When preparing for Lent we often think about what we could give up for that forty days. The most popular is sweets, such as candy and cake. But have you ever thought about what you could do for Lent besides only giving up something? Kerry Weber asks herself this question in her book, Mercy In The City. She felt just giving up sweets and alcohol is not enough, but that she needed to do something more meaningful and challenging. She says, “giving something up is a good reminder to do something more.” Weber was determined to also complete all of the Corporal Works of Mercy within the 40 days of lent.
She lists them as: Feed the hungry, Give drink to the thirsty, Clothe the naked, Harbor the harborless (aka shelter the homeless), Visit the sick, Ransom the captive (aka visit the imprisoned), and Bury the dead. She also decides to make a mercy to-do list, but later discovers that the to-do list needs to be thrown out. You cannot just check off the work of mercy that you did that day and be done with it. You need to incorporate it into your daily life to be vigilant for unexpected works of mercy opportunities.
I enjoyed reading her journey during those forty days. She started working a breadline in New York, where she lives, in order to feed the hungry, hands out water to runners in order to give drink to the thirsty, purged her closet to clothe the naked. She was brave enough to volunteer overnight at a homeless shelter of all men to harbor the haborless.Sshe visited a prison alongside a priest and had several meaningful conversations with Catholic prisoners, and the retirement home for the Sisters of Mercy were happy to have her visit the sick and vulnerable, but she does have trouble figuring out how to bury the dead. How would she complete this work of mercy?
Throughout the book, there are several saints mentioned: St. Anthony, St. Francis, St. Ignatius, and St. Dismas to name a few. The more I read, the more I realized her love and admiration for the saints, and in the last chapter she confirms that. Realizing that her works of mercy do not end with Lent, she joins the Mercy Associates, a group that commit themselves to their community, to prayer, and justice. Before completing the Works of Mercy during Lent, she was on the fence about making such a big commitment. but after Lent she had no doubt in her mind about joining.
Mercy in the City is an inspiring and motivational read for those seeking to do more. You don’t have to conquer the world to make a difference right where you are.