A father's young daughters turn a checklist on the corporal works of mercy into action
#21) Memorize the 14 corporal and spiritual works of mercy and show your children what they mean. 56 Ways to be Merciful During the Year of Mercy
There are a great many ways to delve deeper into the mystery of God’s mercy: going to confession, practicing the Divine Mercy devotion, going on retreats, etc. But one fundamental way to enter into this Jubilee is to actually practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
To that end, I sat down this week with my daughters and tried my hand at teaching them about these important traditions of our Catholic faith. Since my oldest child is only four, after a brief lesson on the concept of our being body-spirit unities, which consists of a hylomorphic union between the two in which the form of the soul is the body, I quickly had to descend from the stratosphere and get to the stuff she could handle: coloring pages.
And since the corporal works of mercy are given a pretty direct treatment by Jesus himself in Matthew 25, I figured we had good reason to start with these directives: (1) feed the hungry, (2) give drink to the thirsty, (3) clothe the naked, (4) shelter the homeless, (5) visit the sick, (6) visit the imprisoned, (7) bury the dead. We created and colored a checklist for us to work on these works of mercy and cut and pasted a handmade booklet as a guide along the way.
What was so heartwarming about this experience is that she immediately started suggesting ways we could carry out the corporal works of mercy.
Feed the hungry? She knew what to do: “Maybe we could just make some food, and give it to people who need some. We have lots of food, and we can cook something. Right, Daddy?”
Or how about sheltering the homeless? “Well, Daddy, I think we could make some room for them at our house. Then, when they get monies, they can save it for a long time until they can make their own house. But they can stay with us until then.”
My favorite, though, was her innocent and sweet reading of “clothe the naked.” Her two-year-old sister came running by without clothes and she immediately jumped up to get her dressed, all the while shouting “dress the ‘nakin’!” I probably shouldn’t have, but I let her put a check mark on our list for that one.
After our mini lesson, we devised a plan on how to live out these works of mercy over the next two weeks.
This week, we were able to provide some food for a family who just had a new baby and get started trying to “feed the hungry.”
We also visited the grave of the baby boy my wife and I lost last summer as a way of trying to live out the call to bury the dead. It was the first time our youngest was able to, in her own very small way, understand that she has a brother who she doesn’t get to see.
I’ve been blown away by my daughter’s energy and enthusiasm for putting this checklist into action. Of course the challenge will be to make it more than a two week project and integrate these works into our family’s spiritual life. But the most impressive thing about this experience has been seeing her total confidence in the ability to do something about all of these issues. From an adult’s point of view, it’s so easy to think that the problem of hunger or homelessness is just too far beyond our reach. From a certain angle, that’s true. I cannot end those problems alone. But how often does that stop us from doing anything?
My daughter, at least for the next couple of weeks, isn’t going to take no for an answer. When I told her she’s too young to visit the imprisoned, she said, “Well, you’ll just have to go by yourself then, Daddy.” How do you argue with that?
It truly amazes me how often children can open my eyes and heart to the faith in new ways. It must be for this reason that Jesus told us to be like children. They know how to serve with a boldness few adults could ever match.
[Editor’s Note: Take the Poll — Do You Practice the Works of Mercy?]
Luke Arredondo and his wife, Elena, recently relocated to Florida after he earned his MA at Notre Dame Seminary, studying under Dr. Brant Pitre and Dr. Nathan Eubank. He is currently enrolled in a PhD program in religion, ethics and philosophy. Find him at www.lukearredondo.com.