7 things to do this Lent (and maybe after that as well)

10 Mar 2016   |   Blog

Tags:  Refugees, water, food, acts of mercy   |   No comments

“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just,” said Pope Francis. Last year, he announced that 2016 would be the Jubilee Year of Mercy. After this announcement, there has been a lot of talk encouraging people to undertake the Acts of Mercy – but what are they?

The Acts of Mercy are divided into two groups – seven corporal acts of mercy, and seven spiritual acts of mercy. The seven corporal acts of mercy are based on the Gospel, about treating our neighbours as though they were Christ himself – feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead.

Here are a few simple suggestions on how you can go about the corporal acts of mercy this year.

1. Feed the hungry

Photo: Holding grain in South Sudan. Credit: Caritas

This act of mercy is probably the easiest to do – it could be as simple as cooking a meal for someone you know who might be having a tough time. You could also donate to a food drive or volunteer at a soup kitchen.

On a larger scale, there are also nearly one billion people in our world who do not have enough food. In a world that produces enough food for all, this just isn’t fair. Find out more about some of the reasons why not everyone has access to food by reading this article What causes food insecurity. You can support community development programs that help empower people to develop sustainable sources of food - see the impact of these programs through Doney's story featured in Project Compassion.

2. Give drink to the thirsty

Water pump
Photo: Using a water well in South Sudan. Credit: Paul Jeffery

In Australia, we live in a privileged society where most people are able to get clean, fresh water to drink. But there are many communities around the world where this is still a challenge, and women and children need to walk long distances to collect water.

Caritas Australia works with these communities, helping build boreholes, wells and water-pumps, among other things, so that people are able to have safe drinking water. Find out more and support these activities

3. Clothe the naked

Clothes hanging at a refugee settlement
Photo: Winter weather in a refugee settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Credit: CLMC/Jean J. Khoury

The value of clothing becomes more treasured when we hear about families around the world living in temporary shelters with little protection from the weather. Throughout the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, many families live in informal refugee settlements, enduring snow and freezing weather conditions throughout winter. One aspect of our support to refugee families is providing warm clothing, blankets, bedding and heaters.

Another practical action you can take is donating the clothes that you no longer wear to your local St Vincent de Pauls shop to help provide people with affordable clothes, and also raise funds for other important work that Vinnies does.

4. Shelter the homeless

Person sleeping on the street
Photo courtesy of Pixaby

There are millions of people across the world who flee their homes for their safety, because of war and persecution. At the moment, the conflict in the Middle East has caused more than 4 million people to leave their home, many fleeing to neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Jordan. Caritas is helping these families in practical ways through the Middle East Crisis Appeal. Find out how you can support these families here

We can also show our love and compassion by welcoming these people to our own communities. The House of Welcome is an organisation provides support for refugees and asylum seekers. You can volunteer with them to do things like helping out at a drop-in centre, teaching English, and generally helping people who have newly arrived to our country settle in.

5. Visit the sick

Purple House in Alice Springs
Photo: The Purple House helps people from remote communities who need dialysis treatment. Credit: Simon Hewson

There are lots of ways you can show that you care to people who are sick. If you know someone who is unwell, you can ask if they would like you to drop by for a chat, or just to listen to them. It can feel difficult to do sometimes, but you can always also offer practical help while you’re there, like offering to help with their grocery shopping or picking up medication.

Sometimes supporting people who are sick can be through creating a comfortable and homely environment for when they need to receive treatment. For example The Purple House in Alice Springs helps Aboriginal people with severe kidney disease by providing a centre for dialysis (kidney treatment) in remote areas, kind of like a ‘home away from home’.

Many parishes also have designated visitation groups who visit people in nursing homes and hospitals. You can contact your local parish office to see if they have such a group.

6. Visit the imprisoned

Prison wire
Photo courtesy of Pixbay

Significant numbers of people arriving in our country seeking asylum are currently detained in detention centres. Organisations such as Jesuit Refugee Services provide support to people in these facilities through addressing practical needs, but also simply to listen if they need to talk. You can find out more about their work here

Another form of 'imprisonment' in our own society is people who are trapped as victims of human trafficking and slavery. ACRATH works to raise awareness and eliminate trafficking in Australia, find out more about this issue here.

In many countries around the world, people imprisoned are among the most marginalised in society. Mercy Works, one of our partners in our neighbouring country of Papua New Guinea, runs a program that helps people in prison by providing skills training so they can earn a livelihood once they leave prison to help them reintegrate into the community. Find out more and support this work

7. Bury the dead

Burials in West Africa
Photo: Grave sites in West Africa. Credit: Caritas Internationalis/ CRS

Sometimes this can be the forgotten work of mercy – but ensuring that people receive a dignified burial, as well as being with those who have lost loved ones, is just as important as any other act of mercy.

Some of the ways you could undertake this act of mercy could include attending the funeral of a family or friends, or friend’s family member. You can also reach out to those who are grieving for loved ones, even through simple gestures, such as sending a card.

Do any of these suggestions give you ideas on what you can do during the Year of Mercy? Share how you’re taking up the Acts of Mercy by leaving a comment below:

Back to blog