By Susan Ciancio

Angela Merici once told the sisters she led: “Be bound to one another by the bond of charity, treating each other with respect, helping one another, bearing with one another in Christ Jesus; if you really try to live like this, there is no doubt that the Lord our God will be in your midst.”

Angela Merici lived this charitable lifestyle and taught others to do the same. Angela was born in Italy in 1474. She lost her parents and sister when she was young, so she went to live with a wealthy uncle. There she saw the great suffering of the poor. She knew she had to do something to help take care of them and build a culture of life. When she was about 30 years old, she moved to another town in Italy, where she began working with the poor. She spent her days fasting, in prayer, and in service to the poor.

People of all ages and from all walks of life throughout the city knew who she was and sought her help and advice. Soon, she and the women who had been working with her to help the poor began their own group, modeled after St. Ursula. They called themselves Ursulines. Together, they started orphanages and schools to serve the people of the city. Angela continued to work with the poor until her death.

Angela Merici was well loved in her city because she respected and cared for everyone—no matter how poor, how sick, how old, or how young. Her words of instruction to the Ursuline sisters “Be bound to one another by the bond of charity” are words we, too, must follow.

In life, we can choose to ignore others, or we can choose to treat them as Christ would. The Corporal Works of Mercy command that we bind ourselves to others with works of charity. And St. Angela’s example shows us the importance of doing good for others.

What does that mean, and how can her words and example help us build a culture of life?

Here are five concrete ways you can demonstrate the love St. Angela showed to others in her lifetime by doing some of the Corporal Works of Mercy:

1. Strive to help the poor, even in little ways. As a family, pack some non-perishable snacks into brown bags and leave them in an accessible place in your car. When you pass by someone on the street holding a sign that he needs food, hand him one of your bags.

2. Enjoy a rainy day by putting on music and cleaning out your closets. Don’t forget the coat closet! Put gently used clothing in a bag to take to either a homeless shelter or a maternity home. Then bake some cookies and include cards for the residents that say you’re praying for them and value them.

3. It may be difficult now to take care of the sick, but there are still so many sick and suffering people who need love and compassion. If you know someone who is isolated or who cannot do things on his own, call him and ask what you can do to help. If you don’t know anyone, your parish secretary will likely know a parishioner in need. Call and see if you can make a meal or shop for groceries for this person. Then do these tasks as a family.

4. Caring for people in their grief after they’ve lost a loved one is an extremely compassionate act. Many parishes have a ministry in which people will make food for the families of a deceased person for an after-funeral reception. Help the bereaved know you value them and their loved one by volunteering to make something.

5. While it may not be prudent to open your house to the homeless, you can help in other ways. Buy gift cards to local stores and donate them to the local homeless shelter or to your parish. Many parishes have a stack of cards in reserve for anyone who might come in asking for help. Likewise, especially in the winter, it’s a common occurrence to hear of a family who loses everything in a devastating house fire. When situations like this occur, volunteer to donate clothing, food, gift cards, or a night in a hotel.

God gives us the saints so that we can use their examples to help us grow closer to Him and to build a better world here on earth. There are so many wonderful saints with so much to teach us. Today, let us honor St. Angela—and Our Lord—by doing as she did and binding ourselves to those who need our help.

St. Angela, pray for us!

Picture courtesy of Dynax