“We are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us,” Pope Francis proclaims in Misericordiae Vultus. As we continue our celebration of this Extraordinary Year of Mercy, and the 800th Jubilee of the Order of Preachers, we offer seven, simple suggestions anyone can follow to be a preacher of mercy, many of which would make great resolutions for the new year.
1) Feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty
A number of our communities sponsor a Sunday dinner for the hungry once or twice a month, following in the footsteps of Saint Dominic, who sold his books/scrolls in order to feed the hungry. If this suggestion speaks to your heart, then consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, or cleaning out your pantry/cupboards and giving to a local food bank. You might even try buying nonperishable food items to donate every time you go grocery shopping.
2) Shelter the homeless
Not all of us have room to take in the homeless, but there are organizations we can support who do. Our community at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Newman Center in Salt Lake works with Family Promise and periodically offers housing to families who would otherwise spend the night in their cars or on the streets. Organizations like these are often in need of financial support, or items on the wish lists of their families, such as diapers and toiletries. Think about how you can help.
3) Clothe the naked
As the seasons change, so do the needs of those on the streets. Warmer clothes, jackets, thermals and gloves are all in greater demand during the winter months. So clean out your closet, or sponsor a clothing drive. When socks, t-shirts and the like are on sale, consider buying an extra package to donate to your local St. Vincent de Paul Society.
4) Comfort the afflicted and visit the sick and imprisoned
Everyone could use a little cheering up now and then. Consider volunteering at a hospital or a convalescent home. You can visit weekly, or organize activities around the holidays. Having a party to create decorations a week before Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and so on can be lots of fun. And while visiting inmates in jail can be difficult because of security, don’t forget those who suffer from other kinds of imprisonment. Those who struggle with addiction, loneliness and depression often feel as if they are weighed down. Make their burden a little lighter by offering your support and prayers.
5) Pray for the living and the dead and bury the dead
Praying for our friends and family members is a great privilege. Through this act we grow in charity and compassion. Think about offering a Mass for those on your prayer list, or reciting a rosary in their honor. And when it comes to praying for the deceased, don’t forget the souls in purgatory. Remember that burying the dead is about more than digging a grave. Providing support while a family grieves is a great act of mercy. Closing an estate, boxing up the deceased’s possessions, even making meals can be a big help.
6) Counsel the doubtful and instruct the ignorant
Many people today do not understand what the Church teaches because they are misinformed. They doubt the authenticity of the Christian faith because they have been led astray by a culture which values power, wealth and fame over obedience, simplicity and humility. Saint Dominic faced a similar state of affairs 800 years ago. Follow his example. Take time to study and learn what the Church really does teach and believe, so that you may help the questioning and uninformed discover the many graces available to the faithful.
7) Admonish sinners, forgive offenses and bear wrongs patiently
Dominicans in formation for the priesthood are often told that when they are ordained, they should be “lions in the pulpit and lambs in the confessional.” In other words, while their preaching should convict the sinner to seek repentance, their manner in the Sacrament of Reconciliation should be gentle and merciful. All of us should follow this example when warning others about the consequences of sin. Although the laity cannot absolve from sin, we can remind people that the Lord is merciful and ready to forgive us if we acknowledge our wrongdoing and turn back to Him.