The Year of Mercy Family Challenge

by | Feb 18, 2016 | Catholic Living, Pope Francis, Printables | 18 comments

It’s the Year of Mercy! But hopefully you already knew that, as I’ve been meaning to write this post since, um, November.

We’ve been making an effort to be mindful of the Year of Mercy in our home, and we came up with a Year of Mercy Family Challenge to go with it. Perhaps you’d like to play along?

Our neighborhood parish, where we attend daily Mass, just happens to be the Holy Door parish for this area, so it was easy for us to head through it, receive communion and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and get to confession within a reasonable amount of time. (Defined as “about twenty days.”) Yay for plenary indulgences!
We could technically get one plenary indulgence EVERY DAY, all we’d need to do is go to daily Mass and monthly confession. We are usually at daily Mass more like three times per week, but we’ll see what we can do.
But we also wanted to figure out a way to, as Pope Francis has suggested, incorporate the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy into our year.
We’ve already discussed how I think I’m getting a pretty good dose of that stuff as a stay at home mom. But I also hoped there might be a less tongue-in-cheek way to get our whole family aware of, and involved in the Works of Mercy.

Here they are . . .

 The Corporal Works of Mercy
  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the imprisoned
  • Bury the dead
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
  • Admonish the sinner
  • Instruct
    the ignorant
  • Counsel the doubtful
  • Comfort the sorrowful
  • Bear wrongs patiently
  • Forgive all injuries
  • Pray for the living and the dead
It’s easy to read that list and think, “Yeah. I’m not going to be able to do any of that. I need to make dinner and get these library books turned in.” Or, “I can’t let my kids do that stuff!”

But, hopefully, it’s all in how you approach it.  

Our kids range from six months to thirteen years old. We think our school-aged kids are old enough to really take ownership of the works of mercy this year, but even the little kids can become more familiar with them, and participate with help. The husband
and I plan to participate too. Below you’ll find some ideas for each
of the works of mercy. Some might seem too hard, some might seem too
easy. I’m hoping that there will be a “just right” in there for everyone, but of course, the lists are just a jumping off point. Flexibility is recommended. Some things we will do as a planned family activity, some things the kids will be on the look out for opportunities to do individually.

Much of the following is inspired by The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (No. 2) I highly recommend it, as well as the First Communion Catechism, and the Pink Catechism No. 1.

The corporal works of mercy are pretty straightforward, but most take some planning and effort. They put our
focus on taking care of people physically. This is an important thing to
do out of basic Christian charity, of course, but also, the corporal
works of mercy set the stage for the spiritual ones. If people’s basic
physical needs are not met, they are unlikely to be particularly
receptive to being admonished or counseled or even forgiven.

Feed the hungry:

  • volunteer at a soup kitchen
  • make sandwiches and hand them out to homeless people
  • bring a meal to a family with a new baby
  • bring a meal to a family having a difficult time
  • share food with a friend or sibling
  • make dinner for your family
  • throw a dinner party for friends you don’t think could afford a nice dinner
  • don’t throw a dinner party and donate the money you would have spent
  • eat beans and rice for a week and donate your grocery money

Give drink to the thirsty:

  • give water to someone working in your neighborhood
  • set up a lemonade stand and donate the money you make
  • give out water bottles at an event on a hot day

Clothe the naked:

  • clean out your closets and donate your unneeded clothing
  • organize a charity clothing drive
  • offer to help sort clothing at your local pregnancy resource center
  • do the laundry for your family
  • help a younger sibling get dressed

Visit the imprisoned (people can often feel imprisoned in ways other than being in jail):

  • visit an imprisoned friend or family member
  • write a letter to an imprisoned friend or family member
  • visit an old folks home, or a lonely member of your parish
  • offer to babysit for a mother of all young children
  • offer to babysit a younger sibling for your mom

Shelter the homeless:

  • donate food or blankets to a homeless shelter
  • donate to disaster relief services
  • take in a foster child
  • take in a needy relative
  • help an elderly neighbor with home repairs

Visit the sick:

  • visit a friend or family member in the hospital
  • visit a nursing home
  • look after a sick member of your family at home
  • help an old or sick person with errands or chores

Bury the dead:

  • go to a funeral (yes, even kids)
  • visit a cemetery and put flowers on graves
  • learn about your ancestors

The spiritual works of mercy require less planning ahead but for that and other reasons, they are trickier to get right. Many of them require a relationship with the person you hope to help. Many require tact. But I think we can do this.

