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99 Practical Recommendations for the Corporal Works of Mercy
“The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.” (CCC 2447)
By Angelo Stagnaro
Mercy is the virtue which exerts an influence upon one's will to have compassion for others. It stands in marked contrast with the conventional wisdom of this world: Do unto others before they do unto you.
The impetus motivating us to work mercifully for others is the misery we see in the lives, hearts and faces of the other. In a real sense, this impetus is involuntary when one lovingly gives up one's will to God, one automatically empathizes with the suffering of others in need.
Suggestions for the Spiritual Works of Mercy can be found here. Here are some practical suggestions for the Corporal Works of Mercy:
To feed the hungry:
Avoid wasting food.
Cut down on your intake. Your waistline will thank you.
Avoid eating alone. Share your meals with others.
When you order out, order an extra portion of food for the next homeless person you meet.
Volunteer with organizations which provide food to the hungry and the homebound such as Catholic Charities.
Say grace before every meal and pray for those who haven't enough to eat.
Instill in your children/students the importance of helping those who can't help themselves.
Make bag lunches and pass them out to the homeless.
Keep snacks in your car to pass out to people in need at stoplights.
Offer nutritious food to those you love. (1 Cor 6:19)
Pick up leftovers from local grocery stores or restaurants and deliver them to food banks.
Donate to charities that care for the poor.
Donate to/volunteer with your parish's food pantry/soup kitchen.
Learn about world hunger.
Do something about world hunger.
Every time you buy yourself a treat, buy a second one for someone in need.
Prepare a meal for a shut-in, someone who is harried and overworked or someone who has just had a baby.
Keep change at the ready to hand out to the needy.
If your means allow, lend generously and do so joyfully for God loves a joyful giver. (2 Cor 9:6-7)
Put aside any money you find in the street and deposit it in a poor box at your church. After all, it's literally "found money."
To give drink to the thirsty:
Pass out water bottles to the homeless.
Don't waste water unnecessarily. It's a precious gift that isn't easily available to everyone.
Donate baby formula to a local pregnancy center.
Bring water to someone working outside.
Teach your children to be thankful for water.
Pay for someone else's beverage at a café.
Donate to organizations which cleanup polluted waterways.
Donate to organizations that provide clean drinking water to people in developing nations.
To clothe the naked:
Support your local St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Go through your closet and give away what you donâ€™t need. If you think you're saving something for a special occasion, giving to the needy is that special occasion.
Start a clothing drive at your parish.
Knit, crochet, or sew baby blankets for your local pregnancy center.
Knit, crochet, or sew scarves, hats and gloves for your local homeless shelter
Scour garage sales and send those clothes items to a foreign mission.
Donate jackets and blankets to homeless shelters at the beginning of winter.
Donate backpacks to elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods.
Donate towels and linens for hospitals in developing nations.
To harbor the harborless/shelter the homeless:
If your means allow you, consider becoming a foster parent.
Support/volunteer at a local homeless shelter.
Support/volunteer at Catholic Worker Houses.
Support/volunteer at Catholic Relief Services/Red Cross.
Reconsider your stand on immigration, and pay heed to the statements of our bishops on the matter.
Keep a list of local homeless shelters and give them to any homeless you meet.
Become a mentor to a child in need such as those in Catholic Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
Donate to an orphanage/foster program such as Boys Town. Consider giving at Easter as many others often already give at Christmas.
Host a fundraiser for a family in the process of adopting a child.
Be prepared to assist others suffering from a natural disaster by storing clothing, food and snacks.
Donate blood or blood products such as plasma or platelets.
Check the organ donation box on your driver's license so that you might assist others after you're in Heaven. Your kidneys won't help you there but theyâ€™ll defiantly help someone down here.
Help your neighbors who can't help themselves by offering to do clean up and repairs.
Sweep leaves/plow snow from your neighbor's walkways before they ask for help.
Support and/or volunteer at a homeless shelter.
Support and/or volunteer for charitable agencies who care for the homeless including those which actually build homes for them.
Advocate/vote for legislation which provides housing for low-income people.
To visit/comfort the sick:
If possible, donate blood or blood products. The life you save might be that of a loved one.
Volunteer at a hospital. Perhaps you have some performance skill that could entertain the infirmed.
Offer to bring a meal or pick up medicine for a sick friend/neighbor/fellow parishioner.
Send flowers/balloons or a card to someone you know who is in the hospital.
Become an Extraordinary Minister to bring Holy Communion to homebound parishioners.
Visit a seriously or terminally ill member of your parish.
Donate/volunteer at a hospital/hospice.
Take the time to visit, call, send a card or an email to someone who is sick.
Offer your services to drive patients to doctor's appointments and hospitals.
Shovel snow/rake leaves of those incapable of doing it for themselves.
To ransom the captive/visit the imprisoned:
Support/volunteer with ministries to the imprisoned.
Organize a Bible study/RCIA class at a local prison.
Donate Bibles, rosaries and/or spiritual reading materials to a prison.
Support programs that provide assistance to prisoners and their families
Support programs that advocate on behalf of the unjustly imprisoned.
Using all due caution, send cards and letters to prison inmates.
Ask a Catholic prison chaplain how you can help him.
Support job training and educational programs for prisoners.
If possible, hire an ex-con.
Pray for the families of inmates.
Donate/volunteer with programs that assist at-risk juvenile offenders.
Pray for/support efforts that seek the abolition of the death penalty.
Pray for the conversion of those in prison. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged. (Mt 7:2)
To bury the dead:
Attend wakes and funerals of those youâ€™ve known. The dead need to be honored and the living need to be consoled.
Volunteer with a hospice program.
Help a widow/widower in need by offering to doing yardwork or errands.
Send Mass cards to families of those who've died.
Visit the graves of your family and friends as your time allows and pray for the dead. They're probably praying for you already; it would be nice to return the favor.
In passing a cemetery, offer the Eternal Rest prayer, also known as the Prayer for the Poor Souls in Purgatory (Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.)
Never forget to pray for the dead. Offer a Mass in their honor on the anniversary of their passing.
Urge others to remember to make charitable provisions in their wills.
Donate to ministries that offer free Catholic burials to those unable to afford one.
Make your voice heard. Don't be shy about discussing your opposition to abortion, physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia and fetal stem cell research. If the advocates of death won't keep their mouths shut, why should the voices of goodness and reason be bullied into silence?
Pray at an abortion mill for the millions of children sacrificed to the prince of this world.
Promote and vote for anti-abortion/anti-euthanasia legislation.
Donate to organizations which oppose abortion.
Attend the funeral services for an inmate who was executed.
Agree to be the executor/executrix of someone's will.
Support/volunteer at a hospice.
Support/volunteer your parish's bereavement ministry.
Remember to visit/phone widows, widowers and those who've lost their parents.
Invite friends and relatives to visit the cemeteries in which your loved ones are buried.
Pray for the terminally ill.
Wear a scapular and ask St. Joseph for your own holy death.
Memento mori. Remember your own eventual death and plan appropriately for your own afterlife.
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