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The Corporal Works of Mercy

The Corporal Works of Mercy have their roots in the teachings of Jesus Christ and have been practiced by Christians throughout history. The concept of the Corporal Works of Mercy can be traced back to the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

These acts of kindness towards the vulnerable and marginalized have been recognized as essential aspects of Christian faith and have been practiced by Catholics for centuries.

The Corporal Works of Mercy include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison, burying the dead, and giving alms to the poor. These works are not only seen as ways to help those in need, but also as a way for individuals to grow in holiness and to emulate the love and compassion of Christ.

In addition to the Corporal Works of Mercy, there are also seven Spiritual Works of Mercy, which include instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, admonishing sinners, forgiving offenses, bearing wrongs patiently, and praying for the living and the dead.

Together, the Corporal Works of Mercy and Spiritual Works of Mercy provide a comprehensive framework for how Catholics can live out their faith by serving others and practicing compassion towards all people. The Works of Mercy are not only a way for Catholics to help those in need, but also a way to grow in faith and deepen their relationship with God.

Below, you can find concrete and actionable ideas for practicing each of the Corporal Works of Mercy.

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The Corporal Works of Mercy: Feed the Hungry


“Feed the Hungry” is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy, which calls us to provide for the physical needs of those who suffer from hunger, malnutrition, or lack of access to food.

  • Organize a canned food drive for a local food pantry. Encourage friends, family, and members of your parish to donate non-perishable food items and then deliver the donations to the food pantry.
  • Cook and serve a meal at a soup kitchen. Check with your local soup kitchen to find out what they need and how you can help. You may need to coordinate with others to prepare the food and serve it on site.
  • Raise money for a charity that serves the hungry in a third world country. You can organize a fundraiser or collect donations from friends and family to support organizations like Catholic Relief Services or another organization which represents this one of the Corporal Works of Mercy.
  • Volunteer at a local food bank or pantry. Many food banks and pantries need help sorting and distributing food to those in need. Contact your local organization to find out how you can help.
  • Plant a community garden to provide fresh produce for those in need. Work with your parish or community organization to identify a location for the garden and recruit volunteers to help with planting and maintenance.
  • Participate in a local food recovery program. These programs collect surplus food from restaurants, grocery stores, and other sources and distribute it to those in need. Contact your local program to find out how you can help.
  • Host a fundraiser to support a local organization that serves the hungry. You can organize a bake sale, car wash, or other event to raise money for a charity in your area.
  • Start a food sharing program in your community. Encourage friends and neighbors to share surplus produce from their gardens, or organize a meal-sharing program where families can share meals with those in need.
  • Participate in a community meal program. Many churches and community organizations offer free meals to those in need. Volunteer to help prepare or serve the meals, or simply attend the meal and offer companionship to those in attendance.

The Corporal Works of Mercy: Give Drink to the Thirsty

“Give Drink to the Thirsty” is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy, which calls us to provide for the physical needs of those who lack access to clean water or who suffer from thirst.

  • Donate to a charity that is building wells in third world countries. Organizations like Charity: Water and Water.org work to provide access to clean water in areas where it is scarce.
  • Participate in a water walk to raise awareness about the lack of clean water in some parts of the world. Walk a set distance with a full container of water to simulate the journey that many people must make each day to access water.
  • Encourage your family to conserve water by turning off the faucet when brushing teeth, taking shorter showers, and fixing any leaks in your home.
  • Participate in a river or beach cleanup. Collecting trash and debris from waterways helps to prevent pollution and protect the environment.
  • Volunteer at a local water conservation organization. Many cities and towns have groups that work to conserve water and protect local waterways. Find one in your area and offer your time and energy to support their efforts.
  • Participate in a fundraiser for a charity that provides clean water to those in need. You can organize a walk-a-thon, bike-a-thon, or other event to raise money for organizations which represent this one of the Corporal Works of Mercy.
  • Start a rain barrel program in your community. Collect rainwater to use for watering plants and other non-potable uses, reducing the demand on local water supplies.
  • Make a conscious effort to reduce your use of single-use plastic bottles. Invest in a reusable water bottle and encourage your family and friends to do the same.
  • Participate in a water quality testing program. Many communities have programs that monitor water quality in local rivers and streams. Get involved and help to ensure that the water in your area is safe and clean.
  • Host a movie night or educational event to raise awareness about the importance of clean water. Show a documentary to educate others about the issues surrounding access to clean water.

