Thursday, April 24, 2008

How Do We Serve? The Works of Mercy

Christians serve others in an infinite variety of ways. It is part of the diversity that makes us a universal Church.

We do not all have the same gifts, talents, or abilities, so of course we would not all serve in the same way.

St. Paul tells us, though, that while there are many types of gifts, there is but One Spirit. So no matter what we are doing to serve others, we are all united in our efforts to build up the Kingdom of God.

For centuries the Church has used 14 categories to describe the different types of service that we do, and these are given a special name- the Works of Mercy.

We are encouraged to "Be merciful just as our Heavenly Father is merciful" and so we see our service not merely as doing a job, but as sharing God's love and mercy with other people.

The Works of Mercy are split into two groups: Corporal & Spiritual.

The Corporal Works of Mercy - these are the physical or "bodily" things we can do to share God's love and mercy with others.

1. Feed the Hungry - we can give food directly to those in need, or we can raise money to provide food for food pantries. We can also volunteer our time working at a food pantry or distribution center. Finally, we can raise awareness of those suffering from extreme hunger in other parts of the world and encourage governments, organizations, and individuals to offer them help.

2. Give Drink to the Thristy - few of us have ever known real thirst. We are blessed to live in a country where clean water is readily available. However, there are places in our world where people do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. Research the efforts that are being made to increase people's access to clean water. Find out what you can do to help one of these organizatoins.

3. Clothe the Naked - It has often been said that "Clothes do not make the man." While it is true that clothing is not the most important thing, there are people who lack the right clothes for work, for job interviews, or for their children. One of the easiest ways to perform this work of mercy is to clean out your own closet and encourage family members to do the same. While places like Goodwill are glad to take your donations, look for homeless shelters or other programs that will give the clothes to those in need rather than sell it to them. You can also start a clothing drive in your neighborhood, church, athletic team, or club. You can always donate to the one here at CRHS in the spring.

4. Care for the Sick - Everyone knows what it's like to have a cold or flu. For most of us it is an irritation or discomfort that goes away in a week. For people with serious health problems illness is something they have to live with everyday. The least we can do in this regard is to visit those who are sick. This can mean volunteering at a Children's Hospital like Riley or Peyton Manning / St. Vincent where sick children from all over the midwest receive care. It can also mean visiting patients in a hospice or a nursing home, or even raising money to fund research for cures or treatments.

5. Shelter the Homeless - having a place to call "home" is a very basic human need. While it is not safe or advisable for us to take the homeless into our own homes, we can still help those who have no place to lay their heads. You can volunteer at a homeless shelter which provides short term housing. You can also participate with Habitat for Humanity which builds homes for families in need. This work of mercy can also extend to helping people who cannot afford it make repairs to their homes - but only do this one if you have the skill and knowledge for such projects.

6. Visit the Imprisoned - People make mistakes - bad choices - and have to suffer the consequences of those choices. Sometimes, for the safety of society, those consequences mean serving a prison sentence. However, prison is intended to provide the offender with an opportunity to reform - to change his or her life and avoid bad choices in the future. However, it can be difficult to want to change if you feel like everyone on the "outside" has already written you off as a criminal. Various Prison Ministry programs provide hope and help for those wanting to reform. For safety reasons prison ministry is usually something that only adults can do. However, if you are interested, ask at your church or parish for ways you can help support the efforts of prison ministry programs.

7. Bury the Dead - though at one time this work of mercy was to quite literally provide a grave for a deceased person that is not what we are meant to do today. Our society has laws and procedures regarding how the deceased are handled. However, this work of mercy has evolved and is still relevant in society today. Have you ever wondered what becomes a homeless person when they die? Or what about the elderly person who has no family, no friends, and no money? Usually these people are placed in graves in what are sometimes called "Potter's Fields". The only people present at the grave side are the people physically placing the casket into the grave.

Some young men at a St. Ignatius Catholic High School in Cleveland, Ohio decided that they wanted to live this Work of Mercy on behalf of those who depart from this life alone. They created a group called the Society of St. Joseph of Arimathea. (This is the St. Joseph who in the Gospels requested the body of Jesus from Pontius Pilate and placed it in his own tomb.) These young men serve as pallbearers at funerals for people who would otherwise have no one. They also perform a brief grave side prayer service for the departed.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lucious Newsom & the Lord's Pantry

From the Indianapolis Star (September 9, 2007)

