Interesting Suggestion for Works of Mercy

Interesting Suggestion for Works of Mercy July 15, 2012

A reader writes:

I am finally enjoying your book The Work of Mercy. Great stuff. As I was reading “clothe the naked,” it occurred to me that I have some thoughts which, if you think them worthy, might suit a later edition, a blog post, an article, an interview or speaking engagement, or some other means of communication regarding the corporal works of mercy.

I like that you tied clothes to human dignity. In a fallen world such as ours, clothes should express (even assert) and protect/defend the personhood of the wearer. (When I say “protect” I don’t just mean something like “against cold” but also “against indignities perpetrated by other people, such as lust.”) When we clothe the naked, we should have an eye on recognizing their intrinsic dignity as human persons and aiding their expression and fuller exercise of that personhood.

My thoughts turned to things that are not clothes as such, so we wouldn’t necessarily think of them right away in association with this work of mercy, but they are things which are *worn* by humans and enable them to better express and exercise their personhood.

The first is bandages. Not long after I taught myself to crochet I read an article in our diocesan newspaper about a group at a local parish that knits and crochets thread leprosy bandages for people in Vietnam. Hansen’s disease isn’t yet prevented and/or treated everywhere, at least not well, and people suffering the disease need good bandages. These handmade thread bandages last longer and work better for the users than storebought and gauze. The different textures created by knitting and crochet are both desirable. I decided to join in the local bandage-making efforts, too, and watched some biopics about St. Damien of Molokai for inspiration. It occurs to me that actions like this are a form of “clothing the naked,” even if we don’t think of these much-needed bandages as “clothing.” Here’s an example of a charity that makes bandages for folks in Vietnam, the Bandage Brigade.

The second is menstrual products. People don’t like to talk about them, and they’re not clothing per se, but they are a very important part of a woman’s life between menarche and menopause. Over here in the States, we tend to take them for granted. A wide variety of disposable tampons and pads are available relatively cheap at almost every grocery, pharmacy, and convenience store, and most public restrooms are outfitted for their disposal. We also have access to a variety of washable & reusable products, such as silicone menstrual cups and wonderful cloth pads. For most relatively healthy women, getting one’s period need not stop a woman from doing just about anything she wants to do– school, work, sports, whatever. But it’s not so everywhere. In some parts of the world, it can mean not being able to attend school or work for a few days each month. That’s a lot of lost education, income, and time for girls and women. Fortunately, some people are working to remedy this, too. I think this could be a very valuable example of “clothing the naked.” Days for Girls is one example of a charity that engages “First World” volunteers in a manner similar to the Bandage Brigade above.

(Speaking of the need for menstrual products, girls and women in impoverished nations aren’t the only ones who could use some help. A few years ago I visited a business that was collecting items for care packages to send to overseas troops. I wanted to help, so I looked around online to see what items troops might want or need. Apparently menstrual products are on the list.)

In a similar vein, there are charities that work to supply eyeglasses to people who may not be able to afford them!

I love that you thought of this. This is exactly the sort of cross-fertilization and creative thinking I hoped the book would spark. Thanks for your concern for those in need! Great ideas! If other readers have other ideas please share them in the comboxes!

"Free will to resist grace, available to all, and to reject good. God loves us ..."

Where Peter Is has a nice ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • suburbanbanshee

    I noticed that the linked article doesn’t explain the mysterious shortage….

    The female troops get issued various products for their needs. Male troops don’t get issued them, but have found out that various sorts of products have powerful absorptive properties that are very useful for emergency wound dressings and the like. (Particularly tampons, which were originally invented as wound dressings.) So they are always asking for them, and a lot of base commissaries here in the States are always getting bought out by friends sending them on.

    So it all ties together with the bandage making, after all. 🙂

  • Tammy

    Please excuse this repeat if you caught this on the Romney thread here, but we were discussing the disposition of remains so it fits in both discussions. This is a topic RARELY discussed in public and we need to change that.

    Bury the dead is a work of mercy that most Americans think is a done deal yet few hospitals and cities have organized programs to offer dignified burial for babies who die (often of natural causes) prior to birth. There are often poor women who chose NOT to abort then suffer a loss later and then have no way to afford a burial.

    Creating /funding/facilitating a burial program is something that people who respect the lives of tiny people really should consider. My program has buried 359 babies with 7 more for this month with good Fr B to officiate.

    • Ted Seeber

      I want to thank you for this important work of mercy. When I talk to our State Knights of Columbus pro-life chairman, I’m going to suggest it as something we can do both as our duty as Christians and as Knights fighting for pro-life.

  • Qualis Rex

    My close cousin is currently serving in Afghanistan (after her tour in Iraq) and has also confirmed a shortage of feminine products of all types, which my mom sends her in regular care packages. Not sure why this is either.

    Another take on “clothing the naked” in my mind would be to very charitably approach the ushers in our churches and have them grow a spine so they could inform the masses that having their daughters show up in hoochie-mama halter-tops, daisy-dukes and a thong showing just below the tatoo on their lower-back is not proper church attire dignified of receiving the body of Christ. The same can of course be applied to boys who come in tank-tops or worse as “saggers” with a need to show us what their underwear preference is. I think in most parishes a simple sign and reminder in the bulletin would be all it would take. But I believe certain parishes really do want an “anything goes” attitude towards dress and morality.

    anything else would be “judgemental…”

    • Mark Shea

      Thanks for turning a positive discusson into another Trad rant. How about keeping your mind on the Mass on not waste sitting in judgment of your fellow parishioners. Or at least don’t clutter up my comboxes with yet another Dress Code Obsessive Rant.

  • Qualis Rex

    Whoah! So, now modesty is too “trad” for you? Geeze. Glad I didn’t say anything about gluttony.

    • Mark Shea

      No. Hijacking a thread that has nothing to do with your obsession is too Trad for me. And thanks for the gratuituous high school sophomore fat insult. You’re gone.

  • Diana

    Thanks to the original writer for these suggestions – and I am now knitting my first bandage for the Bandage Brigade. There are a plethora of knitting related charities – at a certain point you have to start giving stuff away or be slowly forced out of your house by the products of your needles – and another one I like is the Red Scarf Project, which tries to give a boost to ex-foster-kids in college and other training programs. They send them care packages which include handknit scarves, plus run funds for emergency expenses, help with books, etc.

  • melissa

    Thank you for the great suggestions of these projects. Now I know what to do with the large stash of flannel and cotton thread my mom left me. One other good project is to knit or crochet sweaters for children who don’t have them. The sweaters are sent to children both here in the US and around the world. The information for this is at