Archbishop Mitty High School Finds “Mercy in the City”

Archbishop Mitty High School Finds “Mercy in the City”

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By Archbishop Mitty High School Staff

Each year, the faculty and staff of Archbishop Mitty High School unpack a book, which helps us grow in our mission as Catholic educators to develop community, teach the Gospel values, and promote a more just world. This year, the book chosen was Kerry Weber’s “Mercy in the City,” which explores one young woman’s Lenten journey to perform all seven of the Corporal Works of Mercy – feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, and bury the dead – all in the span of just 40 days. It’s a tall order and Weber’s voice is refreshingly candid as she tries to balance being a “good Catholic” with a full-time job and busy life in bustling New York City. Weber looks at the three pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – but more than that she is on a quest to figure out how she can meaningfully serve those around her. 

Reading the story inspired a book club that meets regularly to explore the themes of different chapters as a community. History teacher Brendan Lavelle was one of the participants at the first meeting held in March. Mr. Lavelle and his family have been living out the Works of Mercy in a very real way this school year, after they offered spare rooms in their home to a family left homeless by the Camp Fire last year.

“The book club is a good opportunity to discuss issues of justice and mercy in a Lenten context with my coworkers,” Mr. Lavelle said. 

For religious studies teacher Kristin Byrnes, who leads the group, the meetings are a chance to explore not just what mercy means, but realistic ways to live out the call to serve others. For many in the book club, mercy has meant embracing situations that are sometimes uncomfortable in order to be present and compassionate to others. 

“I am struck by Weber’s description of mercy as ‘the willingness to enter into the chaos of another,’ ” Mrs. Byrnes said. “As a group, we talked about some ‘chaotic’ service experiences we have had at soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and abroad in underdeveloped countries… Our discussion was a good reminder to me that although chaos can be daunting, it should not be a deterrent to offer help when we are able. In fact, our faith implores us to step into this chaos and encounter Christ.”

With Lent underway, it’s a perfect time for us to recommit ourselves to seeing the image and likeness of God in other people and serving those around us in little and big ways. Sometimes the actions we take are small, like asking someone how they are doing. And other times they are larger, like offering up our resources, whether that is food, time, or a compassionate, listening ear. The important thing is that we continue to take these actions, reaching out to those around us with love and recognizing the sacredness in everyone.