Admonish the sinner:

  • set a good example
  • remind a sibling or friend of the rules
  • offer to bring a friend or family member to confession
  • have a calm and loving chat with a person with whom you have a relationship about a particular sinful behavior

Instruct the ignorant:

  • teach a catechism class
  • share a helpful article or blog post in a friendly way
  • lend a good book
  • be an RCIA sponsor or a godparent
  • help a sibling read a book or play a game or learn a prayer

Counsel the doubtful:

  • learn the teachings of the Catholic Church so you’ll have the answer if you get asked a question
  • pray outside an abortion clinic
  • be there to listen to a friend and give good advice
  • reach out to a friend you think might need good advice
  • help a sibling or friend make the right choice

Comfort the sorrowful:

  • visit a friend or family member who is having a difficult time
  • send someone a sympathy card or a care package
  • remember the anniversary of a friend’s miscarriage or loss of a child or spouse
  • read a story or sing a song to a sibling who is feeling sad

Bear wrongs patiently:

  • don’t get mad at other drivers
  • assume the best of people you encounter in real life and online
  • give up a toy that a friend or sibling wants to play with, even though you had it first
  • don’t gossip about the bad behavior of others
  • don’t tattle

Forgive all injuries:

  • forgive a grudge you’ve been holding, even though it was the other guy’s fault
  • call or write to an estranged friend or family member
  • give a friend or sibling a second chance

Pray for the living and the dead:

  • go through the Holy Doors to gain a plenary indulgence for a deceased love one
  • visit a cemetery, especially in November
  • keep a list of prayer intentions
  • say a family rosary

I made up this free printable, so each member of the family can keep track of each of his works of mercy this year. Some will be pretty easy to check off once, but hopefully kids AND grownups will be inspired this year to practice mercy again and again.

As with all my printables, you are welcome to save the images to your
computer for your own personal use. You may print the images and / or
upload them and have prints made for your personal use or to give as
gifts. First click on the image to bring it up in a new window, then
right click on the image to save it to your computer. You may use my
images on your blog, just please link back to my blog. If you would like
to sell my images, please contact me first.

For LOTS MORE free printable prayers, check out my Pinterest board.

And for custom images, old favorites, and prayers, quotes, scripture,
and catechism, available as high quality digital downloads, check out the shop!

The corporal and spiritual works of mercy printables are available for purchase in my Etsy shop in a higher
resolution, without the watermark, in multiple sizes from 5×7 to 16×20,
and also as print-at-home two-sided holy cards. You’ll find them here. Thanks!


Year of Mercy?! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Lemme esplain . . .

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (Latin: Iubilaeum Extraordinarium
Misericordiae) is a Roman Catholic period of prayer held from the Feast
of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), 2015 to the Feast of Christ
the King (November 20), 2016.

A few details:

Also called Holy Years, jubilees normally occur every 25 years. They
feature special celebrations and pilgrimages, calls for conversion and
repentance, and the offer of special opportunities to experience God’s
grace through the sacraments, especially confession.

Extraordinary holy years, such as the Holy Year of Mercy, are less
frequent but offer the same opportunities. The last extraordinary
jubilee was called by St. John Paul II in 1983 to mark the 1,950 years
after the death of Jesus. John Paul also led the last holy year, known
as the “Great Jubilee,” in 2000.

The Year of Mercy called for by Francis is the third “extraordinary” jubilee since the tradition began 700 years ago.

There are Holy Doors involved. THE Holy Door is one particular door in St. Peter’s Basilica:

Pope Francis will open the Holy Door in the basilica. Each
of Rome’s major basilicas has its own holy door, which are
traditionally sealed from the inside and only opened during jubilee
years. The door usually is sealed with bricks as a symbolic reminder of
the barrier of sin between human beings and God.

Those who pass through a Holy Door during this jubilee year will
receive a plenary indulgence, which removes all of the temporal
punishment for sins committed up to that time — provided the recipient
also goes to confession, receives Communion, and prays for the pope.

Planning a trip to Rome with all the kids? Great! I highly recommend it. (See . .  here, when Jack had his First Communion with BXVI and again here, a near miss on the second shot.) Be sure to go through the Holy Door at St. Peter’s. But, if that’s not in the cards for you this year:

On Sunday, Dec. 13, five days after the opening of the jubilee, every
diocese around the world is supposed to open a Holy Door. These doors
can be in the local cathedral or other churches of particular relevance,
such as a Marian shrine.

This will be a historical first, reflecting Pope Francis’ desire that
the jubilee be celebrated on the local level and not just in Rome.

Several dioceses have registered their doors at the jubilee’s website, but thousands still have to do so so they will appear on an interactive Google map made for the occasion.

Wondering if there’s a Holy Door at your parish? Check your diocese website, or just look around for the Year of Mercy logo.

Some folks are pretty weirded out by the logo, but I’m a big fan of the mosaics done by this same artist that we saw on our pilgrimage to Italy. So, I’m going to refrain from comment. 🙂

But, wait, there’s more!

Beyond the opening of the four Holy Doors, there will be monthly
events headed by Pope Francis aimed to shine a light on 14 “works of
mercy,” acts that are intended to be both penance and charity.

