Almsgiving as a Pillar of Lent
I feel like almsgiving, or giving alms, is one of the most often forgotten pillar of Lent. Like I mentioned in last week’s fasting post, it seems like we’re more preoccupied by what we’re giving up for Lent. Almsgiving requires us to look outside ourselves and give to others.
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Lent and almsgiving are the CRS rice bowls that you fold together and put your change in, but almsgiving isn’t just about money. Almsgiving involves sharing our time, talent, and treasure with others. We can give by spending time with our neighbors, by giving financial gifts, or offering our abilities as service. All of these require some sort of sacrifice, which is what makes almsgiving one of the three pillars of Lent. When we give alms, we tangibly lay down our wants and preferences for someone else.
Why should we give alms?
In a homily he gave a few weeks ago, Fr. Mike Schmitz said that almsgiving is how we become more like God. Now that we’ve been praying and fasting throughout Lent, our faith has grown and we’re getting to know God more. The more we come to know God, the more we become like Him. Because God is love, we come to know what true love is by getting to know God, and becoming more like Him will make us more loving, thoughtful, and generous. Naturally, we’ll want to extend His love and mercy to those around us, which results in almsgiving. When we’re generous and loving towards our neighbors, they’ll encounter God through us. Because of almsgiving, we’ll help others come to know God and His love.
How to give alms
Our almsgiving should extend farther than the pennies that we put in the rice bowls. We can come up with lots of reasons why we can’t donate or tithe, but Lent presents an awesome opportunity for us to do so. Use the money that you would have spent on things you gave up as donations. If you gave up trips to coffee shops or shopping, you now have extra money to give. Giving alms can be as simple as sending a note or a nice text to someone you love, or as grand as giving gift cards to someone in need. I love to see how people use their talents when they give alms, like when singers or musicians join music ministry. No matter what your approach is, get creative with how you give alms and remember to do little things with great love. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor, and almsgiving is a practical yet beautiful way of doing this.
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In case you need some ideas, here are 8 different ways to give alms this Lent:
- Tithe to your parish
- Donate to your favorite charity or a new one
- Write letters or notes to friends or family who might need some encouragement
- Seek out some service opportunities and volunteer
- Visit an elderly neighbor or somebody who might not get a lot of visitors
- Be an altar server, cantor, or lector for Mass at your parish
- Donate some of your gently used clothes, books, blankets, or other things
- Cook and deliver a meal for a family who just had a baby
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