The Corporal Works of Mercy: Shelter the Homeless

“Shelter the Homeless” is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy, which reminds us to provide for the basic needs of those who are homeless, vulnerable, and in need of shelter and support.

  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Many shelters need help serving meals, providing basic needs, or simply spending time with those who are staying there. Contact a local shelter to find out how you can help.
  • Collect blankets, backpacks, and other essentials for a local homeless shelter. Find out what items are needed most and organize a drive to collect donations from friends, family, and members of your parish.
  • Participate in a sleep-out to raise awareness about homelessness. Spend a night outside with only a cardboard box or sleeping bag for shelter, and collect pledges from friends and family to donate to a local homeless shelter.
  • Donate to a charity that provides housing and support for the homeless. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Housing, and Catholic Charities provide affordable housing and support services for those in need.
  • Participate in a fundraising walk or run to support a local homeless shelter or housing program.
  • Get involved with a program that helps the homeless find employment. Many organizations offer job training and placement services to help those who are homeless get back on their feet.
  • Organize a fundraiser to support a local housing program. You can hold a bake sale, car wash, or other event to raise money for a charity in your area which represents this one of the Corporal Works of Mercy
  • Volunteer at a food bank or pantry that serves the homeless. Many homeless individuals also struggle with food insecurity, and these organizations provide essential support.
  • Advocate for policies and programs that support the homeless. Write letters to your local elected officials and encourage them to support affordable housing initiatives and other programs that help those in need.

The Corporal Works of Mercy: Visit the Sick

“Visit the Sick” is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy, which encourages us to show compassion and care for those who are ill, injured, or otherwise in need of physical and emotional support.

  • Visit patients at a local hospital or nursing home. Spend time with patients who may be lonely or in need of company. You can read to them, play games, or simply offer a listening ear.
  • Collect toys, games, and other items for children in hospitals. Deliver the donations and spend time with the children who are staying there.
  • Participate in a blood drive. Donating blood is a critical need in many hospitals and can help save lives.
  • Offer to run errands or provide transportation for someone who is sick. Those who are sick may not be able to do basic tasks like grocery shopping or driving themselves to appointments.
  • Organize a bake sale or fundraiser to support a local hospital or medical charity. You can donate the proceeds to a charity like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or another organization which represents this one of the Corporal Works of Mercy.
  • Make cards or crafts to deliver to patients in hospitals or nursing homes. These small gestures can bring joy and comfort to those who are feeling down.
  • Visit someone who is homebound or unable to leave their home. Offer to bring groceries, run errands, or simply spend time with them.
  • Volunteer with a hospice organization. Many hospice programs need volunteers to provide companionship and support to those who are facing the end of their lives.
  • Participate in a fundraiser for medical research. There are many organizations which represent this one of the Corporal Works of Mercy, raise funds for medical research that can help improve the lives of those who are sick.
  • Offer to pray for those who are sick. Prayer can be a powerful source of comfort and support for those who are facing health challenges.

The Corporal Works of Mercy: Visit Those in Prison

“Visit Those in Prison” is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy, which reminds us to reach out to those who are incarcerated and offer them support, encouragement, and hope.

  • Volunteer with a local prison ministry. Many organizations provide support and outreach to those who are incarcerated and their families. Find one in your area and offer your time and energy to support their efforts.
  • Write letters to prisoners. Many inmates are isolated and alone, and receiving letters from outside can bring them comfort and hope. Check with your local prison or ministry to find out how to participate in a letter writing program.
  • Participate in a fundraiser to support prison outreach programs. You can organize a walk-a-thon, car wash, or other event to raise money for organizations that represent this one of the Corporal Works of Mercy by providing support and assistance to prisoners and their families.
  • Advocate for restorative justice programs in your community. Restorative justice programs focus on rehabilitation and repairing harm caused by crime, rather than solely punishing offenders.
  • Donate books, magazines, or other reading materials to a prison library. Many prisons have libraries that offer educational materials and reading materials to inmates.
  • Participate in a service project to support children of incarcerated parents. Many organizations provide support and assistance to children who have parents in prison, and may need help with things like school supplies, clothing, and basic needs.
  • Participate in a letter writing campaign to advocate for prison reform. Write letters to your elected officials or to the editor of your local newspaper, urging them to support initiatives that can improve the prison system and reduce recidivism.
  • Support charities that provide support to families of prisoners. Organizations like Angel Tree and the Osborne Association provide support and assistance to families of prisoners, who may be struggling with the emotional and financial challenges of having a loved one in prison.
  • Attend a restorative justice conference or event. These events can provide opportunities to learn more about restorative justice practices and connect with others who are working to improve the criminal justice system.

