Wow. Another new year is fast approaching. I swear two minutes ago “High School musical” was premiering on Disney channel. But, alas 2016 is upon us. With a new year means new exciting things on the horizon, new opportunities, and new ways to grow in your faith. Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to highlight the Catholic Church’s “mission to be a witness of mercy.” The special year will take place Dec. 8, 2015 until Nov. 20, 2016.
What an exciting time to be alive!
So what does this mean for us young people? How can we implement the year of Mercy into our everyday life?
After much brainstorming and sleepless nights (that’s sarcasm) I came up with 51 ideas based off of corporal works of mercy that you can do throughout the year. Some are easy everyday things, others are something you can do with a group of friends, youth group, or even as a service project in college. Without further to do here are 51 ideas for the year of Mercy:
Feed the Hungry
You wouldn’t think it, but feeding the hungry is actually really difficult. One moment you can be walking down the street and see a homeless man. So you know you finally decide to do something about it. Because the end of hunger starts with you. Before you know the homeless man doesn’t want your sandwich and chucks it near your head…. And you find yourself running across the street “why me? why me?” I’m sure y’all haven’t experienced this.
And I bet good majority of you have had some really beautiful and heart warming experience. Of course you can’t let one bad story stop you forever from feeding the homeless. That’s why I help give some practical tips to go about feeding the hungry.
- Get a group friends to help make sack lunches at your local homeless shelter.
- Have a food kit in your car of some non-perishable foods. So next time when you’re at red light use that opportunity to pass out some food.
- This one is a little unconventional but why not offer to pay for your friends lunch or drink?
- Start a fundraiser at school to raise money for your local food shelter.
- Call around town asking certain soup kitchens when they serve dinner and get a group of friends or even your family to help serve dinner once a month.
- At your local church you can start a food drive. Parishioners can drop off food at the church and you can take it to your local food drive.
- Help serve pancake breakfast with the Knights of Columbus.
Give Drink to the Thirsty
So many people in our world are hurting and unsatisfied. There’s a thirst in our souls that can only be fulfilled by God. And just as we long for Jesus, He longs for us too. He thirsts for souls and we can help to bring more and more souls to Him.
So for this Year of Mercy, quench your thirst and dive into your faith and by serving others and bringing others to Christ.
- Make a fast for a month of only drinking water and offer it up for those in need.
- Donate baby formula to pregnancy help center.
- Pass out water bottles for homeless on streets with a note attached with a bible verse or a simple “you’re loved.”
- Lead a bible study with your friends and afterwards all go out for coffee.
- Take time to meditate on God’s thirst for souls. And pray for the grace to help bring Him souls.
- Help pass out ice cold waters at events, when a neighbor is doing yard work, or even when your Mom or Dad has a long day.
Clothe the Naked
Not going to lie, but I totally thought of Miley Cyrus when I was thinking of ideas for clothing the naked. This one is a more interesting kind of a challenge. Buy hey, I love a good challenge.
- Donate old or unused clothes to Goodwill, a thrift store, or a homeless shelter.
- Start a jacket drive at your local parish or with youth group.
- Get a group of friends over to your house and make blankets for local crisis pregnancy center.
- Pray to St. Martin and ask him to help live your live up in service to Christ. Learn more about him here.
- Pray for the virtue of modesty in your dress. And that you may reflect Christ and give him glory by what you wear.
- Go through your closet and simplify your wardrobe (this one is especially tough just because I’m a clothes addict)
- Offer to mend clothing for a local homeless shelter.
- Go to your local GoodWill and buy clothes off the rack and donate them to a homeless shelter or give them to a person experiencing homelessness on the street.
- This one is my favorite: go to local garage sales, but some clothes, and send all the clothing to a foreign mission site.
Shelter the Homeless
We’ve all seen it, some of us maybe more than others. I hope that seeing homelessness affects all of us deeply — to see a fellow human with no place to rest their head. Here are some tips that can help you make a difference in your city:
- Sign up with your local habitat for humanity and dedicate one Saturday of the month to help build houses for the less privileged. I’ve gone out a couple Saturday’s and it’s super rewarding. Learn more here: http://www.habitat.org/getinv/volunteer_programs.aspx
- Volunteer to do manual labor to help in the upkeep of a homeless shelter.
