Spring is in the air. Everything feels new and fresh. The world even seems energized with new life. It is a great time to spring into action.
This month in youth ministry, we will explore ways to encourage our youth to live their faith more fully by living out corporal works of mercy.
The Catechism of the Catholic Faith defines these as “ feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, sheltering the homeless and burying the dead.” (2447) By using a little imagination and creativity, we can help our students to increase these works in their daily lives.
Feeding the Hungry
There are obvious ways to do this and less obvious ones. Having a food collection for the local food cupboard is an effective way to incorporate fulfilling this work of mercy. Visiting an elderly person and feeding them when they are no longer able to do so them self, is a less obvious one.
Clothing the Naked
Again, a clothing drive is an obvious and effective choice. Helping a younger sibling get dressed for church on Sunday morning is another way to exercise mercy. Speaking as a mom who has a lot of kids to get ready on Sunday morning, it can be a very appreciated one!
Visiting the Sick and Imprisoned
Many of us have rounded up our youth groups and had them sing Christmas Carols at the local nursing home, but what are other ways we can practice this mercy? It can be as simple as sending a card to an elderly friend who may feel forgotten by many, being kind to a sibling who messed up and is grounded (for a kid, that IS imprisonment), or organizing a meal for a family with a new baby.
Sheltering the Homeless
When Hurricane Katrina hit the southern states, our parish started a one dollar drive for the displaced victims. Each child brought in one dollar (more if they wanted) and we donated the entire amount to a relief effort. It is easy to feel as if sheltering the homeless is too big a job for a child, but we can each contribute in some small way. Little efforts can lead to big results. Another idea is to encourage students to join a Catholic work camp effort. My daughter went away for a week last summer and helped build housing for the less fortunate and disabled. She says that it was the best week of her life.
Burying the Dead
This is a tough one for teens. In my children’s school there have been several accidents and illnesses that have claimed many lives of their classmates in the past year. Just being present at the funerals and memorial Masses of these young people can be a work of mercy. It gives closure and even encouragement to the young people themselves and to the families of the deceased. Another idea is to have students join in making food for the parishes funeral Masses. Even attending the funeral Masses of strangers and praying for the soul of the deceased can be an act of mercy.
Finally, we can teach our students by remembering to actively practice the works of mercy ourselves. We too can spring into action and revitalize our faith and communities this year. God bless you.