28 Ways You Can Practice the Corporal Works of Mercy

Hannah Crites

28 Ways You Can Practice the Corporal Works of Mercy

During Lent, “Corporal Works of Mercy” is a phrase that we see and hear often. The heart of the Corporal Works of Mercy is helping our brothers and sisters in their bodily needs as if they were Christ in disguise. Many of them come from Matthew 25 when Christ gives a sermon on the Last Judgment: “For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.” (Mt 25:42-43) 

There are many ways we can practice the works of mercy, but here are just a few ideas:

1. Feed the Hungry

Matthew 25:35, Proverbs 22:9

Food is what nourishes us and allows us to live. Yet many tragically live without getting proper nourishment.

  • Keep granola bars in your car and pass them out to people in need at stoplights (make sure they are soft as many people on the streets don’t have access to good dental care).
  • Volunteer at a food bank.
  • If you are breastfeeding, donate extra milk to a family who has recently adopted a baby.
  • Be intentional about finishing what is on your plate to avoid wasting food.

2. Give Drink to the Thirsty

Matthew 25:35, Isaiah 55:1

Water is essential for humans to live. We die of thirst before we die of starvation. Yet many of our brothers and sisters don’t have access to clean water, one of the most basic necessities of life.

  • Encourage your kids to have a donation only lemonade stand and send the proceeds to CRS’ Water Security program, which builds wels to provide safe, drinkable water to communities in need.
  • Pay for the coffee of the person behind you at your favorite coffee shop.
  • Shorten your shower time.
  • Clean up trash around your local water source (river, lake, etc.).

3. Clothe the Naked

Matthew 25:36

While the impoverished we see are often clothed, the question is whether they are of good quality and appropriate for the environment they live. 

  • Knit, crochet, or sew baby blankets for your local pregnancy help center.
  • Knit, crochet or hats and scarfs for your local homeless shelter to distribute.
  • Go through your closet and give away items you don’t need.
  • Donate old baby and children cloaths to a friend with kids you know could use them (kids grow out of clothes fast).

4. Shelter the Homeless

Matthew 25:35

This can take many forms. In America, seeing people on the streets a very regular occurrence. But we often don’t consider those without homes in the foster care system. It’s important to support these people in any way that we can. It might not be possible or wise to invite these people into our homes, but there are other ways we can support them.

  • Donate or volunteer with programs like Christ in the City to help further their efforts in ministering to the homeless.
  • Help a family working toward adoption by hosting a fundraiser for them.
  • Sponsor a child through organizations like Haiti 180 or Compassion International.
  • Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for someone in need.

5. Visit the Sick

Matthew 25:36

Hospitals and illness naturally make us feel uncomfortable. But those who are ill don’t have any less value. It’s important to reach out and let them know that you are thinking and praying for their healing and are there to support them if they need any.

  • Take the Eucharist to the homebound in your parish community.
  • Volunteer to call Bingo at a nursing home.
  • Sponsor an elderly person through the Catholic Foundation for Children and Aging.
  • Donate to a GoFund me page for someone battling a terminal disease (I see them pop up on Facebook daily).

6. Visit the Imprisoned

Matthew 25:36

Those in prison are forgotten and avoided, although they are still people, made in the image and likeness of God. But prison can be much more than incarceration. Many can be imprisoned by sin and addiction. No matter the sin, everybody deserves to hear the Word of God and find healing in it. This work may be the most difficult to participate in because it may require special clearance, but there are workarounds you can do to still minister to the imprisoned.  

  • Donate Bibles and spiritual reading materials to a prison or rehab center.
  • See if your diocese or parish has a prison ministry and learn how you can get involved.
  • Write letters to inmates reminding them of their dignity and of God’s work in their life.
  • If you know someone struggling with addiction, talk to them about their local AA or NA groups and treatment options.

7. Bury the Dead

Tobit 1:17-19

As Christians, we live in hope for the resurrection. But many live without that hope. Our prayers and actions during these difficult times will allow us to display how much we value life as a gift from God.   

  • Pray at an abortion clinic for the lives lost to abortion.
  • Attend wakes and funerals of those you knew.
  • Visit the cemetery and pray for the dead by name.
  • Volunteer to help a widow or widower with running errands and work around the house.