Lucious Newsom's story
Lucious Newsom, 91, has spent more than 20 years handing out free food to the poor in Indianapolis through his Lord's Pantry ministry. In summer 2006, he opened a community center in Stringtown named Anna's House for Anna Malloy, a little girl who has been a devoted volunteer for his ministry. The center provides education, medical care, tutoring and free food to those who need it.
"I'm 91 years old, and I've been in Indianapolis for 21 years. I came here for this cause. I had seen the Mozel Sanders dinner and I thought that was great, that Thanksgiving Day. But then that Friday, I wanted to help again and I was told that they only do this once a year. I thought it was very disgraceful to feed over 20,000 people one day and then your food's so good, it'll last a whole year.
"I'm from Chattanooga, Tenn., and I lived kind of in the mountains. I wasn't used to seeing a lot of people where people didn't help them.
"What motivated me to come to Indianapolis? To see the poor being exploited by people who professed to be serving the poor, and they were really using them. They were not. They weren't doing it to the glory of God. They were just doing it for their own edification.
"I have given up everything to serve the Lord. I'm no longer a seasoning manufacturer. I gave it away -- gave it to my children . . . to my wife, so they could live. And I don't get any funds from home. I live by faith. That's how I live, and doing pretty good, ain't I? Ain't lost any weight.
"My life is given over to the Lord Jesus to do with me as he sees fit. I'm not my own. I now belong to Jesus, all of me -- my hands, my feet, my voice, all of me now belong to Jesus. And I serve him, not the poor.
"I don't consider the people as the poor. I consider these people as me being able to serve Jesus through them for whatsoever you do to the least of them, Jesus said, you do it also to me.
"I beg. All the food that you see in here this morning I begged. We pay utility bills, rent. We bury the dead. Last year, we buried six people out of this community who had no funeral expense money, and we were blessed to be able to go out and get the money and bury them.
"Poverty will never go away. It's not meant to go away. I'm a Bible believer, and Jesus said the poor you will have with you always. They will never go away. They'll always be here.
"I can't help these older people. I can't get them out of poverty. But all of these young ones that come through here, they're gonna be scientists, doctors, attorneys, nurses, secretaries . . . you name it. The cream of the crop is gonna come right from this town. 'Cause if we help them to get a good education, I'm gonna guarantee you they won't be in poverty.
"Just every time you get an opportunity, do some good for somebody who don't have it. It will make you richer for doing it.
"That's what the Lord's Pantry is really all about. We're about serving the Lord. It's not about Lucious or anybody else."

Until next time, serve faithfully.
Mr. Basso

Monday, September 17, 2007

Christian Service Lesson 1: The Source of Our Call to Serve

Initial Question: Why Do Christians Serve Others?

Curriculum Standards:
9. Discipleship – baptism as the source of our Christian Vocation
13. Community Service - the call to participate in society

Scripture Passage:
John 13: 3 – 15 The washing of the disciples’ feet.
Christ, teacher and master, humbles himself to serve the disciples. He then gives them the commandment to follow his example.
“You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Catechism Passages
1241 at baptism we are anointed “Priest, Prophet, and King”, which gives us a call to share in Prayer, Preaching, and Service.
1260 – 70 Baptism makes us members of the Church and places on us the responsibility to serve others.

1905 – 06 we have a responsibility to provide for the Common Good
1924 – 26 brief explanation of the Common Good and its requirements
Key Terms
- Responsibility / Duty: an action or aspect of one’s life for which he is accountable. A task one must ensure is done properly and fully.
- Humility: in regard to others it is the state of not seeing one as superior to one’s neighbor, born out of the conviction that all people are Children of God, made in His image, and bear within them a permanent dignity.
- Obedience: the moral virtue and evangelical counsel that leads us to submit to the Law / Will of God.

Reflection Questions
1. Why do you think people often feel as though we are “too good” to perform certain tasks? (be sure to then point the question back on students themselves)
2. What are your responsibilities? What makes something a responsibility? (Is it only the negative consequences of not performing it? Is it tied to a specific role you fill?)
3. Is obedience simply doing what you’re told without asking questions or is there more to it than that? (what motivates us to be obedient?)

Suggested Activity / Service Opportunity
1. Make a list five of your responsibilities and post them in your locker or inside your planner (or somewhere at home). Check daily to see how you are doing at fulfilling those responsibilities.
2. Go out of your way to help someone that you would normally consider “below” you. Be sure to do it in a way that respects their dignity and is not patronizing.

Saintly Quote
“Every good work for others - especially for the suffering and those not considered to be worth much - is a service of the washing of feet.” Pope Benedict XVI, 2006

Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not count the cost, to fight and not heed the wounds, to toil and not seek for rest, to labor and not ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

- St. Ignatius of Loyola
Until next time, Serve Faithfully.
Mr. B