Engaging in Works of Mercy as a family

By Derek Rotty

I have just written elsewhere that Lent is about conversion, and that the works of mercy are a primary way of turning more fully toward Jesus. But, how is that supposed to work for families? After all, kids have lots of sports practices, they need to be bathed, and, at the end of the day, we’re exhausted from “the parent life.”

I have just a couple of recommendations. First of all, I recommend beginning with small steps. As families, we don’t have to perform a huge project each day or each week. Perhaps our families should just add one simple work of mercy during the whole Lenten season. If your family already does one work of mercy really well, think about adding a second opportunity to do that same work; or, consider engaging in a different work of mercy.

Finally, my other recommendation is to remember that the spiritual works of mercy are important, too. They’re great for families, especially those with small children who find it harder to get out and around. Each night at dinner, or before bed, allow each child in your family to pray for a classmate, a family member or someone on the parish sick list.

In my family, we ask each of our children if they know someone who needs God’s blessing today. As we pray in this way, we must be sure to remind the children that prayers are every bit as necessary and powerful as feeding the hungry or building shelters for the homeless.

This type of practice will cultivate habits of prayer in our children. Then, as they grow, they will feel compelled to go beyond the spiritual works to the corporal works of mercy as well. Start young, and it will develop into something beautiful as they get older!

Derek Rotty is a husband, father of five, full-time lay Catholic minister and author of “A Life of Conversion: Meeting Christ in the Gospels.” He will speak at St. Dominic March 19 at 7 p.m. on “Conversion, Repentance and the Works of Mercy” for the Holy Name Society and the National Shrine of Blessed John of Vercelli.

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