Children's Activities for Corporal Works of Mercy

By Sara Ipatenco
Child making visit to hospital with mother to see grandmother.
Child making visit to hospital with mother to see grandmother.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are meant to be the guiding principles for Catholics for performing acts of charity. These principles include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, providing shelter for the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison and burying the dead, according to CatholicCulture.org. Children can learn about these acts in the context of treating others the way that Jesus calls them to do in the New Testament of the Bible.

Feeding the Hungry

Teenagers pack sandwiches at a food bank.
Teenagers pack sandwiches at a food bank.

Preparing food for your family and friends is included as part of the first Corporal Work of Mercy, according to CatholicCulture.org. Although children will learn the importance of cooking meals to feed the family, you can show your child how to feed the hungry in other ways, too. Take your child to serve a meal at a soup kitchen or take her to the grocery store and ask her fill a basket the store will then donate to a food bank. Have your child help prepare a meal for a shut-in at your church or for a family that has a new baby and then take her along to deliver the food.

Giving Drink to the Thirsty

Bottled water is collected for those in need.
Bottled water is collected for those in need.

Some people, such as the homeless, don't always have access to clean drinking water, and the second Corporal Work of Mercy instructs Catholics to provide water for people who are in need of water. Speak to your child about the importance of having water for survival and then take her to the store to purchase bottled water she can hand out at a homeless shelter. Your child can give drink to the thirsty by giving the mail carrier a bottle of cold water on a hot summer day or your child can leave bottles of cold water for your town’s trash collectors.

Clothing the Naked

Boxes of shoes and clothing are collected for donations.
Boxes of shoes and clothing are collected for donations.

The third Corporal Work of Mercy instructs Catholics to give clothes to the naked. Integrate this into your child's life by having her collect clothes she doesn't want or those she has outgrown to donate to charity. If you know a family at your church or community who is struggling to make ends meet, your child can fulfill this work by giving the unwanted clothes to that family.

Providing Shelter for the Homeless

A teenager sorts through donations at a homeless shelter.
A teenager sorts through donations at a homeless shelter.

Although you don't want your child to invite random people to stay in your home, you can teach her about this fourth Corporal Work of Mercy in other ways. Your child can set up a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to a homeless shelter or she can collect gently used blankets to donate to the shelter. Volunteering at the homeless shelter is another way your child can carry out this work.

Visiting the Sick

Child visiting grandmother in hospital
Child visiting grandmother in hospital

Taking your child to visit sick family members or friends is a simple way to carry out the fifth Corporal Work of Mercy. You can take your child to visit children who are in a hospital cancer ward or you can take her to visit shut-ins. Your child can also pray for sick people around the world.

Visiting the Imprisoned

Two children pray together.
Two children pray together.

Since prison isn't a place for children, your child can pray for imprisoned people and their families instead. Your child can make donations to prison outreach programs and can encourage your pastor to visit prisoners.

Burying the Dead

A boy holds a bouquet of hand-picked wildflowers.
A boy holds a bouquet of hand-picked wildflowers.

Most children aren't involved in the act of burying the dead, but your child can visit a cemetery where loved ones are buried and where your child can bring flowers to place on the loved one’s grave. Attending funerals for loved ones is another rite that children can do that incorporates this seventh Corporal Work of Mercy into their lives to help them remember their family and friends who have passed on.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.