A Word in Season
Lent and the Corporal Works of What, Now?
There's a lot to be said for getting ideas for Lent from the internet pit stops I make throughout my day. It's like a giant spiritual smorgasbord, and I get to fill my plate with the tastiest looking, yummiest selections.
I'm happy to read these posts and make plans for implementing new practices on Ash Wednesday. Yet, I have to honestly ask myself why I need to wait until Ash Wednesday, or more precisely, why I think I should set a particular date to begin working on my redemption.
It's like New Year's resolutions. If I wait until January to start a diet, am I going to eat cheesecake every day for the next ten months?
Sounds sinfully appealing.
In today's busy world, where we are pulled by our responsibilities to family, work, friends, and all the extra things we find piled on our plates, it's probably not a bad idea to prayerfully discern a particular course for Lent. Why not get ideas from people who've managed to make it work, or managed to articulate it in a manner we can comprehend and apply.
So here I am jumping on the bandwagon and sharing an idea. The thing is, by smorgasbord standards, it's not very sexy or tasty or yummy. In fact, it's one of those things that pushes the boundaries of my comfort zone. When that happens, I think maybe I've hit the right course of action for myself.
You see, the nature of my day job, as a professor, and the nature of my other job, in new media, both give me a platform to run my mouth. I talk all day to a captive audience in my classroom, and then, I get on my soapbox on my blog and behind a microphone on my podcast and talk some more.
With all that talking, I figure it's time I put my money where my mouth is . . . um . . . where my hands and feet are . . . as the hands and feet of Christ.
I'm going to embrace the Corporal Works of Mercy. It's daunting. Have you looked at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about them?
The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2447)
Some of my pre-Lent preparations are contributing to this list—a little early spring cleaning has me gathering the clothes and household items that I don't use so I can take them to the local St. Vincent de Paul chapter. My long association with St. Vincent de Paul introduced me to a variety of ways to serve the hungry, the thirsty, and the homeless in my community. The interesting thing about this kind of service is that once I took that first tentative step and entered fully into the service, it felt natural . . . right.
María Morera Johnson teaches composition and literature at a technical college in Georgia, and consults and writes about trends in post-secondary education. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Star Quest Production Network (sqpn.com) and co-hosts Catholic Weekend, a weekly current events podcast.