Looking for a way to keep the penitential spirit of Advent, but aren’t sure where to start? Try this Works of Mercy Printable Advent Calendar, with 24 gentle, easily-adaptable suggestions for Advent prayer, sacrifice, and service, suitable for all ages and stages of family life. (This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details).
Three weeks ago, I broke my phone.
We were running late for Shakespeare club. I had my bag, my phone, three books, two water bottles and a writhing toddler in my arms. The car door slammed, the toddler bucked, and my phone hit the ground – hard.
Three hours later I stood in the lobby of the Verizon store, staring out the window as I pulled the same toddler from an iPhone 10 display. It was 77 degrees outside and two weeks before Thanksgiving. Workmen stood on lifts in the parking lot, hanging holiday snowflake banners from the light poles. Harry Connick Jr.’s graceful voice crooned about roasting chestnuts, courtesy of the strip mall speakers outside.
I was mad I didn’t have my phone.
I was irritated about the unseasonable weather.
And I resented – highly – the idea of Christmas being shoved down my throat.
My father was in many respects a liturgical hardliner: Advent was Advent – not Christmas – and if he had had his way, we wouldn’t have decorated the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve. But my sister and I were experts at the annual tradition known as “Tannen-beg,” in which the two of us would whine, complain, and harass him until he relented and put up the tree.
As a child, I thought he was rather Grinch-like. As an adult, I see his point. To the secular world, Advent isn’t Advent. It’s a pre-emptive Christmas celebration, with a focus on material things.
Advent: the Mini-Lent
We are blessed with a wonderful pastor, and for years he’s referred to Advent as a “mini-Lent.” He encourages us to use these four weeks as a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as we make room for Christ’s birth in our hearts.
It’s an intimidating challenge, isn’t it? The world is dressed up in baubles and bows, baking cookies and drinking champagne. How are we supposed to tune out the noise and keep the spirit of Advent when the rest of the world doesn’t know it exists?
By focusing on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
If we are mindful of their holy calling we can keep the penitential spirit in our hearts. I created the Works of Mercy Printable Advent Calendar to help my family achieve this goal, a perpetual countdown to Christmas featuring 24 gentle, easily-adaptable suggestions for Advent prayer, sacrifice, and service at every stage of family life.
The Works of Mercy Printable Advent Calendar
The Works of Mercy Printable Advent Calendar is a simple way to help your family stay focused on the penitential aspects of Advent. Each day provides a suggested activity for living out a Corporal or Spiritual Work of Mercy:
- Feed the hungry and Give drink to the thirsty
- Go through the cabinets and donate extra food
- Give up a favorite snack for the day
- Offer hot cocoa or cider to the garbage or mailman
- Clothe the naked
- Choose five items to donate to the poor
- Visit the sick
- Make cards for children in the hospital
- Inquire about visiting hours at nursing homes and take a plate of treats
- Shelter the homeless
- Call your parish office and find out which families could use help around the house
- Visit your parish and pick up trash around the grounds
- Bury the dead
- Take flowers to the local cemetery
- Lay a wreath on the grave of a veteran
- Visit the Imprisoned
- Sign up for Project Angel Tree
- Counsel the doubtful
- Talk about your hopes and dreams. Make a pln to put them in action.
- Pray that God will grant you the grace to be a faithful witness
- Instruct the ignorant
- Learn one new thing about the Catholic faith
- Memorize a favorite Scripture verse
- Admonish Sinners
- Set a kind and good example for the people in your home
- Comfort the Afflicted
- Write a letter to someone you haven’t talked to in a long time
- Leave a special treat on the doorstep of a neighbor who could use cheering up
- Forgive Offenses
- Let go of a grudge you’ve been holding
- Make a date to go to confession at the next possible opportunity (today if you can)
- Bear Wrongs Patiently
- Refrain from saying anything negative about anyone today, yourself included
- Instead of criticizing someone today, say something nice about them
- Pray for the Living and the Dead
- Go through your Christmas card stack and pray for each family
- Offer a rosary for those who have died
The Works of Mercy Calendar requires some assembly, but it was quick and easy to do.
It took me less than 15 minutes, even with a bossy three-year-old underfoot.
Gather your supplies
- You’ll need blank cardstock, yarn or twine, scissors, and a glue stick
Download and print
- You can access the file here
Assemble the pages
- Glue together the blank sides of the corresponding number pages (with stars) and calendar pages (with text).
- Make sure the date on the number page matches the date on the calendar page.
- Cut along the burgundy lines (you’ll have 24 double-sided cards) and fold your cards in half
Hang your calendar
- String your length of twine or yarn wherever you would like the calendar to hang.
- Use the fold to hang your cards in numerical order, or attach with clothespins if you like.
Use as you would a traditional Advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas!
The world may be ready to celebrate Christmas before the neighbor’s Jack-o-Lantern has lost its spark, but we don’t have to give in. We don’t have to be Grinch-like or sour-faced, either: we can observe the season of Advent with joy and a purpose, maintaining its spirit in our hearts. It’s my sincerest hope that my family’s Works of Mercy Printable Advent Calendar brings your family an Advent season of purpose and peace.
Check out my shop for the Works of Mercy Printable Advent Calendar, available for only $4.00.
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