During Pope Francis’ address on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, he shared with us an idea of his that I believe is important for all of us to implement in one way or another. Although he is speaking specifically to dioceses around the world, I think it poses a special challenge for families and communities as well.
“The other day, speaking with the directors of a charitable agency, the following idea surfaced. I thought it would be good to share it with you this evening. How beautiful it would be to have as a reminder, a “memorial” as it were, in every diocese during this Year of Mercy, an institutional expression of mercy: a hospital, a home for the elderly, for abandoned children, a school where none exists, a home for the recovery of addicts… There are so many things that could be done… It would be very good for each diocese to consider: what can we leave as a living memory, as a work of living mercy, as a wound of the living Jesus for this Year of Mercy? Let us reflect on this and speak to the Bishops about it. Thank you.”
Don’t panic; I’m fairly certain your family is not called to build a hospital. However, that doesn’t mean that we can disregard this message as something only the rich and influential can accomplish. I believe Pope Francis' words are meant to be a reflection for all of us.
What can we “leave as a living memory” for this Year of Mercy? What are some actions our families can take to make mercy tangible in our hearts and lives? Our “memorial” may seem small, but God has a habit of using the littlest things to transform the world.
Mother Teresa started her mission work by caring for one sick, homeless man, and St. John Bosco opened his school for boys after making time for a few troublesome kids in his neighborhood.
We came up with a few simple suggestions for things your family can do, but God may be calling you to do something completely unique. Pray about it as a family. We all have different gifts, and each community has different needs. Don’t be afraid to DREAM BIG. God wants to do incredible things, and you could be the family he’s been waiting for.
"Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world." St. Teresa of Avila
"How many expressions there are, therefore, of God’s mercy… The more we receive, the more we are called to share it with others; it cannot be kept hidden or kept only for ourselves. It is something which burns within our hearts, driving us to love, thus recognizing the face of Jesus Christ, above all in those who are most distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalized." Pope Francis
Plan regular visits to a senior home
Starting this with your kids now will instill in them a love and respect for the elderly. What a blessing to see Christ's face in the wrinkles and wisdom of someone who may not have long left on earth. The time you spend with them will be a memory that your kids will always remember.
Host a clothing drive
Whether you organize something at your parish or with your child's school, collecting clothing for a local charity is a great way of making people aware of the needs of the less fortunate.
Sponsor a refugee family with your parish
This is something that requires a lot of planning and support, but what a powerful way to live out the corporeal works of mercy.
Buy coffee or provide snacks for the homeless in your area
A few granola bars and some apples could go a long way in making somebody's day.
Put up a picture of Divine Mercy in your home
What better time to have a daily reminder of Jesus' message of mercy.
Reach out to the sick or hospitilized
Just think how much a visit would mean to you if you were the one stuck in a hospital bed...
Support a missionary
Many young people now are feeling called to spend a year as a full time missionary, but they need financial and spiritual support. Contact a local mission group and find out how you could become a part of their work.
Send a card of encouragement to someone struggling with an addiction
People need to know they aren't alone, and that you're praying for them in their stuggles.
Sponsor a Child
We've said this before and we'll probably say it again. Sponsoring a child is a great way to move beyond our own comfort zone and reach out to someone on the other side of the world.
Display a statue of Mary
Do you have a little garden in your front yard? Why not add a outdoor statue of Our Lady? It has the potential to bless anyone who's driving by your house.
Clean up a park
Taking care of God's creation is a wonderful act of mercy. There may be a community playground that needs to be cleaned up, or or maybe there's a grotto outside your Church that could use some extra love and attention.
Invite a needy family for a BBQ or a picnic at the park
Building a relationship has the potential to last a lifetime. Showing mercy sometimes means just going out of our way to make people feel loved and respected.
Go on a mission trip
This is definitely something to start praying about, especially if you have teenagers in your house. Giving them the oppotunity to serve the poor in another country is something they'll never forget.
Start volunteering at a soup kitchen
Whether you're donating food or helping serve it, Jesus wants to meet you in the faces of the hungry men and woman of your community.
Start a faith study
Bring people together from your parish or other faith communities. You could study the Gospel of Luke, (which is known as the gospel of mercy) or even do a study on St. John Paul II's Encyclical, Dives et Misericordia (Rich in Mercy).
Regardless of what we do as our memorial of mercy, I pray we can all be inspired to live out this year with passion and purpose, always striving to recognize "the face of Jesus Christ, above all in those who are most distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalized".
Let us know some of your ideas in the comment section! We’d love to hear how your family is feeling called to live out the Year of Mercy.
If you'd like, take 5 minutes and read Pope Francis' full address. He says some beautiful words about mercy.
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