Almsgiving: the most important pillar of Lent

Almsgiving: the most important pillar of Lent

What is almsgiving?

During Lent, we are called to do three things: increase prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. While the first two are pretty straightforward, sometimes we have to think more about what it means to give alms.

In our Catholic Bible, we are told that almsgiving is worth more than both prayer and fasting. “Prayer is good with fasting and alms more than to lay up treasures of gold:  For alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting” (Tobias 12:8-9).

But why is this? Well, when you give alms it is a way of praying and fasting. You are giving away material objects, serving others, and putting your faith in God that His will be done. It is a way of serving God, whom we see in our neighbor, and growing closer to them. You also fast in a manner by giving away your items or time to benefit someone else and this pleases God.

How can we give alms?

One way to help others is to perform Corporal Works of Mercy. Jesus gave us these seven works in Matthew 25:31. They are:

  1. Feed the hungry: Donate food to pantries, make extra for soups kitchens.
  2. Give drink to the thirsty: Donate water as you would food. Find organizations working on bringing clean water to those without. You can also be careful not to waste water.
  3. Shelter the homeless: Donate clothing and food to shelters. Volunteer time working with the homeless. Serve food at a soup kitchen. There are also many families and children that need homes or fostering.
  4. Visit the sick: Visit a nursing home. Check on an elderly neighbor or loved one. Grocery shop for those at home or ill.
  5. Visit with prisoners: Contact prisons or organizations to visit prisoners. Bring them Bibles and journals, talk about God. Donate to organizations which take care of their families.
  6. Bury the dead: Visit the graves of loved ones to pray for them. Join a group to help clean/place flowers on graves. Send flowers or cards to those who have lost loved ones. Bring food to help those who are in mourning.
  7. Give alms to the poor: Donate to Saint Vincent de Paul. Save extra money for the basket at Church. Volunteer with charities for the poor.

Almsgiving is more than simply donating money. As Pope St. Gregory the Great said, “The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.” Love is action. That is why we Catholics define love as “willing the good of others”. And in doing so, we are caring for others and for our Lord.

Can you think of any other ways to give alms? Leave them in the comments below.

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