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Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job Paperback – January 14, 2014
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Having been educated in an elementary school run by the Sisters of Mercy, it was a pleasure to read some of the quotes from their founder and grow in appreciation for how this charism must have affected my mother and grandmother. Both are women of mercy, who counted the sisters as friends and colleagues in the school. Though my grandmother passed 15 years ago, I felt like I was able to see a new layer in who she was- perhaps this mercy charism that was so present in our local church formed the saintly grandma that I knew more than I ever would have realized without this book.
I will be recommending this book to my college students and the parishioners- especially young adults- who are at the campus ministry center where I work. This book is a delight, and is the perfect length!
When I came to appreciate its structure as at of a memoir, rather than a guidebook, I was initially disappointed, but I am quite glad I stuck with it. Ms. Weber writes very engagingly, and I was eager to return to her work each night in my downtime. Her stories of a young single woman in NYC trying to complete works form every category of the works of mercy enumerated in the Sermon on the Mount are touching and challenging. Not a How-to, for sure, but definitely a "couldn't-you...?," in an inspirational, and not in the least heavy-handed way.
It does not go into depth on the full meanings of "feed the hungry, visit the sick, etc ...", but it's fun and an easy read. It doesn't quite live up to its subtitle, since it doesn't give much new information on how to help without quitting our jobs. I would love to read a sequel about how she took these brief experiences and made a life of mercy.
“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mt. 22:37-39). Jesus’ prescription for living a good life summarizes the Law and the Prophets, and is as fresh and valid two thousand years later as it was then. Jesus, in “The Good Samaritan” parable, makes it clear that one’s neighbor isn’t just the guy next door, but even your enemy. How, exactly, do you “love your neighbor”? Here the Church provides biblically based precepts for living out Jesus’ Great Commandment. The Works of Mercy, seven corporal (e.g., feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned) and seven spiritual (e.g., forgive offences willingly and comfort the afflicted), give concrete ideas. As Weber shows, they’re not as easy to practice as they might seem.
One Lent, Weber resolves to engage in all of the Corporal Works of Mercy. She does not claim to be some sort of Super-Catholic; quite the contrary, her struggles are those of any person: the difficulty of waking up early to serve in a bread line, the discomfort of engaging with street people, the embarrassment of public displays of faith (in her case, literally taking up the cross on the way to Times Square). She is earnest, and not perfect. She easily stands in for each one of us.
Some of the activities Weber takes up are common, such as the aforementioned bread line, and others, like interacting with prisoners and the Jesuit chaplain of San Quentin not so. Obviously, trying to cover the Works of Mercy, even just the corporal ones, over the 40 days of Lent is a challenge. As a goal, it may be a little gimmicky and doesn’t speak of commitment. But in the end, as if to head off that potential criticism, Weber takes a major step towards making a permanent commitment to the Works of Mercy.
The everydayness of her path to getting there, though, is what makes this book speak so well to the average Catholic—if only they’ll make the small effort to pick this up. The book would make a good gift for that friend (or oneself) who’s always saying he or she wants to get involved with some charitable work, but never quite takes that first step. Weber provides a good dose of moral support. Loyola Press might consider, for future additions, an appendix with links and phone numbers of the larger establishments that provide volunteer opportunities in the Works of Mercy.
Another great reason to buy this book right now for a friend, family member or yourself is that Pope Francis, for whom “mercy” is a key theme of his papacy, has named 2016 as the Jubilee of Mercy. This book will help you join millions of Catholics and other fellow Christians (and Jews, Moslems, “Nones,” and atheists) in celebrating and performing Works of Mercy during the Jubilee and, one hopes, beyond.