- Sign up to become a big brother or big sister and help mentor a kid who’s experienced or maybe still is homeless. Learn more here.
- Send a care package to orphanages near you or around the country.
- Become pen pals with a child from an orphanage.
- With your youth group or college start a fundraiser to help raise money for families that are looking to adopt. Every little bit helps and goes a long way.
- Plan to attend a mission trip in the USA or somewhere around the world and further your intention to help the homeless and help build homes on your mission trip.
- Go to GoodWill or garage sales and find old umbrellas and pass them out to the homeless.
Visit the Sick
As Christians we’re called to get out of our comfort zone and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Sometimes that means risking our own comfort to serve Jesus in the sick and dying.
- Volunteer your time at your local children’s hospital and spend some quality time reading or playing games with the kids and their families.
- Another great volunteering opportunity is to visit the elderly at a nursing home. My college takes three trips out the different nursing homes every week. And it’s super popular amongst the students. The elderly are so lonely and are very needy for human interaction. So just knowing that you can be that person who brings a little bit of joy into their life is super rewarding.
- Send flowers or even a card to someone you know in the hospital.
- If you have a family member or a friend who’s at home due to being sick. Shoot them a text and ask if you can bring over some soup, ice cream, or my personal favorite their favorite order from Chipotle…. Or I mean I guess you can just go visit them and give them company.
- Find out who are the homebound at your local parish and help bring the Eucharist to them. (Make sure you consult with your parish first.)
- Whenever you’re in a group of your peers, look for someone who may be struggling internally, who may be afflicted on the inside, and go over and talk to them and let them know you care about them.
Visit the Imprisoned
Now this one is interesting. Ever since I was a little kid this act of mercy interested me the most. Because the idea of going to a prison and visiting the imprisoned blew my mind. I didn’t even know it was possible. Second, how does one even go about this? I mean hello it’s a little strange… “Yeah Mom I’ll be back in time for dinner. But first I’m going to spend some time with people in prison.”
Anyways as I’ve gotten more older I figured out some pretty practical tips for high schoolers and college kids looking to practice this act of mercy.
- Find out if your local prison offers a bible study if it does find out how you can be involved. If it doesn’t ask your parents if it’s okay if you lead one yourself at the local prison.
- Help out with Communion or saying the readings at your local prison when they offer Mass there.
- Get a group of friends to write letters full of encouragement and hope for your local prison.
- Find ways to help local families you have a loved one in prison.
- Donate unused or old bibles to the prison (btw your bible should NEVER be unused).
- Ask to help mentor a teen in juvenile prison.
- Offer to babysit for a young mom who may feel “stuck” in her house all day with young ones.
Bury the Dead
Obviously the idea of death is terrifying. But as Christian people we don’t need to fear death because we have a risen Christ who died for our sins, so that we may live in paradise with Him forever and ever. *Cue Matt Maher’s “Amen” song*. Because we have the Resurrection we’re a Resurrection people and we must not let death overrule us with fear or anxiety.
- Make sure that when a loved one has passed away to do your very best to attend the funeral or wake. It’s very important we celebrate their life here on earth and that we pray for the repose of their soul.
- Volunteer at a hospice program.
- Find ways to help a local family in your parish that is grieving over a loved one. Whether it’s by cooking a dish for them to eat, or if it’s helping by babysitting.
- Pray outside of an abortion clinic and pray for the souls of the precious babies who lost their lives.
- Help fundraise money for families who can’t afford to have a nice funeral for their loved one.
- Volunteer your time to help a Widow or Widower with housework or yard work.
- Try to visit cemeteries of your family members or friends who have died and pray for the repose of their souls.
- Next time you drive by a cemetery instead of holding your breath. Say this prayer: 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.
As you can see all these ideas and acts of mercy are super doable and at the same time challenging. I really want to say that we were given this year of mercy for a reason. Don’t let the graces of this liturgical year go to waste. Use everything you’ve got to glorify Him! Now go forth my young Padawans and make Pope Francis and your Mother proud.