By Kerry Weber (Loyola, 2014)
Kerry Weber has set the bar for Lenten fasts extraordinarily high in Mercy in the City. In her concise, quick moving, and often funny book, Weber chronicles her experience of giving up sweets, alcohol, and—the real kicker—trying to complete all the corporal works of mercy in the 40(ish) days before Easter.
Weber, an editor at America magazine, was researching correctional facilities and Catholicism one day when she landed upon a list of the corporal works of mercy—a list she had known by heart back in grade school, but hadn’t considered much of late. “I realized the path of mercy was one I needed to walk more deliberately,” she writes, citing the difficulties that life in New York City often bestows, such as the incessant requests for money or food from people on the subway or the street. “I was afraid I’d stopped seeing Christ in people.”
At the beginning of her Lenten journey, Weber worries that people might think her overly pious or insincere for attempting such a feat, but it quickly becomes clear that she is neither. Instead we get a portrait of a down-to-earth, funny, and tenacious young Catholic, a Mercy Volunteer Corps alumna and an RCIA sponsor, who’s making the most of Lent.
Her efforts that seem the most fruitful (feeding the hungry on a breadline in Manhattan, clothing the naked by staffing the clothing room at a Catholic Worker house, visiting the imprisoned at San Quentin State Prison in California) contrast with some that seem a bit contrived (giving drink to the thirsty New York City half marathon runners). But Weber seizes each experience as an opportunity for deep reflection, and by Easter she has amassed many keen insights. The most fundamental one is that, “This experience has helped me to see how much my faith must be a choice, how easy it is to become complacent, the need to remind myself to respond to the call of my faith each day. There are so many ways to say yes.”
This article appeared in the April 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 79, No. 4, page 43).