How to work for mercy at home

Laura Kelly Fanucci



We tend to look outside our walls to ask how we can help. Where are the hungry or homeless in our community? How can we care for those in poverty or prison?

But the works of mercy call us to look closer: to see those around us as Christ, too. Often, it's easier to say we love humanity – but harder to love the human beings in our own home.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus spells out exactly where we can find him and how we must serve each other: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me" (Mt 25:35-36).

What corporal work of mercy could you practice at home? Pray for the courage to take the step and ask how God is calling you to love others in body and soul.

Feed the hungry. As you make breakfast, plan lunches, cook dinner or pack snacks, do you stop to consider your work as holy? What if you saw each meal you served in your home – to family or friends, or anyone at your table – as a chance to break bread with Christ? Showing hospitality to strangers is a chance to entertain angels unawares (Heb 13:2), but those same grace-filled possibilities also extend to welcoming toddlers and teenagers to our tables.

Give drink to the thirsty. My home collects empty water glasses like it's the latest TikTok trend, but I try to remind myself each time a thirsty child asks for a cup that Christ himself said he'd show up in this way (Mt 10:42). You may find your family thirsting for more than drinks. Can you pour out extra compassion, forgiveness or patience even when your well is running dry?

Shelter the homeless. As fewer families raise their kids with a foundation of faith, any chance we have to welcome a houseguest is an opportunity to share what we love. Whether we open our doors to relatives from out of town or teenagers needing a stable place to stay, we can welcome each person as Christ. Whatever we have can be given in love: the best towels, the nicest soap, the softest pillows; or even an old sheet stretched across a basement couch.

Visit the sick. Whenever I keep vigil with a sick child, I think of a friend who has a calling to care for the sick. She's not a doctor or a nurse, but a true companion to those who are sick in the hospital or at home with hospice. Watching her rearrange her schedule to make space for the suffering has stretched my heart to care for my sick family with greater mercy and love.

Visit the prisoners. Unless someone we love is in jail, it's easy to forget the real humans who are incarcerated. Beyond the headlines and prison bars are beloved children of God who may have committed horrific crimes – but still bear the image of their Creator. Can we remember them within the comfort and freedom of our own homes – praying for their needs, supporting prison ministry or becoming a pen pal to a prisoner?

Bury the dead. Visit a local cemetery to pray for the dead. Remember a relative by sending a card to their family on the anniversary of their death. Include in your prayers all who will die alone this day. Burying the dead may not be a regular occurrence in your home (thank God); but caring for those who have died and supporting those who mourn can become a daily practice.

Give alms to the poor. Almsgiving can become a family affair: learning more about local or global issues, choosing organizations to support, and fasting from extra spending to give more.

Families care for bodies, from the newborn to the elder. The corporal works of mercy are right at home here, too.

Laura Kelly Fanucci writes the "Faith at Home" column for Catholic News Service.