Want to 'take up,' rather than 'give up' something for Lent? Try the Acts of Mercy.

This Lent, America's staff isn't just giving things up, we're also taking things up.

One place to start? With the Corporal Works of Mercy, which all Catholics are called to practice in their personal lives. 

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America's managing editor Kerry Weber, author of the book 'Mercy in the City,' explains below what the works are, and how you can bring them into your own spiritual practice this Lent. 

Shelter the homeless: 

How to do it: Open your home to those who need a place to rest --not only to the literal homeless, but to those who need to feel at home. A homesick coworker? A lonely acquaintance? Says Weber, sheltering the homeless is all about "growing the walls of your heart." 

Visit the imprisoned: 

How to do it: "We're called to recognize that people in prison are still human, still connected to us," explains Weber. Still, she says "we don't need to be behind bars to feel trapped." Can you reach out in charity to someone trapped by their circumstances and, in a spirit of generosity with your time, or money, help them to be freed? Can you "choose to love, to let go of anger and grudges" as Weber suggests? Can you ask God to free you from a prison that traps you in a way of thinking or acting? 

Visit the sick: 

 

How to do it: "It can be uncomfortable to deal with the messiness of illness. Sometimes there's little we can do but sit by someone's side," Weber notes.  "We must be willing to answer that call to service again and again. Not to hide behind our doubts, our fear or our pride." Who in your life is physically or mentally unwell? Can you overcome your discomfort or doubt to let them know that you are there for them? Can you change a bandage, serve them a meal, or just hold their hand? 

Clothe the naked: 

How to do it: "Maybe we shouldn't be holding onto closets full of clothes long after we've stopped wearing them. Maybe we don't need 10 or 12 different sweaters, just a few," says Weber. What does what's in your closet--and on your body today--say about you? Weber explains: St. Basil said "the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked." Does protecting your own possessions keep you from generously loving and giving? Can you re-evaluate what it is that you wear, and instead choose to put on a garment of love?

Give drink to the thirsty: 

How to do it: "Every day, millions of people must walk miles for water, or fear that their water is not clean enough to drink," Weber explains. "Similarly, we are called to pay attention to our own use of water" perhaps in the form of an over-reliance on wasteful water bottles or long showers. There's a spiritual element to thirst, Weber adds, saying "when we drink fully of [God's living] waters our spirits are replenished and we're better able to serve others." 

Bury the dead: 

How to do it: Pray for the dead. Bury grudges that you've been holding onto. Send cards to the surviving family members or offer to make a meal to help them through a difficult time. In the video, Weber reflects on the individual lives marked by gravestones in the cemeteries that surround our neighborhoods. Do we stop and learn from the communion of saints that preceded us?  

Feed the hungry: 

How to do it: Weber explains: "When it's possible, maybe we can offer some food. When that's not possible, maybe a dollar or two or a donation to a shelter. And when we can't do that, just try to give people your time. Take a second to smile, to acknowledge the humanity and the dignity of people around you. Try to be present, if only for a moment. Because so many people in this world hunger for that recognition. We want to know that we are loved. And when we are present to each other we become examples of Christ's love."

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