Alms . . . What? Almsgiving.

This Lent I decided to move my serious almsgiving deliberation into deliberate action. Though I still have student loans incurred at a Catholic Institution and an active member in my parish, I’m not a child anymore. My faith needed to grow in a practical manner.

According to the USCCB (United States Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops),

The foundational call of Christians to charity is a frequent theme of the Gospels.  During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on “almsgiving,” which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.  As one of the three pillars of Lenten practice, almsgiving is “a witness to fraternal charity” and  “a work of justice pleasing to God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2462).

This may be an unpopular statement for my non- Catholic Christian brethren, i.e. sola fide. Are we saved by good works? Yes and No. Do we earn our salvation? No. But our good works flow from our relationship with Christ- our inner disposition makes us act out based upon our faith. Christ performed acts of charity and good works while on earth. And thus, we as Christians are called to perform good works and acts of charity too. Our faith is alive in our works, actions, thoughts, and deeds. Our faith needs to be salt and light to the world or it’s dead.

Want to learn more about faith and works? Click here. 

During Lent, three pillars support Lenten practice: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This year I made a deliberate attempt to practice almsgiving. I’m unable to contribute in grand ways, but that isn’t the point. In Mark 12:44, the widow gave all she had. She has a whole bible heading named after her: “The Widow’s Offering.” During the time of Jesus, widows were considered the poorest of the poor including other woman and children. Society did not look after widows. It is no coincidence that Jesus used the widow’s offering as an example of almsgiving.

This Lent I decided to curb superfluous online shopping and practice almsgiving instead. The practice of almsgiving is designed to help me became a more generous person, a more grateful person, and a more Christ-like person.

Please, Holy Spirit, help me to be a more generous person.

Amen.

What Did You Give Up For Lent?

“What Did you Give Up for Lent?”

My friend asked me at choir rehearsal last night. I hesitated because I wasn’t sure. In the past few years, I opted for adding virtuous practices and moved away from the usual rubric of “giving up” or abstaining from things. Yes, the scandal of it all. I still consume chocolate during Lent.

My trend of opting in versing opting out started in college five years ago. I added rituals, prayers, or reflections to my daily life during the Lenten 40 Days. I figured that whole premise about developing or breaking habits with 30 days included spiritual habits too. Lent provides not 30 but 40 days to develop a new habit.

There isn’t anything wrong with giving up or abstaining for Lent. Giving up or abstaining develops perseverance and wisdom. With certain health problems abstaining from certain things like caloric intake really isn’t a healthy option. Regardless, I have a whole load of spiritual, mental, and emotional things to work on.

Five years ago I created a list . . . a list of gratitude. How often to we thank God for our many blessings or even ponder the blessing ourselves? That Lent I wrote 40 things, people, feelings, emotions, gifts, crosses, etc. I was grateful for and thanked God. Did I loose five pounds or run five miles daily? No. But I honed a deeper sense of gratitude. That deeper sense of gratitude had lasting affects on my daily life, health, wellness, hope, and Trust in God.

So every year since that first list I opt in and develop a behavior during Lent amid abstaining too. Last year, my beloved and I prayed Compline each night and still pray Compline whenever we are between novenas and special prayers. That was a lasting, positive change in our spiritual life.

This year we’re adding another spiritual practice: praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. As an individual, I decided practice deliberate almsgiving. Today I’m discerning how best to approach almsgiving this Lent, and asking the guidance of the Holy Spirit to Trust God more and mammon less.