Lenten Practices: Almsgiving

Lenten Practices: Almsgiving

I’ve looked at resources on prayer and fasting the last two weeks, so we’ll round out our trio of Lenten practices by discussing almsgiving today. There is obviously an aspect of almsgiving that involves monetary donations; the fifth precept of the Church (“You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church”) means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability. The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own abilities. (CCC 2043). The second obvious component of almsgiving is helping out those in need, whether the need is material or spiritual. There are lots of ways to do this, even if you don’t have a lot of disposable income: Corporal Works of Mercy Spiritual Works of Mercy Feed the hungry Admonish the sinner Give drink to the thirsty Instruct the ignorant Clothe the naked Counsel the doubtful Shelter the homeless Comfort the sorrowful Visit the sick Bear wrongs patiently Visit the imprisoned Forgive all injuries Bury the dead Pray for the living and the dead Our attitude of giving back to God or others is usually motivated by some sense of tithing, as when the Israelites would return a tenth of their harvest or flock back to God. Of course, Christian reflection on creation recognizes that it’s all God’s, and so in a real sense we should not just give 10% of what we have back to God, but 100%. Everything at our disposal should be a means to manifest God’s glory and bring His children...
Lenten Practices: Fasting

Lenten Practices: Fasting

I mentioned some thoughts/resources on prayer last week; this week, we’ll discuss some for fasting and next week for almsgiving, to cover the three traditional Lenten practices. Bridget mentioned this earlier, but there can be confusion if we use a truncated definition of fasting as “giving something up.” It’s not really fasting if you decide to give up cursing, losing your temper, overeating or drinking to excess, and other such. We shouldn’t be doing those things any day of the year, let alone during Lent. For our spiritual health it is certainly necessary to cease engaging in these sins, but to do so isn’t technically fasting. A short but accurate definition, then, is that fasting is giving up something that is good. The traditional fast from meat makes this clear: meat itself isn’t bad or evil (sometimes it is downright awesome); it is a good thing that we voluntarily choose not to partake in. We can go part-way with our fasting, in that we choose a few good things to go without throughout Lent: chocolates, TV, Starbucks coffee (though this could arguably be in the “bad” category), Facebook, etc. It is laudable to forgo these things since it strengthens our detachment from earthly things. But let’s go all the way with our fasting: in the void that was created while giving something up, fill it with something else that will encourage your spiritual growth. The money spent on chocolates and Starbucks can be given to the poor or a crisis pregnancy center. The time spent on TV or Facebook can be used in spiritual reading or prayer. A good example...
For Lent, Don’t Give Up a Sin

For Lent, Don’t Give Up a Sin

Lent starts today. That means there are no more days to really think about what we plan on doing for the next 40 days (minus the Sundays, because that’s how we do it where I’m from) to prepare our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies for the holiest feast of the entire year. And I want to mention one thing: if you plan on giving something up, don’t give up a sin. You heard me: don’t give up a sin. See, here’s the thing about making a sacrifice (for Lent or any other time of the year): It’s not really a sacrifice to give up something you aren’t supposed to have or do in the first place.  For instance, an unmarried man can’t “give up” sex for Lent because he’s not supposed to be having sex in the first place.  That isn’t a sacrifice.  That’s turning away from sin.  These two things are different.  Can making sacrifices strengthen us in holiness, thereby making it easier to turn away from sin?  Absolutely.  But does giving up a sin we hold dear cause us to suffer, willingly, immediately or in the long run?  Not really.  Giving up a sin helps us from the moment we give it up, even if it feels to our disordered minds and bodies that we are pain, because it helps us get to heaven. The way I’ve always seen the idea of making a sacrifice is that we are supposed to be giving up something we enjoy and something we are allowed to have or to do.  To make a sacrifice, we attempt to make our lives...
Lent with Littles

Lent with Littles

It’s almost that time again.  That’s right folks: Lent will be here in exactly one week.  If you’re at all like me, and by that I mean a fairly busy mom to a decent size family, who homeschools and basically has no time to herself, you may not be prepared for it.  How does one make Lent meaningful to children who are barely old enough to understand what a sacrifice is or why we need to make them?  Have no fear.  Auntie Bridgie is here, and she has some thoughts on the matter at hand. Remember to breath.  Lent is supposed to be a time of prayerful preparation for Easter, not a time to make yourself or your children crazy trying every craft and project that comes down the [Internet] pike.  Try dividing the kids into one or two age groups (“bigs” and “littles”) and pick one group project or a couple of small crafts for them to focus on instead.  I’m not normally a big fan of religious crafts (maybe that’s why I rebel against the idea of sending my kids to CCD?) but for Lent I make an exception as I find that a few well planned activities can really help Lent become more tangible to kids. Fast. Keep a good attitude while you fast.  Children are little mimics; at least mine are.  If I walk around all day complaining about being hungry, then all they get out of a day of fasting is a bad attitude and mistaken connection between grumpiness and fasting.  Not a great way to start them off on the path to holiness....
Sonnet to Our Lord on the Cross

Sonnet to Our Lord on the Cross

I was given a devotional some years ago by a Catholic bookstore employee as I was entering the seminary. I’ve used it a fair amount over the years, but there are few things in it that touch me more than this sonnet. I share it with you now on the most suitable day of the year. It’s a good one to keep in mind on Good Friday. I am not moved to you, O my God, That I might hope in promised Heaven to dwell; Nor am I moved by fear of pain in Hell To turn from sin and follow where you trod. You move me, Lord, broken beneath the rod, Or stretched out on the cross, as nails compel Your hand to twitch. It moves me that we sell, To mockery and death, your precious blood. It is, O Christ, your love which moves me so, That my love rests not on a promised prize; Nor holy fear on threat of endless woe; It is not milk and honey, but the flow Of blood from blessed wounds before my eyes, That waters my buried soul and makes it grow. A blessed Good Friday to you...