Faith & Life


Harnessing mercy in service to others

By Cathi Douglas     7/10/2017

“Mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another.”

—Fr. James F. Keenan


As the long summer days stretch on, many Catholic parents struggle to identify activities for the whole family that combine faith, fun and community service. In the spirit of mercy that Pope Francis embraces, what are some activities that can help us show God’s mercy?

One approach is to identify seven spiritual works of mercy the family can pursue. Scripture readings about mercy and forgiveness can be incorporated with each of these activities.

Ÿ Feed the hungry. Help make sack lunches at your local homeless shelter. Offer to pay for your friend’s lunch or drink. Volunteer to help serve dinner at a soup kitchen once a month. Help serve a pancake breakfast with the Knights of Columbus.

Ÿ Give drink to the thirsty. According to the World Health Organization, a child dies from a preventable disease associated with lack of clean water every 20 seconds. Learn about the many places worldwide where water is precious. Work out a water-conservation plan for your home. Consider a donation to the Global Aid Network’s Water for Life Initiative.

Ÿ Clothe the naked. Collect clothes and shoes to donate to the Goodwill or another local charity. Pass on your family’s clean, but gently used children’s clothing to a needy family with kids.

Ÿ Shelter the homeless. Deliver blankets, clean socks and toiletries to the Orange County Catholic Workers’ Isaiah House, located at 316 South Cypress Avenue in Santa Ana (phone (714) 835-6304). Consider a donation to Catholic Charities of Orange County or volunteering there either short- or long-term.

Ÿ Visit the sick. Pray for the sick of your parish who are mentioned during Sunday Mass. Volunteer your time at CHOC – Children’s Hospital Orange County and spend some time reading or playing games with the kids and their families. Visit the elderly at a nursing home. The elderly often are lonely and need human interaction.

Ÿ Visit the imprisoned. The Diocese of Orange Restorative Justice & Detention Ministry trains volunteers to minister in jails and juvenile detention facilities. The ministry also accepts financial donations, and holy cards, snacks, and specific rosaries and Bibles (contact the office before sending or dropping off these items).

Ÿ Bury the dead. Help remember those who have passed on with prayers. Volunteer at a hospice program. Find ways to help a family in your parish that is grieving over a loved one, by cooking a dish or helping babysit their children.

Ezekiel says that God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden and can restore life to dry bones. Our family acts of mercy help us renew our love with Jesus, build stronger ties with our Catholic faith community, and grow closer to each other in humble service to our fellow man.

As Pope Francis said in his 2013 Easter Message, “Let us enable the power of His love to transform our lives, too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.”