Whenever I get stuck for
an idea for this column,
I know that I can always
count on my three kids
to provide one. And most of the time
it comes at the least opportune moments,
as it did for this month.
This month’s column came to life
one evening shortly after I had gotten
home from work. As usual, I was
attempting to get the daily rundown of
the kids’ activities, read the mail, check
the messages and get dinner started.
That’s when it all came apart.
“Mom, Riley hit me,” reported Alex.
“Mom, I want pink milk,” demanded
“Mom, I feel like I’m going to throw
up,” cautioned Maddie.
Another typical night in the Brigger
house, I thought.
I quickly helped foster a reconciliation
between Alex and Riley, filled a
sippy cup with pink milk, and comforted
Maddie and laid her down on
the couch with a bucket nearby.
A far cry from what I—or anyone
else, I imagine—would call “holy.” But,
as I realized later, in many ways it was.
A Shift in Perspective
That evening, after the kids were all
tucked in bed, I sat down at my computer
wracking my brain for a topic.
And then it hit me. Over the course of
the evening I had unknowingly performed
a number of the works of mercy
that I had grown up hearing about, but
which I saw as goals too lofty and,
quite frankly, too holy for me to
But it was just a matter of a shift in
perspective. For too long, when I read
“feed the hungry,” I envisioned signing
up and working at the local soup
kitchen. But I never stopped to realize
that feeding healthy meals to my own
family counted, too.
Or that I was “admonishing the sinner”
when I corrected one of my kids
for doing something wrong or hurtful
to someone else, “visiting the sick”
when I took them to visit their great-grandma
at the nursing home and
“burying the dead” when Maddie’s rabbits
died and we laid them to rest on
our backyard hill. And the list goes on.
Here I was living the works of mercy
in my everyday life, and I didn’t even
The works of mercy are divided into
two categories: corporal and spiritual.
The corporal works of mercy are those
that benefit the physical body. Corporal comes from the Latin word corpus for
“body.” The spiritual works of mercy
are those that benefit the soul.
References to these works can be
found throughout the Bible, including
A lot of times I think we fail to see that
our daily lives provide golden opportunities
to live out our faith in very
real ways. And while we may see them
as mundane, they actually hold great
potential for holiness. Here are some
ways to help shift your perspective:
Stop and reflect. Take a few minutes
at the end of each day to think about
ways in which you lived out the works
of mercy that day. Did you comfort
someone who wasn’t feeling well? Did
you help your child read a book or
teach one of your children something
Make a list. Gather together and
come up with ideas for how your family
and its individual members can live
out the works of mercy both within
and outside your family. After talking
about ways that you can embody these
works, make a list of concrete ways to
display the works of mercy. Then come
up with a plan to implement some of
“Put one foot in front of the
other.” These lyrics from a song in
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town—one of
my favorite Christmas shows—say a
lot. Trying to achieve holiness can seem
like an overwhelming task, but if we
just take it one step at a time, it’s a lot
easier. Think small. “Clothe the naked”
can be as simple as mending your
child’s favorite pajamas in order to
bring that child comfort.
Celebrate your holiness. Just because
we haven’t been canonized
doesn’t mean we’re not doing holy
work here on earth. St. Francis may
have confronted the wolf of Gubbio,
but I’ve taken on my two-year-old
when she hasn’t had a nap. That
should count for something.