These works of mercy are divided into “corporal” and “spiritual,” and
they include feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, sheltering the
homeless, instructing the ignorant, and praying for the living and the

Get all the rest of the details here: Everything you need to know about the Holy Year of Mercy

AND if you’re looking for a way to inspire your kids in this Year of Mercy, what better place to look than the lives of the saints? CCC of America is having a huge sale on their saint movies. This isn’t a sponsored post, my kids just really like these DVDs and I have worked with CCC before, so I wanted to share the sale with you guys.

They are running a 30 day 40% sale on their entire catalog plus bundling the Marian Collection for $25.00 (that’s 60% off retail) and their short
films are on sale for $7.50, perfect for Easter

Click here to go through to their page, then click on “shop” on the top menu.

Now, get out there and be merciful!

This post contains affiliate links.

You might also enjoy . . .

Living the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in the Home. . . with Frankie

Exactly How to be a Good Catholic


  1. Sarah

    Thank you for so many great, and practical,ideas!

  2. AnneMarie

    These are great! I've been focusing a lot on the "bear wrongs patiently" when driving, and it's helped me so much!!!

    • Kendra


      Me too, and I've found it makes a huge difference in my mindset when I acknowledge that I was wronged, and then decide to just move on.

      For the kids too, I can say to them, "Yes. That wasn't very nice, was it? Will you forgive him?" And they almost always decide they will, without me even involving the offending party. I think just to have your concern validated is enough sometimes. 🙂

  3. Heidi Mayleben

    Thank you so much for this! I've been looking for a list like this that includes both formal and everyday sorta things to do. Haven't come across anything like this from any "official" Catholic sources, and it's very helpful! Thank you for speaking my language!

    • Kendra

      You're welcome!

      I really do love the old Baltimore Catechism. I've learned SO much going through them with my kids.

    • Heidi Mayleben

      Maybe that will be my next book purchase! My oldest is only 2, but I have to admit, I buy books for her, when really they're for me!

  4. Melissa

    Thank you for sharing this list! Ever since Pope Francis announced the year of Mercy, I've been feeling a tug to go through and do the works of mercy checklist style, like the little boy in the movie "Little Boy". However, I wasn't sure how I was going to "do" all of them as a stay at home mom of 3 kids (+1 due in 7 weeks) 4 and under. I also wasn't sure if visiting my shut-in neighbor "counts" as visiting the imprisoned. Thank you for this list of ideas! I am printing it off and I (and my family) am going to join you in this challenge for this Year of Mercy. Thanks again!!

    • Kendra

      Absolutely it does!

      And I really think for all of this, it IS the thought that counts. If you chose to mindfully do, even a task you've done before, FOR the Year of Mercy, FOR God, I think you're good.

      Not all lemonade stands are for God. Most probably aren't. But if you choose to make YOUR lemonade stand for God, then it is. Ya know?

  5. Genevieve Rutherford Hawkins Smith

    I sometimes feel so sad by the fact that I can never attend daily Mass, in fact weekly mass is almost impossibble half the year. Then I think about the year of Mercy and I realise that as long as I am mindfully living my life in a way that is pleasing to Our Lord then that is really what counts. (please note that I live over 2 1/2 hours away from our nearest parish down a road that is closed half the year due to weather..

  6. Lindsay Partridge

    Kendra, as always you are such a helpful resource! I have been looking for this information and felt like I didn't quite know what it was I was supposed to do. I felt so "left out" of the Year of Mercy. Now I have a PLAN! Local Holy Door located, schedules obtained, and Reconciliation and Vigil Mass are on the family calendar! I'm so excited. Also, have you come across this recording of the Sistine Chapel Choir singing the Hymn of the Year of Mercy? Stunning. I absolutely adore it, and it has my 3- and 4-year olds wandering around the house singing Latin.

  7. Kristen McKenry

    These are great! Any ideas how to Shelter the Homeless? My (questioning aged kid) is 5 and asks why we can't just invite homeless over to our house. The only thing I can come up with is the Habitat for Humanity builds I've been part of in the past. But then I can't exactly enlist a 5 year old for that kind of work.

    • Kendra

      I can't believe I left one out! I've updated the post. Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

    • Kristen Rabideau

      Another one I would never have thought of- adopting a pet from an animal shelter. Dogs and cats need mercy too I guess 🙂

    • Kendra

      That is a nice thought, and I agree that treating animals humanely is important, because animals were given into our care by God. But. I think that the works of mercy are all rightly focused on humans only. Maybe adopting an animal as a companion for a lonely person could be an extension of visiting the sick or imprisoned?

  8. Rebecca Raye

    Loved this. I am actively living in the Spirit this Lent. Everything you wrote spoke to me and assured me I am on the right path.

  9. Amy W

    I had drafted up a similar list about performing the works of mercy without getting a babysitter. Toddler approved!! Thanks for sharing.
    Amy @ The Salt Stories

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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