St. Teresa of Calcutta was one of the most prolific missionaries of modern times.
Not everyone is called to missionary work, but we are all called to holiness.
When we thank God for the vital work of the Church throughout the world and the missionaries changing lives all over, it’s easy for those living in a domestic church — that is, a home — to feel as though they aren’t doing enough.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, perhaps one of the most prolific missionaries of modern times, encouraged people to find their own Calcutta — that is, to find the people in need of help close by and minister to them. Here in the Milwaukee area and in our own homes, we have ample opportunities to live out both the corporal and the spiritual acts of mercy.
Feed the Hungry
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” This, perhaps, is the most straightforward bit of service I perform each day. Deep in the trenches with little ones, I am often filling and refilling cups and plates.
If you hope to provide food and drink outside your own home, Capuchin Community Services is a great place to start. Drop nonperishable food donations on weekdays at House of Peace Food Pantry (1702 W. Walnut) from 1 to 3 p.m. or at St. Ben’s (930 W. State St.) between 9 and 11 a.m. Pick up a box for the Holiday Meal program and shop with your kids to provide a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner to a family in need.
Visit the Sick and Imprisoned
Though things have certainly changed since the advent of the pandemic, making it harder to provide in-person comfort to those in need, they do not have to suffer alone. A phone call, a note, a care package or a meal train are all ways to share God’s love with someone in the midst of their struggle. Those in need of your help may not even know what to ask for, so offering concrete forms of assistance may help. For example: “I’m going to the grocery store, can I pick up something for you?” or “I’m taking my kids to the park; would your kids like to join while you have some time for yourself?” Set reminders to keep checking in periodically. There is often a rush of people at the beginning of a difficult time and very little help as the situation continues.
“I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:36)
If you feel called to minister to those who are imprisoned, we are fortunate that the Dismas Ministry is located right in our own backyard. Named for St. Dismas, the man executed with Jesus who asked him to “remember me when you enter your kingdom,” this organization corresponds with inmates and provides Catholic bibles and other faith materials.
Shelter the Homeless
The St. Vincent de Paul Society, Fr. Gene’s Help Center and Catholic Charities all do great work here. You can give in multiple ways — through in-kind donations such as furniture, household goods, clothing or a financial contribution.
Counsel the Doubtful
No one expects us to be out there giving college-level lectures each day. That said, we should give ourselves credit where it is due — raising faithful Catholics isn’t easy. Children need constant guidance as they develop a relationship with Christ and work to become their best selves. As their primary Catechists, the work we do to form our children is essential to the future of the Church and the world.
St. Josemaria Escriva once said, “Don’t Say: ‘That person gets on my nerves.’ Think: ‘That person sanctifies me.’” It can be hard to realize the sanctification you are undergoing in more stressful days, but by inviting Jesus in, we can allow his grace an opportunity to work in us. Praying for those who hurt us and offering up any pain or resentment can heal us, even when they do not ask us for our forgiveness.
Prayer is powerful. If you are fortunate enough to belong to the Milwaukee Catholic Mamas Facebook group, the power of prayer is harnessed daily with a post for petitions. Your church bulletin, the petitions of the Holy Father and the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests are other good places to start. Pray for the individuals in your life, both those important to you and even those with whom you have a brief encounter.
As we prepare for the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed on Nov. 2, an easy way to live out this act of mercy is to visit a cemetery and pray for the Souls in Purgatory. A plenary indulgence can be earned for the church penitent by those in a state of grace who visit a cemetery and devoutly pray for the departed between Nov. 1 and 8.
Though these ideas are a start, if you are looking for more, the USCCB has a great list of more (https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/jubilee-of-mercy/the-corporal-works-of-mercy), but please know that ministering to your family is in itself an important and essential ministry. As Mother Teresa once said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”