The Corporal Works of Mercy: Bury the Dead

“Bury the Dead” is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy, which encourages us to show compassion and care for those who have passed away, as well as their loved ones who are grieving.

  • Attend a wake or funeral of someone from your community, even if you didn’t know them well. This can be a way to show support for the family and offer condolences.
  • Participate in a cemetery cleanup or beautification project. Many cemeteries need help with tasks like clearing brush, planting flowers, or repairing headstones.
  • Make a donation to a charity that supports funeral costs for those in need. Look for organization which represent this one of the Corporal Works of Mercy bu providing resources and support for those who need help with funeral expenses.
  • Offer to help plan or organize a funeral for someone in your community who may not have family or support. This can be a way to honor their life and show compassion to those who are grieving.
  • Make a memorial donation to a charity in memory of a loved one who has passed away. You can donate to a charity that was meaningful to the person who passed away or to a cause that supports a cause they cared about.
  • Provide a meal or snacks for those who are attending a funeral or memorial service. This can be a way to show support and offer comfort to those who are grieving.
  • Participate in a flag decorating event at a local cemetery. Many cemeteries hold events to decorate gravesites with American flags on patriotic holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
  • Visit a cemetery and pay respects to those who have passed away. You can place flowers, say a prayer, or simply spend some quiet time in reflection.
  • Make a card or provide a meal for a family who has recently lost a loved one. These small gestures can show support and offer comfort during a difficult time.
  • Participate in a grief support group or bereavement program. These programs can offer support and resources for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

The Corporal Works of Mercy: Give Alms to the Poor

“Give Alms to the Poor” is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy, which calls us to provide for the material needs of those who are most vulnerable and in need of support.

  • Donate money to a local charity that serves the poor. There are many organizations that provide food, clothing, shelter, and other essentials to those in need.
  • Participate in a fundraising walk or run to support a local charity. Many organizations which represent this one of the Corporal Works of Mercy hold events to raise money and awareness for their programs.
  • Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food bank. These organizations provide food and support to those who are struggling with food insecurity.
  • Organize a clothing drive to collect donations of new or gently used clothing for those in need. Contact a local charity to find out what items are most needed.
  • Donate to a microfinance organization that supports entrepreneurs in developing countries. These organizations provide small loans and support to help people start businesses and lift themselves out of poverty.
  • Give up a treat you enjoy for a few days and donate the money you saved to a local charity that serves the poor. This can be a way to practice self-denial and support those in need at the same time.
  • Participate in a fundraiser for a charity that provides support to those in poverty. You can organize a car wash, bake sale, or other event to raise money for a local charity.
  • Volunteer with a local homeless outreach program. Many organizations provide support and assistance to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • Donate to a charity that provides clean water, education, or other support to people in developing countries. Research an organization which represents this one of the Corporal Works of Mercy by working to improve the lives of those in poverty around the world.
  • Participate in a service project to support a local community in need. You can help build a house, repair a community center, or provide support to a neighborhood that is struggling.

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Comments

2 responses to “The Corporal Works of Mercy”

  1. Kranti Kumar Polishetti Avatar
    Kranti Kumar Polishetti

    it was a great discovery for me on the topic of corporal works of mercy. thank you

  2. Russ Brumm Avatar
    Russ Brumm

    How does ‘a stranger and you welcomed me’ become ‘shelter the homeless’? Homeless people often live in the same community for many years, and immigrants and refugees often get initial help with housing, but still need to be welcomed.

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