Over the past three Lents, our family had worked through the first three corporal works of mercy: we focused on feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and welcoming the stranger. In the fourth year of our journey through the corporal works of mercy, we found ourselves clothing the naked:
I was naked and you clothed me.
In acknowledging “the naked” this year, our family focused on restoring dignity to the poor, the vulnerable, and the unnoticed. In an effort to unite ourselves with those living with less and at the same time recognize our own excess, we all drastically reduced our wardrobes. To do this, we each reduced our wardrobe to 40 items; any clothes that didn’t make the cut were backed away in boxes until Easter. We also fasted from buying new clothes, because even though as a family of seven we love hand-me-downs and are always on the hunt for good bargains, we can still take for granted the fact that if we need new socks or rain boots, we can simply go out and buy them (on sale of course!). During Lent, if a need arose for a new article of clothing that we simply couldn’t make do without, we shopped each other’s closets, visited second-hand clothing stores, and swapped garbage bags of hand-me-downs with friends. In gratitude for what we do have, we made an effort to do the laundry promptly (read: not leaving a load in the dryer or basket for days!) and tried (usually unsuccessfully) to keep clothes (clean and dirty) off the floor. After 40 days of living with smaller wardrobes and not shopping new, we learned that we could easily live with less, and were able to donate our underused clothes to those who are in much greater need than us. Besides this, we prayed daily for the poor in our city, and made an effort to be kind not only to each other, but also especially to those who tend to go unnoticed (for example, by including the child at school who doesn’t seem to have many friends, or by acknowledging and giving time and attention to the homeless who might otherwise go unnoticed and unseen, and whose stories go unheard.)
Other ideas: You might choose to volunteer at a shelter or food bank, organize a clothing drive at your school or work, or donate the money you might have spent on new shoes or clothes to a local shelter.
Our Lenten patron saint of clothing the naked: St. Martin de Tours, who, upon encountering a half-naked beggar shivering in the cold, drew his sword and cut his own heavy cloak in two, offering half to the poor man. Later in a dream, Jesus appeared to St. Martin, surrounded by angels and clothed in the half of the cloak he had given the beggar.