50 Ways to Perform the Corporal Works of Mercy

March 8, 2016

“So, how are you going to enter more deeply into giving and receiving mercy during the upcoming Year of Mercy?”

This was the question my spiritual director posed to me a few weeks before the Year officially began.

“Oh, um, I’m not sure,” I fumbled back as my mind began to race, “I have kids… young kids… three of them… how am I supposed to pull that off?” But the more I thought about it, she was right, I should do something to open myself up to both receive and give God’s mercy during this jubilee year, so I started coming up with ideas.

Firstly, in order to receive God’s mercy, I decided to spend some time each day reading about mercy through the words of Pope Francis. I’m using the most profound and spiritually moving book I’ve read in a while: A Year of Mercy with Pope Francis. (Okay, my husband wrote it, but it really is good!)

Secondly, in order to give God’s mercy, our whole family will be volunteering together with the elderly once a month. Yep, we might be crazy, but we think it’s worth it. It’s not much, but can you imagine what the world could look like one year from now if every Catholic committed to performing just one work of mercy this year?

So, let me throw the question to you: How are you going to enter more deeply into giving and receiving mercy during this Year of Mercy?

To get you started I’ve compiled a list of 50 potential corporal works of mercy for you to chose from. As Pope Francis said, “True power is service. The Pope must serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable.” If he can do it, so can you!

Feed the Hungry.

  • Make sandwiches and pass them out to the homeless.
  • Keep granola bars in your car to pass out to people in need at stoplights.
  • Pick up leftovers at a local grocery store, bakery, or restaurant and deliver them to a food bank or homeless shelter.
  • Take a friend out to lunch, your treat.
  • Keep a list of local food banks and soup kitchens on hand to pass out to those you encounter around your town who could use such services.
  • Volunteer at a food bank.
  • Organize a Catholic Relief Services Food Fast and donate the proceeds to a farming project.
  • Serve at a soup kitchen.
  • Prepare and take a meal to someone in your community who is seriously ill or welcoming home a newborn.
  • Help out at a Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast.
  • Give to or host a food drive.

Give Drink to the Thirsty.

  • Pass out water bottles to the homeless.
  • Have a “donations only” lemonade stand and use the proceeds to provide clean water to those in need via Catholic Relief Services.
  • Pay for the coffee of the person behind you at a coffee shop.
  • Take a cold glass of water to a neighbor doing yard work.
  • Donate baby formula to a local pregnancy help center.
  • Work a drink station at a local charity race.

Clothe the Naked.

  • Go through your closet and give away what you don’t need.
  • Host a clothing drive and donate the items.
  • Knit, crochet, or sew baby blankets for your local pregnancy help center.
  • Knit, crochet, or sew scarves, hats, and gloves for your local homeless shelter.
  • Volunteer to take an elderly neighbor shopping for clothes.
  • Score some sweet deals at garage sales and send the items to a foreign mission site.

Shelter the Homeless.

  • Volunteer to do manual labor to help in the upkeep of a homeless shelter.
  • Attend or chaperone a mission trip with Catholic Heart Workcamp, Nazareth Farm, Bethlehem Farm, or FOCUS and help maintain existing homes and keep those in need in their homes.
  • Keep a list of local homeless shelters on hand to pass out to those you meet on the street.
  • Become a mentor to a foster child.
  • Send a care package with special treats to an orphanage.
  • Help a family working towards adoption by hosting a fundraiser for them.
  • Sponsor a child or young adult through Unbound.
  • Donate to or volunteer with programs such as Christ in the City to further their efforts in working with the homeless.

Visit the Sick.

  • Volunteer at a hospital.
  • Volunteer to at a nursing home.
  • Send flowers or a card to someone you know who is in the hospital.
  • Attend a FOCUS mission, such as the trip to Kolkata, to serve those who are ill.
  • Take the Eucharist to the homebound in your community.
  • Visit a seriously or terminally ill member of your parish.
  • Sponsor an elderly person through Unbound.

Visit the Imprisoned.

  • Lead a bible study at a jail or prison.
  • Help with a communion service or Mass at a jail or prison.
  • Donate bibles and/or spiritual reading materials to a jail or prison.
  • Mentor a teen at a juvenile correction center.

Bury the Dead.

  • Attend wakes and/or funerals of those you knew.
  • Volunteer with a hospice program.
  • Supply a dish for a funeral luncheon.
  • Help a widow or widower in need with yard work or errands.
  • Visit the cemetery and pray for the dead.
  • Donate to ministries that offer free Catholic burials to those who are unable to afford one.
  • Pray at an abortion clinic for the lives lost to abortion.
  • Attend services for an inmate who was executed.

Be saints, it’s worth it!

Lisa Cotter

Lisa Cotter is a nationally sought after speaker on the topics of dating, marriage, motherhood, and femininity. Her work has been featured by EWTN, Lighthouse Catholic Media, YDisciple, and Chastity Project. She is a graduate of Benedi more...