Advent is drawing to a close so quickly!! Today we are again joined by a special friend from Catholic Services of Acadiana. This Friendsday Wednesday offers our latest installment of the Work It Wednesday series on the Corporal Works of Mercy. As we approach the coming of Jesus, my friend, Sarah Clement, shares a beautiful reflection about inviting the Lord into our mess & how to open our hearts to the less fortunate in our community.
When Aunt Katie invited us to be guests on her blog to highlight social justice and the corporal works of mercy, I was elated by the opportunity this would be for our staff to share some of their stories from the front lines and to reflect on those experiences [Editor's note: You can hear Casey's story or Jeremy's story here.] Our Bishop, Bishop Deshotel, at all of our fundraising events speaks about our work as a work of evangelization, not just for those we serve but for anyone who encounters our programs. With a background in mission work and community formation, I have always had a deep longing to merge works of mercy and service with evangelization, the idea that in any service, any “yes” to God, our perspectives change, our hearts are moved and we then change and move the hearts of others.
I have watched the staff and supporters of Catholic Services of Acadiana (CSA), my friends and family, wrestle with the same idea - How do we offer mercy and compassion to those who suffer in our community? How do we incorporate those who want to serve in our mission in a meaningful way for those we serve? Nothing so perfectly answered those questions as the celebration of Mass at St. Joseph Diner on Thanksgiving Day.
We held Mass inside St. Joseph Diner, amidst the noise of the kitchen and the street, people coming in from the cold, volunteers arriving, and donors dropping off food. With a simple white altar cloth, music offered on a detuned piano, and sitting at cafeteria tables; we prayed together. We prayed for those who eat at the Diner every day, for those who have nowhere to take a shower but Stella Maris Center, for those who would sleep outside in the rain, for those without a support system.
I thought to myself, this is the answer to our question, this is the answer to participating in God’s Works of Mercy. Instead of focusing on each individual work of mercy, what if we could embody a constant attitude of compassion and make mercy a way of life.
Allowing Jesus to be present in the mess of our lives is the only answer. It is not up to us to create the perfect conditions to encounter God, it is not important to devise an intricate plan to provide for a need, all that is required of us is to allow God to work, in the mess, in the noise, in the brokenness of our everyday and for us to accept the call to be in the mess, noise and brokenness of anyone’s daily life. Accompanying others in their joys, their struggles, their light and darkness is the pinnacle of a life of mercy.
During Mass our staff, citizens, volunteers, patrons and people without homes were all in one space together, in the presence of God, worshipping together in whatever capacity they could. Fr. Gregory Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart, captures the idea of a life lived in mercy when he says,
“If we love what God loves, then in compassion, margins get erased. ‘Be compassionate as God is compassionate,’ means the dismantling of barriers that exclude.”
Dismantling barriers and creating kinship is something we strive for as the staff at CSA and it is something we work hard to communicate to all who participate in our work. This is where mercy and evangelization meet, when those who serve and those served cannot be told apart, when we stop seeing people as “the other.” I am privileged to work at CSA and encounter those who suffer in poverty, hunger and homelessness each day. I have had enough experiences over the last six years to no longer call them, the poor, the hungry or the homeless but to call them friend.
Sarah Clement is the Director of Operations at Catholic Services of Acadiana. She is a small business owner, married with 1 kiddo, one on the way and 2 in heaven. Her personal mantra/mission what-have-you is to foster positivity, form hearts, and change perspectives. Sarah has a passion for community and evangelization. You can follower her on IG: @sarahkate1225
If you would like to help Catholic Services of Acadiana, please Donate Here.