take in a needy relative
- help an elderly neighbor with home repairs
Visit the sick
- visit a friend or family member in the hospital
- visit a nursing home
- look after a sick member of your family at home
- help an old or sick person with errands or chores
Bury the dead
- go to a funeral (yes, even kids)
- visit a cemetery and put flowers on graves
- learn about your ancestors
How to Live the Spiritual Works of Mercy as a Family
Admonish the sinner
- set a good example
- remind a sibling or friend of the rules
- offer to bring a friend or family member to Confession
- have a calm and loving chat with a person with whom you have a relationship about a particular sinful behavior
Instruct the ignorant
- teach a catechism class
- share a helpful article or blog post in a friendly way
- lend a good book
- be an RCIA sponsor or a godparent
- help a sibling read a book, play a game, or learn a prayer
Counsel the doubtful
- learn the teachings of the Catholic Church so you’ll have the answer if you get asked a question
- pray outside an abortion clinic
- be there to listen to a friend and give good advice
- reach out to a friend you think might need good advice
- help a sibling or friend make the right choice
Comfort the sorrowful
- visit a friend or family member who is having a difficult time
- send someone a sympathy card or a care package
- remember the anniversary of a friend’s miscarriage or loss of a child or spouse
- read a story or sing a song to a sibling who is feeling sad
Bear wrongs patiently
- don’t get mad at other drivers
- assume the best of people you encounter in real life and online
- give up a toy that a friend or sibling wants to play with, even though you had it first
- don’t gossip about the bad behavior of others
- don’t tattle
Forgive all injuries
- forgive a grudge you’ve been holding, even if it was someone else’s fault
- call or write to an estranged friend or family member
- give a friend or sibling a second chance
Pray for the living and the dead
- visit a cemetery, especially in November
- keep a list of prayer intentions
- say a family Rosary
- pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for those who will die this day
- pray the Prayer of St. Gertrude for the souls in Purgatory
- choose a family in your community and dedicate an entire week to praying for them
Printable Checklist for Your Family
We created this free printable for you, so each member of the family can keep track of each of his works of mercy.
Hang it on your fridge, tuck it into school folders or homeschool planners, store it in your car, or carry it in your purse. That way, when you’re presented with the time to practice the Works of Mercy as a family, you’ll have a list of fresh and doable ideas on hand.
A Deeper Dive into The Works of Mercy
Finally, if this post has piqued your curiosity about the Works of Mercy, Blessed is She has a study all about them. I helped write Misericordia, and it was so inspiring to research the Works of Mercy and examples for the female Saints who lived them so beautifully and differently.
Hopefully, this study will help deepen your understanding of and commitment to the Works of Mercy.
This study could be done individually or with a small group. Moms of adult daughters, consider doing this study with them! It would be an awesome way to hand on the Works of Mercy to your family in a way that can really bond you and your girls in this phase of life!
Do you practice the Works of Mercy in your family? What ideas would you add to the lists above?How to Practice the Works of Mercy as a Family (+ Printable Checklist!) #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Kendra Tierney is a forty-two year old mother of nine and wife of one living in and working on a big old fixer-upper house in Los Angeles. She’s a homeschooler and a regular schooler and is relishing the new freedom from carpooling that’s come with a sixteen-year-old in the house. Her new book, The Catholic All Year Compendium, Liturgical Living for Real Life, is here. You can find her first book, A Little Book About Confession, here, her blog here, and her word art here.