Time for a Mid-Lent Re-Set

Following is my column that appears in this weekend’s print edition of The Catholic Post. I invite your feedback.

It is a truth not universally acknowledged—but it should be—that the best ideas are often difficult—not easy— to explain in a meaningful way. The hallmark of good writing or speaking is simplicity, but nearly always getting there is very hard work.

Case in point: I have a vivid memory from years ago of a good friend, a mom of many, sharing her annoyance at a talk she heard about how mothers always live the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. For instance, the speaker argued that when we feed our children, we are “feeding the hungry,” and so on. My friend was bothered by how gimmicky the talk sounded, and how spiritually unsatisfying it was, despite the promising subject matter.

When I read and love a book like Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned and Keep Your Day Job by Kerry Weber, I might be tempted to think, “Well, that must have been an easy book to write—try to live out the corporal works of mercy during Lent, and write about it.”

But the book excels not just because of a “good idea,” but Weber’s fresh voice and clear Catholic perspective—and a lot of hard work.

Mercy in the City indeed tells the story of how Weber, managing editor of “America” magazine, tries to live out the Corporal Works of Mercy one Lent in New York City, but it succeeds because of her spiritual maturity and natural ability to share her life and faith.

There are clever touches, like each chapter’s witty title, reminiscent of a 19th century novel, describing what will occur (“In which I attempt to create a Lent-appropriate date”). Those make me smile. But her reflections, some poignant, some gently ironic, on how and why to live mercy, is what makes Mercy in the City great.

Weber invites readers to join her journey trying to the corporal works of mercy, and we see her real stumbles, doubts and successes. She also offers a gentle challenge to us consider ways in which we can be more in tune to the needs of those around us, and live Lent well, no matter where we are.

Mercy is the City is a great mid-Lent re-set book. You know how spirits flag in the middle of Lent—giving up chocolate seems so hard (at least for me!)—so it’s good to have a reminder of what we are meant to do during Lent: pray, fast, and give alms.

Or, as Weber so aptly puts it, “It’s easy to feel broken down in these first weeks of Lent .. when trying to balance the things we want to do with the things we should do, and trying to create as much overlap between the two as possible. And above all, trying to unite these two things with God’s will for us.”

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*Author Kerry Weber is the sister of Matt Weber, author of the humorous Andy Rooney-style book, Fearing the Stigmata: Humorously Holy Stories of a Young Catholic’s Search for a Culturally Relevant Faith. (Read my review of that book here–I really, really enjoyed it).   Clearly, this family knows how to write substantial and yet fun-to-read books that leave readers with both amusing and edifying stories, as well as a gentle invitation to live in the world as a more intentional, faithful and better person.

*Also, frequent and careful readers of Reading Catholic may notice that one of the Lent Book Series guest writers already reviewed Mercy in the City.  Sue Wozniak reviewed this book for the Lent Book Series earlier this month. It’s clearly a book worth reading.