From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
“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).”
In the letter of James we are reminded that claiming to have faith but not doing anything about that faith means that faith is dead. If the goal of Lent is conversion, then it is the perfect time to think about what types of good deeds you do to help others. While no organization seeking to help others would refuse a monetary gift, real almsgiving, while including financial contributions, is also about entering into the lives of those who are in need.
How? First by learning more about their situation. The tendency today can be to make a quick judgment about those who are in need, as if somehow all the poor are responsible for being poor. If we eat simply, but simply pocket the savings, we have not really entered into the life of those in need.
Below is a list of websites that can make real almsgiving a part of your life.
- Operation Rice Bowl. Through CRS Rice Bowl, we share the journey with members of our human family around the world, and commit our Lenten prayers, fasting and almsgiving to deepening our faith and serving those in need. You can get weekly prayers sent to your inbox, get a list of simple recipes to help you save money to donate, or make a gift to help Catholic Relief Services with there assistance to people all over the world.
- 40 Days of Soup. Looking for daily inspiration during this Lenten season? Ave Maria Press will be sharing daily reflections and soup recipes from the Ave Maria Press website. For forty days, you can find daily inspirational tips taken from various Lenten books and resources and soup recipes submitted by Ave Maria Press readers and staff members.
- Catholic Charities USA. At Catholic Charities we help people, regardless of their faith, who are struggling with poverty and other complex issues. The national office, through its advocacy and disaster relief programs — and its support of member agencies in our network — is making tangible progress toward better serving and loving our neighbors across the country.
- Feeding America. Looking to help in a food pantry, either by volunteering or donating? This website provides ways to search for food pantries to work at all around the country. With such a network, you are bound to find a place where you can help.
- Poverty USA. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is an instrument of the Catholic Church working to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ. Established in 1970 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, CCHD has a two-fold mandate: (1) To help low-income people participate in decisions that affect their lives, their families, and communities. (2) To provide education and promote understanding about poverty and its root causes. This site also provides concrete actions you can take to help.
- Catholic Volunteer Network. Whether it is down the street or around the world, this network provides ways to search for service opportunities.
There are also other ideas that you can do, tailoring what you do to your specific situation.
- 40 bags in 40 days. A quick google search will present many sites that will describe this activity. Designed originally to coincide with Lent, this is a way to chart out a plan to both clean out your house and give to those in need.
- Donating gift cards to shelters that help those impacted with domestic violence, or the homeless, or other agencies and persons in need.
- Making a plan to do something for another person or persons each day. Almsgiving has a two-fold benefit. First, the person in need benefits. But perhaps even more importantly is that almsgiving changes our hearts. We become different, more generous, more considerate of others. And this can provide the way to help face the structural challenges that cause poverty to exist.