Mercy Me! I've got work to do.

Mercy Me — I've got work to do! making the world a better place – starting with me.

Mercy Me! I’ve got work to do.

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I always thought I would want to do something practical when I turned 40 –like shoot my forehead full of botulism, puff my lips up with collagen, or take some fat from my fanny and shoot it in the tiny crevices around my eyes.  But as the big day approached, I wasn’t anywhere near considering that kind of work.  With that said, entering into a new decade did allow me pause for reflection in something other than the mirror.

I never expected however, that this reflection would lead me to another kind of work – spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Two months ago, I was not even familiar with the term “works of mercy.” Yet, my mother’s latest admonishments to me when I wouldn’t do things to her liking would be “Lara, you need to concentrate on your works of mercy, because you are not good at it.”  I didn’t really know what the hell she was talking about.  (Hell is one of those words that may be profane or may not; obviously I meant it to be profane.)  Nor did I want to know what she was talking about.  After all I would hear this at times such as when she wanted me to volunteer to take my brother’s cat because she had a feeling he and his wife would be getting rid of it.  Um no, I wasn’t feeling that one.

In her defense it wasn’t all ridiculous.  She called me out on some things that I was genuinely being selfish about — like not being more compassionate to my 42 year old sister who was weeks away from giving birth.  “It’s not like she has cancer,” I said in justification of my lack of interest in offering her any assistance.  It’s also not like she is the only person in the world to ever give birth, which is true.  But that’s me being mean again.   I told my mom half-joking that my work of mercy was listening to her constantly tell me the correct way to do everything.  I know that’s not very nice, but it was kind of funny and it felt very true.

So it became a little joke between us when I wouldn’t respond with eagerness to her suggestions.  She would remind me about needing to work on my acts of mercy. She even told me since I wasn’t good at such work, it would mean more to God.   Therefore, I would get more points for works of mercy than someone that was more inclined to perform such sacrificial goodness.  I never thought about God being on a grading scale.  It would be just my luck to miss out on an eternity of bliss by one point.

Truthfully, I was not interested in doing any more for others.  And before you gasp in judgment-filled horror, let’s be real.  I’m a mother of 2 boys, a wife, a friend, — obviously a devout daughter.  I have an impressive volunteer resume within my school and church.  I am busy just like everyone else.  Like everyone else, I’m also basically a good person, and didn’t feel like I had time to serve in any other capacity.  Sorry mom, I just am all out of mercy.

So what happened?  Why the change of heart?

Heaven only knows.  After all, I NEVER did give my mother’s suggestions any consideration.  They were annoyances that I blew off  just like when I was a kid and she pestered me to pass algebra.

But there I was at Mass, 27 days before my transition into decade number four, when I had a really great idea.  I would actually do works of mercy.   For a year beginning on my birthday I would do these acts in both simple and more obvious ways, and share my experiences of them with others through the written word (my written word, not the Bible’s, which is obviously THE official word.)

I kept waiting for the idea to pass and to settle back into complacency with a People magazine, but the more I thought about it, the more excited I became.  The challenge of someone like me, meaning someone very human, making a very real, conscientious effort to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church seems like the most meaningful way I could begin a new decade.

What a trial to perform these works of mercy despite the fact that I am inevitably pulled toward sin. Every day, over and over, I sin.  But so does everyone else so there’s really nothing special about me there. However, what could make it special would be to defy sin by performing these acts of mercy despite their difficulty, despite how uncomfortable it may make me, and to offer it up to God.   P90X has nothing on this challenge!

So after that day at mass, (okay it was a day later and after another which I spent at the beach) I came home and Googled works of mercy.  Guess what?  There are two different kinds; seven of each kind.

Who knew?  Not this cradle Catholic who went to Catholic grade school and high school, who married a Catholic and is raising her children in the same faith.  I mean it sounded familiar when I read about it, but I think it must have been buried in the segment of brain cells I killed in college (Sorry, mom.)

