Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Works of Mercy Bouquet: Part 3

This is the third in my series on the works of mercy and how to live them in everyday life.  You can find posts about feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty in the archives.  The Works of Mercy are integral to living our faith, yet they are often overlooked because we do not know how to do them even though we know that we should.  Also, as parents we must teach the Faith to our children, but teaching does not mean just book knowledge.  To truly teach Faith, a Faith that is ingrained on the soul and in the heart and throughout the mind, it must be lived.  As St Paul said, "Faith without works is dead."

Here are five ways that you and your family can learn to clothe the naked and so be the hands and feet of Christ here on earth.


In the Gospel of Luke,  John the Baptist says, "The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none"  We all have more than one shirt, and St John is not advocating only having one outfit.  However, how many of us have 10 or 15 or even 25 shirts?  How many of us have clothes that we haven't worn in a few seasons, or even clothes that we don't know that we have?  It is common to clean out the closets at the end of seasons and "dispose" of those items that don't fit or we wouldn't want to be seen wearing.  There surely is a need for every garment we can give, and no reason to fill landfills with excessive waste because we no longer like the color or the collar is faded when there are those who are truly naked.  However, the challenge comes in giving not just what we don't want but what we want to share.  In the process of filling bags with the cast offs, choose an item or two that you still wear, that you still enjoy, that is still fashionable.  Give that!  Sacrificially clear out your closets and drawers, you will be blessed, I assure you.  When you then go to reach for that item and find it missing, you can pray for the person who received it and know that someone is wearing your favorite outfit and looks amazing.


This may not actually count as a different means of living this Work of Mercy, but research where you bring your clothes and find a way to give twice.  At our church,we have an annual clothing drive fundraiser and just recently installed a drop bin for the same purpose.  Clothing is sorted and sent to third world nations in desperate need of clothing.  They are willing to take items that other drives won't like clothes with small stains or mismatched socks (Now, I am not advocating giving the poor junky clothing, but let's be honest there are many items that are deemed unacceptable by our society that are still very much usable and comfortable.  Why throw them into the landfill? Half of all unwanted clothing in the USA ends up in the trash.)  The charity then pays the fundraising church a small amount per a pound of clothing collected.  It is a win for everyone involved.

If this type of fundraiser isn't available in your area, seek out thrift shops that either give the clothing away for free or fundraise for charity work.  My favorite thrift store not only sells items at amazing prices, but also uses every penny earned to fund mission trips to South America.  They also provide items for free to anyone who cannot afford to pay.  I know when I bring items there, they will be put to good use many times over!


Like the other corporal works of mercy, there is a spiritual dimension to this work.  It is  not just clothing the body, it is clothing the soul in dignity.  Clothing the body is necessary and protective, but what if you could touch someone's soul, too?  A little girl had just that idea and Hannah's Socks was created.  The premise is to provide new socks and under garments to homeless and impoverished people to help them feel a sense of dignity and comfort. This small amount of normalcy can make a big difference in the life of someone suffering through being unwanted or marginalized.

This is a very easy way to serve the poor.  Collect socks and undergarments and then find a homeless shelter or clothing charity to distribute the items to those who come in looking for some basics of life.


Now that you have cleaned out your closet, supported a clothing ministry or fundraiser, parted with that favorite sweater, and purchased some new underwear, what more is there to do?  How about giving of your time and talent, not just your stuff?  Do you know how to knit or crochet?  Can you sew?  You can make the world of difference for someone.

As our pastor would say, "Let's begin with a story." It was 2007, we were barely getting by and sweating every penny despite working as hard as we could.  The phone rang one day and I was offered a free two night stay at a resort about 3 hours away if I would just listen to a half hour presentation on time shares while there.  We so needed a little break.  I calculated out the price of gas to scrimp and save up before we went.  We packed up easy to prepare foods to cook lunch and dinner (breakfast was included) in the efficiency style suite.  We knew that we had no money to spend on entertainment and more than once really wondered how we would even cover the gas, but getting away for a couple of days seemed to be just what we needed.  The room was beautiful and big.  The area looked a whole lot like home but still was a nice change of scenery.  We heated up our simple supper, tucked Cowgirl into bed, and watched a little movie on the television.  Life was good.  In the morning, we woke up and started getting ready for breakfast.  The tile in the kitchen area was shiny black and so slippery.  Cowgirl only had socks on as she had hidden her shoes and I was searching for them.  She suddenly took off in a run.  My husband opened his mouth to say, "Stop running before you slip and hit your head," but only got as far as "St.." before we heard the slam of her head on the concrete floor.  She screamed for an hour straight, her pupils were dilating then shrinking to pin holes right before my eyes.  That was when we got scared. We put her in the car and tried to find the closest hospital  She vomited four times on the way there, it was a less than 10 minute drive.  We were away from home, out of extra clothes for Cowgirl, and wondering how in the world we would now pay for the emergency room bill when we couldn't even afford to buy our daughter an ice cream cone.  We sat there with a naked toddler and a disgusting car seat calculating how to even get her back to the hotel.  Then a sweet nurse walked in and handed us a hand knit blanket from Project Linus.  I can't tell you how much it meant to us.  Cowgirl thought the ER was the best part of the trip, a free blanket and an ice pop!  Her concussion was minor but still so scary.

Providing a blanket, sweater, or even hat through charities like Project Linus or World Vision Knits for Kids does more than clothe nakedness, it provides hope and the knowledge that someone cares.


The ultimate nakedness is vulnerability and dependency.  The aged, infirmed, and unborn are the most naked of our society.  They need us to clothe them in help, love, and protection.  If you want to clothe the naked, start with restoring dignity to all life.  Without dignity, even the best dressed person is left exposed and rejected.  We must support pro-life efforts within our community and parish, and teach our children about the value and sacredness of every life!

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