This past week, I’ve been reading a powerful little book for the Patheos Book Club called Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job. It’s by Kerry Weber, a young Catholic woman (and Managing Editor at America magazine), and it chronicles her experience of attempting to live out the Corporal Works of Mercy for the 40 days of Lent.
You know the Works of Mercy, right? (I didn’t either.) It’s that somewhat familiar list of seven acts from Matthew 25:34-37, 40, including feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead. The list, after which, Jesus says: “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Yeah, that list.
Now, I love lists (and I really love this one), and I can sure imagine picking one of these acts to practice during Lent (which would actually be more than I’ve done in the past), but all seven? Indeed, Kerry’s journey is convicting (and creative); we experience her waking up extra early to serve sandwiches in a bread line, visiting San Quentin, going through her closet and giving away bags of clothes to a Catholic Worker community, spending the night at a men’s homeless shelter and learning their stories, filling paper cups with water for runners in the NYC half-marathon, and visiting a cemetery. (Oh, and to top it off, she also swore off sugar and alchohol for Lent that year.) Every day for 40 days, Kerry practiced an intentional, concrete act (or acts) of mercy in New York City, and it was life-changing.
Fortunately for us, Kerry’s humble and humorous way of sharing her story makes you think that maybe, just maybe, you could do this too. I know at least for me, Mercy in the City has prompted this Protestant gal to think more deeply and creatively about an intentional, meaningful Lenten practice this year.
I had the chance to speak with Kerry about her experience for the Book Club, and our interview follows.
So, what about you? How are you being inspired for Lent this year? What practice or practices are you considering? How many of those Works of Mercy might make your list?