There are corporal works of mercy and spiritual works of mercy.  This made me even more excited because I love structure (I didn’t have enough of it as a child – again, sorry mom.) With it all outlined by the Catholic Church itself I was more convinced than ever that I was going to set out and spend the year of my 40th doing works of mercy.  By sharing these experiences which will certainly take me outside of my comfort zone, my hope is that I will learn more about humanity, the Catholic faith, and ultimately my place in this world.

I figure as painful as this experience may be, it’s got to beat going under the knife!

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Author: Lara Patangan

Mercy me, I’ve got work to do… is a blog I started on my 40th birthday to chronicle my experiences spending the year doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy. No longer on the cusp of a new decade, I am still here finding that much work remains – in the world, my community, my relationship with God and perhaps most challenging, within myself. Please sign up and join me as we share the work that matters most – being better people. In hopes that when the decades cease to pass the world will still whisper of the graces left in our wake.

20 thoughts on “Mercy Me! I’ve got work to do.

  1. Good Luck and Happy Birthday

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  2. I LOVE this idea! Can’t wait to see how the year plays out and how much God will bless you in your unselfish journey to help others!

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  3. What a great journey you are on, thanks so much for sharing this with us! God Bless you, Mary Pat Kulik….aka, Jennifer Swain, Susan Heekin, Colleen Sutter, and Stephanie Harden’s mom

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  4. I love it already! Your writing and humor are wonderful to read. I’m excited to see where the year takes you. Happy birthday!

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  5. Sounds interesting. I wish you lots of luck!

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  6. Happy Belatd Birthday!! I am looking forward to reading your blog and excited for your journey!!
    Wow! You are an awesome writer!!!

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  7. Thanks for including me on your blog Lara…sounds like you have a great year ahead of you.

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  8. Thanks Cheryl! I appreciate your support. Can you believe I got so old? Your daughter is probably the age I was when we first met.

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  9. I love it! What a great, inspiring idea. I can’t wait to read more!

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  10. Wow, Lara! I cannot wait to read more! 🙂

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  11. You had me at Mercy…. I’m all eyes and ears and can’t wait to experience this adventure with you. Since you are older then me I will now know what it will feel like being over 40!!!! Lol. Love Ya !,,,

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    • Ha! I appreciate this, and please let me know if you come across anything in your profession that I could assist with that doesn’t involve a bullet-proof vest. I would love you to send me a little “work.” I know as a police officer you do works of mercy everyday. I was so moved at that Blue Mass a few weeks ago honoring all the police officers. It’s an honor to have you follow me, even if you think you are younger than me!

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  12. Great way to celebrate your 40th year! I look forward to reading about your works. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in you, you might find more and more that your acts of mercy become more of a natural inclination and response. As my pastor’s wife once told me: “fake it until you make it.” And I’ve seen through my own obedience to Him eventually my reluctant heart follows.

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    • Great advice, Tala. I have always liked that expression. If I can get anything out of my forties it would be to do things that matter to me most, that will make a difference in the world despite my inclinations to a world full of distractions.

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  13. I love this idea, Lara! It’s inspirational and I look forward to keeping up with your blog!

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  14. Lara im glad you saw me at the fall festival to share this me and to drag me along with you. Being a few years into my forties rest assured they will be some of the best times you have. I look forward to folloing this with you. PS when your done WRITE a BOOK!

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  15. I love the way you write. Almost the same style as the girl who wrote Eat Pray Love – Yes, it was that good. Anyway, this blog, I think, will inspire me like I mentioned to you before. I thought about you and your quest and I did a random act of kindness the other day. During my walk, I took someone’s paper up to their door. I know its not much but it might have made that person happy that day. Thanks. Glad you are doing this and making it fun to read too.

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    • Thanks Alexa — you are so sweet. That is a wonderful compliment. You are east to inspire because you are always doing small acts of kindness. I will definitely be mentioning you when I write about the environment. That is where you always inspire me!

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