The following was written by parishioner Dawn Abbate, giving us a glimpse into her family’s amazing approach to faith formation in their home this year.
A Year of Family Works of Mercy
I’m known for some really crazy ideas. But sometimes, those crazy ideas, really do produce greatness. I decided on homeschooling for Religious Education for my two children this year (and so the reader is aware, JUST religious ed, not complete homeschooling. Even I know my limits and patience level). I felt called to practice the Corporal Works of Mercy and thought it would be wonderful to teach them to my children as well. Going about doing this has taken some time and researching, but we’ve found a few ideas thus far to at least start us on our way and I’m happy to share them with other families who may be interested in doing this.
With a 6 and almost 9 year old, I knew the activities related to each work would have to be short, fun, and engaging otherwise it was a no go. First we chose a Saint that would embody charity and selfless giving. We chose St. Elizabeth of Hungary because the kids thought it was neat that she was a Queen but yet would sneak away with food in her dress to give to the poor in her village. When her husband found her sneaking away one day, he asked what she had hidden in the folds of her dress and when she showed him, beautiful flowers fell out and he believed she was a Saint.
We then found a large box and cut the shape of a cross out of it. We bought some colored paper and cut out circular type “flowers” that we label and staple on to our Cross of Mercy. Our hope is to have it filled up by Easter (or if not, maybe within a year).
Next step was performing the acts of mercy.
FEED THE HUNGRY
There’s no shortage of ways in which to fulfill this work of mercy. Donating for collections at church, donating to local shelters, helping out at local soup kitchens, and feed the homeless programs. Pretty much everywhere you go you can find boxes that are collecting for the less fortunate in our area. We came across a total gem about a year and a half ago called Feed My Starving Children.
Feed My Starving Children is a non-profit Christian organization committed to feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit. The approach is simple: children and adults hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and we ship these meals to our distribution partners. FMSC meals have reached nearly 70 countries around the world in our history www.fmsc.org
Not only is FMSC easy to schedule, get to, and pack at, but it’s FUN! There are always a bunch of young children helping their families, the music is always cranking with great tunes, and everyone is having a great time!! My kids love going there and I love that we are helping save children’s lives.
GIVE DRINK TO THE THIRSTY
While this goes along with feed the hungry, I was trying to really make it “drink” related for my kids. Over the summer they had a lemonade stand, and all the money they made (and they made bank on it too!) we donated to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and specified for it to go to CRS Ethiopia to provide clean drinking water over there. We’ve also helped out at 5k charity races handing out water to the runners. We’ve paid for the coffee of the car behind us at the drive-up and also donated baby formula to local help centers.
CLOTHE THE NAKED
We’ve gone through our closets and cleaned out what we don’t wear and doesn’t fit and donated to local organizations (there are many in the area including St. Vincent de Paul, the Sharing Center, and Love, Inc.).
SHELTER THE HOMELESS
My children are still too young to participate in Habitat for Humanity, so we’ve found other ways in which to help. We’ve helped volunteer at a homeless shelter, serving food and providing companionship for the people there. We offer up our prayers for others that are without homes. We donate money and items needed for the homeless in our community.
VISIT THE SICK
We visit with members at a local nursing home. We bake treats for our friends who are sick. We make cards for those we know are sick or in the hospital. Another cool opportunity that we found was sending our medals for races that we’ve done to our local chapter of Medals 4 Mettle (www.medals4mettle.org) They give the medals to children with severe illness or disabilities. It’s great to see the medals being re-used for a great cause!
VISIT THE IMPRISONED
Another tough one for families because we can’t exactly just walk in a jail and start helping. Thanks to one of my beautiful friends, we crafted some letters to prisoners offering words of encouragement. We also pray for those in prison and their families.
BURY THE DEAD
This was going to be a tough one as well. We pray at Adoration for those in our family who have left us (and yes you can go with your children to Adoration. I was terrified the first time, but my kids actually do really well. Plus it is amazing how wonderful that 1 hour of quiet can be for everyone. I always gauge it by my children – if they can’t make it the whole time, it’s not a big deal. I’ve been known to bribe with cookies and/or Cherry Berry from time to time) Another great idea (and I cannot take credit for this, my beautiful friend does this and has invited us to join) is to purchase inexpensive angel statues and go to the cemetery and find graves of children and place an angel on their gravesite and say a prayer for them. It’s so heartfelt and teaches such a beautiful message. We also volunteer for a local hospice program, and bake treats and make cards for patients for their birthdays.
There really is no shortage of what you can do as a family to perform an act of mercy. Prayer is always a powerful tool that families can do together, but that also teaches our children to love and honor our Lord. Whether you choose to do one act or more, each family can find what works for them. I’ve learned that letting my children lead works wonderful, as they are more inclined to keep with it if they know it was their idea! God bless!!